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Case Number 13956: Small Claims Court

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French Postcards

Legend Films // 1979 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // July 1st, 2008

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All Rise...

While in France, Judge Christopher Kulik never sent out postcards, but did write love letters to various French women.

The Charge

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?

The Case

What is it about Paris that lures so many hopeless romantics? It's not just because it's a gorgeous city waiting to be explored, but more so for the passions exhibited by its citizens. I went to Paris on an exchange program when I was 15 and it was an experience I'll never forget. Yes, I tried the wine and checked out the museums, but it was the women who charmed and delighted me. I just love how they kiss each other's cheeks when greeting one another. It's certainly more appealing than two girls texting each other from opposite sides of a shopping mall.

The 1979 comedy-drama French Postcards harkens back to those days of wine and roses. The film focuses on three American students spending their junior year of college abroad: Joel (Miles Chapin, The People Vs. Larry Flynt) is shy and non-spontaneous, struggling with the language everywhere he goes; Alex (David Marshall Grant, The Stepford Wives) is the typical hunk more into songwriting than composing essays; and Laura (Blanche Baker, Sixteen Candles) is a mature, serious student who plans to get lost in the expansive culture. Unlike the guys, she is not looking for love because she has a boyfriend back home, and spends much of her time writing postcards to him.

Joel finds true love for the first time in his life in Toni (Valerie Quennessen, Conan The Barbarian). She works at a local book shop, and initially mocks his laughable attempt at speaking French. Through a misunderstanding, Joel thinks he landed a date. Toni accepts and is soon won over by his puppy-dog charm. As for Alex, he's more interested in his drop-dead sexy professor, Madame Tessier (Marie-France Pisier), who responds positively after discovering her husband (Jean Rochefort, Mr. Bean's Holiday) is having a fling with a secretary. Various ramifications follow, and the results are quite engaging, if never really surprising.

French Postcards doesn't require any deep thinking or serious contemplation. It's a simple, sweet little excursion that rides far on the charms of its cast and the beauty of its French scenery. If it reminds one of American Graffiti, there's a reason, as it was written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, who co-wrote the earlier film with George Lucas. They continue to explore coming-of-age (think French Graffiti) with only mild results this time around. Still, the film as a whole is hard to dislike, due partly to the richly romantic Paris atmosphere, shot on location, and using real American exchange students as extras.

The cast is really the key to enjoying the picture. Unfortunately, only half of them score, with the late Quennessen being the standout. She sparkles every second she's onscreen, and the camera is obviously in love with her. While landing larger roles in Conan The Barbarian and Summer Lovers, her life was sadly cut short in a 1989 motorcycle accident. Matching her is Miles Chapin, as the love struck Joel, a young man with a heart of gold. Both of them manage to make their story work, and it's not surprising that the film suffers a little when the attention is not on them.

The relationship between Grant and France-Pissier (who's quite attractive and appealing) is awkward and unfocused from the word go, despite some witty exchanges. Even when Laura gets involved, the film loses steam. Rochefort enlivens the proceedings as the stuck-up, rude French husband, even if his character is somewhat one-dimensional. A hilarious cameo by Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride) as a weird playboy does inject some much-needed juice in the last half-hour. He alone makes up for the rather cliched love triangle between Alex, Laura, and Madame Tessier.

Film buffs will want to check out Debra Winger in an early role, though she's only in a few brief scenes. Reportedly, Winger was disappointed with the film, after losing out on Blanche Baker's role and was instead cast as her rebellious roommate. What's annoying is Legend Films' DVD packaging that suggests Winger is the star, simply because she's the only recognizable name. I hate when distribution companies do this, since it borders on false advertising.

As for Legend's presentation of French Postcards, it screams for a polish. The 1.78:1 anamorphic print has its share of scratches and lines, and it's clear no restoration was done. However, the mono track holds up well and, while there are no subtitles, the disc is close-captioned. No bonus features.

French Postcards is a modest charmer whose only requirement is to sit back and enjoy. Verdict: Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Legend Films
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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