The Film: Les femmes du 6ème étage [The Women on the 6th Floor] – France
I sat down to watch what I thought would be different fare from the deeper films I’ve dived into this month. I was prepared for a light comedy with mainstream production values where traditional comic tropes played out with frothy fun. My plan was to write about the other side of foreign cinema, the big comedies with decent budgets, French stars and light subjects that are great entertainment.
My plan teetered as possibly coming together until half and hour from the end of the film when it was dashed on the rocks with my hope of finding a new French film to completely adore.
I’ve been talking about the ability of foreign film to tell different kinds of stories, hit different beats, carry new notes. I suppose by omission it may have seemed as though I believe all foreign film has the ability to create with such emotional depth, strength of vision, clarity in reflection of reality, rejection of standardization, and intelligence.
To be clear, I understand completely that perpetuating easy answers and singular motivations is prevalent in all subject matters the whole world wide. At least in independent and foreign film I may have an occasional respite as the films I write about here are most often the excellent or intriguing exceptions. This film finds itself in another category — the intriguing normality.
The Women On The 6th Floor was funny. It had production value, stars of French film, and even charm. What derailed my review was an unexpected split personality — is it the tale of a manic pixie dream girl who sets a rich white man free from the constraints of his richness and whiteness by some cliché cross-cultural sexual enlightenment or is it the tale of three-dimensional characters who are set free from the monotonous and deficient patterns of life from an unlikely source?
If it is the former, then bah — what’s the point. Tropes are tropes no matter what country a film is from. A man discovers his wife is cold while the young foreign woman is beautiful and exciting is hardly original. In fact, in modern filmmaking it’s insulting. To look at the poor man’s wife and wonder, doesn’t she have hopes and ideas as well? If that were at all a worthy point to make in the first place, where is her young foreigner to set her free from a husband who clearly isn’t invested in her?
The young foreign woman, Maria, whose entrance into the story incites the change, becomes nothing more than an object of lust. Doesn’t she deserve to have her own story unfettered by the repressed head of the household she cleans? Was she only created to smile vapidly and be so full of Spanish vida so that this man, who was displeased with his abundance, could have a rather shallow revelation?
The women on the 6th floor are intriguing characters, immigrants from Spain who have left their lives behind. The movie touches history and culture, portrays the women as gutsy as their lives are hard. They are fully formed, distinct women and played to perfection by bilingual actresses who fill the world of the story with the kind of natural quality a director prays for. Their comedic and dramatic timing against against sparks the strightman — Fabrice Luchini, one of my favorites.
The couple who didn’t realize their lives were empty is an intriguing story, their spoiled children fit right in, and all of this I could have enjoyed if writer Jérôme Tonnerre and director Philippe Le Guay had given Jean-Louis a chance to learn something real.
Spoilers ahead. How vastly more interesting this film would have been had his character pursued friendship instead of sex — if you cut out just one scene.
If Jean-Louis had walked upstairs to find Maria gone and pursued her years later to ask why she left without saying goodbye — instead of the reason for his seeking an answer being a cliché love story between a woman who added nothing but her culture and a man nothing but his money — it would have been a man seeking to restore the first real friendship he’d ever had.
Not despite — but for this very reason The Women On The 6th Floor is worth watching. It’s an education on why tropes dumb down and soil otherwise fertile storytelling.
The Food: Macaron Popcorn
I was wondering just how to approach what I hoped would be a marvelous harkening back to my previous works with macarons as I searched my cupboards for ingredients.
I came upon a packet I purchased a month ago for coconut rice and skimmed the list of contents when it dawned on me that I had remaining coconut milk powder which would not bring to mind the flavors of the haystack style macaroon but instead the meringue based style of the dessert which has garnered a whirlwind of attention and presents the taste of coconut in an entirely different texture — spelled as macaron.
They are often colored brightly and range in flavors with the addition of icing as filling. Google says they are also called Luxemburgerli.
This recipe is delicious and will fill your home with the wonderfully warm parfume of coconut. The end result wasn’t as hard of a coating as I had desired so future batches may be modified. But if you’re looking for a deliciously tasty treat that would mix well with chocolate, nuts, or other goodies — this is très bon.
- 1/4 cup corn kernels
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup coconut milk powder
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Grease a baking sheet and set the oven to 200°.
Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove unpopped kernels and put the popcorn in a mixing bowl.
Put sugar, vanilla, coconut powder and milk in a saucepan on medium heat. After 3-5 minutes the mixture will appear foamy. Add butter. Continue cooking until the mixture browns. Add baking soda and give it a quick stir with a greased rubber scraper. The mixture will puff up.
Pour onto the popcorn and mix to coat.
Place the popcorn on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Eat immediately or let cool — if you can keep your hands off it. Bon appétit!