- Movie Rating -

French Postcards (1979)

| October 26, 1979

The worst thing that can happen to a movie, for me, is when you can spot the obvious influences present in the material.  It’s not a crime to know where the influence came from but when it hitchhikes off of another success, the results can be quite grating.  That’s the problem with French Postcards which was written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, the husband-and-wife team who collaborated with George Lucas on American Graffiti and, with this film, apparently want to duplicate the same kind of success.

The problem is that they’re not good screenwriters and Huyck is not a good director.  Their film tries to be one of those nothing-will-ever-be-the-same pictures in which young college students go off to a foreign land (in this case, France) and have misadventures there involving misunderstandings, unwise run-ins and a lot of PG-rated sexual shenanigans.

Now, I’ll say that there is nothing wrong with this idea.  In fact, there a very romantic idea of being young and idealistic and being in a foreign land and running afoul of its customs, but Huyck and Katz run aground of this material by barely raising it above the level of a TV sitcom.

The story involves three American students who want to measure the world with their feet somewhat before they return to the real world, so they decide to spend a year in Paris having the kinds of random experiences that only youth will allow.  The players in this scenario are Joel (Miles Chapin), a disciplined student who has to be coached out of his dorm to spend the year in Paris and makes the Beast With Two Backs with a retail clerk named Toni (Valerie Quennessen).  His buddy is Alex (David Marshall Grant), a songwriter who falls hard for Madame Catherine (Marie-France Pisier) the head of the exchange program who, of course, is gorgeous beyond words and has an unfaithful husband (Jean Rochfort).  The third in this Three’s Company trio is Laura (Blanche Baker) is more interested in French tourist sites and finds herself falling into a strange romantic entanglement herself.

This is the kind of movie in which you can feel the writing on the screen.  The three actors never perform in a way that a real person would act.  They seem to be acting in some weird uncanny valley between a movie and a sitcom, as if their gestures are a little too wide and their dialogue a little too third-rate Woody Allen.  Whatever Huyck and Katz were going for seems off the mark.  Their script needed to be cleaned up and their direction needed more focus.  This is a potentially good movie that is woefully undercooked.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized