la vie en rose

Movie Poster, La Vie en Rose
Source: Urban Times

Like food, movies can be a way to catch a glimpse into another culture. One spring evening in 2008, I was called upon to introduce La Vie en Rose starring Marion Cotillard as the street songstress whose rise to fame earned her the nickname “Le Petit Moineau” (the Little Sparrow). A student helped me make a brief PowerPoint and I even sang a few bars of the title song.

This was not so “random,” since the screening was part of the foreign film week at one of the area colleges. It never occurred to me to ask people to turn off their electronic devices, even though such warnings have been issued at concerts at the Eastman Theatre and even Sacred Heart Cathedral, my home parish where such formal Diocesan celebrations as the Rite of Election (induction of new Catholics) are held. I thought they would have enough common sense to refrain from sending text messages while the movie was being shown.

It was pitch dark, except for the faint light emanating from the screen. By the time I realized what was happening, voices were being raised. “Put that away!” came the strident tones of a woman who sounded as if she were in her 50s. “We’re watching the movie.” Apparently, the young man behind her had taken out his handheld device and was texting. The angry reply I heard was his, although I could not understand a word. From across the room, a third voice belonging to another young man entered the melee: “Hey, stop acting ghetto!”

I was terrified beyond words. What if the verbal fray turned into a fistfight? The offender got up and stormed out. Fortunately, he never returned.

A news story from earlier this year involving a man shot dead for texting in a Florida movie theater reminded me of that unfortunate incident. The full account can be found here:

It never crossed my mind that someone could bring a firearm to a movie theater, let alone shoot another person for texting. That night at the French movie screening, I was only worried about a possible exchange of blows.

This incident prompted what I thought would be my permanent departure from that particular college once I finished the semester. I did attempt to return a year later, only to be asked by a student with a criminal background whether or not I had spiked the orange juice. My feeble attempt to enliven the atmosphere of a morning class with the abovementioned beverage and croissants failed miserably.

Obviously, he had never experienced random acts of cultural kindness. This was when I left for good.