French Postcards (1979)

“I’m not talking about school — I’m talking about life!”

Synopsis:
A group of American college students (Miles Chapin, David Marshall Grant, Blanche Baker, and Debra Winger) experience life and love while studying abroad at an institute in Paris.

Genres:

Review:
A minor cult favorite among those with fond memories of watching it years ago, this coming-of-age tale is, unfortunately, a real miss. Writer/director Willard Huyck (who wrote the screenplay for American Graffiti, a clear inspiration) can’t seem to find an appropriate tone or pace for his film, which veers wildly from sophomoric situational humor to romantic tenderness and introspection, and never manages to establish a strong sense of cohesion among the characters. The most engaging narrative thread follows the travails of nerdy Miles Chapin, who falls for and successfully woos a Parisian shopgirl (appealing newcomer Valérie Quennessen); the film should have focused on their story exclusively. Instead, we’re forced to sit through the much less convincing — and infinitely more irritating — storyline involving Grant’s crush on the exchange institute’s sexy director (Marie-France Pisier), who (for selfish and entirely unethical reasons of her own) encourages his fantasies. (NB: Jean Rochefort as her philandering husband is essentially a cameo.)

Meanwhile, the screenplay’s other purported protagonists are given surprisingly short shrift. Blanche Baker (Carroll Baker’s daughter) shows up sporadically throughout the first half of the film, but only in voiceover, valiantly dictating cheerful postcards to a phantom boyfriend back at home while actually having a miserable, lonely time. When she’s finally given some screentime later in the film, she’s reduced to playing a potential rape victim in a series of ludicrously tasteless scenes with Mandy Patinkin (playing a lecherous Iranian travel agent). And while film fanatics may be mildly curious to check this film out simply to see Debra Winger in one of her earliest roles, be forewarned: her character is literally almost non-existent.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Valérie Quennessen as Toni

Must See?
No; definitely feel free to skip this clunker.

Links:

One Response to “French Postcards (1979)”

  1. First viewing. Skip it.

    It mostly…tries (hard)…to be humorous. Instead, it’s immediately forgettable. The last 20 minutes, in particular, are quite messy and forced, in the attempt to build to a ‘madcap’ conclusion.

    It’s pretty bad, overall.

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