Normandy Nude

Film Commentary (c) Alex Rieneck 2018

“Normandy Nude” is a particularly interesting film in several ways, all of which deserve attention almost more than the film itself deserves a simple review. The film itself is a very successful comedy (of the blistering satire variety) for anyone who can speak French or is capable of reading subtitles. But more than being simply a comedy it is a *French* comedy, and even while you are watching it, you can’t help noticing that the French sense of humour is somehow different to the humour of other countries and languages. This is not the correct place to consider the reason for the difference – it is simply enough to note that *after* you’ve watched “Normandy Nude” (which you most definitely should if this article strikes any sort of a chord within you) you could consider how it probably would have been different had it been made in Britain or the USA. For a start I would argue, neither country would have had the nasty “twist in the tail” ending. 

Without spoiling “Normandy” it is worth mentioning another film “Ridicule”(1996) which takes the subject head on. The tale of a provincial nobleman suddenly knee-deep in the creepy bastardy of the royal court at Versailles makes the case that the French sense of humour is to be as mean and as cutting in one’s wit as possible, French wit, it says must always have a target, must alway belittle or ridicule; the nastier the better. You laugh when you are watching the film, but the laughter is always mixed with horror and a fair amount of shame that you are laughing at all. “Normandy Nude” is not like that at all; it is not a film about the toxic inbred rather sociopathic culture of the court of Versailles, rather it can be seen as a film about a similar culture that has staunchly rebuffed change in a sodden rural setting for the best part of a thousand years. The village at the centre of the film is as insular as the palace once was and with, to some extent, similar effects on its inhabitants. They resist change until it is impossible to avoid it then they deal with it en masse in a typically shambolic manner that can only be seen as a pyrrhic victory of truly gargantuan proportions. The film’s punchline had me screaming with laughter and ruminating over its implications for the last week. 

“Normandy Nude” is a very special film and a remarkably good one. If you love The Coen Brothers, Woody Allen (especially the early funny ones) and “Three Billboards” you’ll probably love it. Failing that there’s probably a new a new “Marvel” film today- you could see that.

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