The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #19 January / February 2016
At the Cinema
Cutting Room Floor
by Erik Zidowecki
January / February 2016 | 

I try to give positive reviews to films, since I am looking for ones you, the reader, are likely to want to watch. However, there are some which I am completely unable to rate positively. There are even a few that are so lacking in entertainment value that I was unable to finish watching them. I will look at two of those here.

Jet Lag

The first unwatchable film is Décalage Horaire, also called "Jet Lag", starring Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno as beautician Rose and businessman Félix. Labelled as a comedy romance, it has the normal cliché plot line: two people from completely different lives are thrown together and somehow overcome their differences to fall in love.

In this case, they meet at a French airport when a strike forces all flights to be cancelled. Félix's airline gives everyone who had a first-class ticket a room in a hotel, and he decides to share that with the woman he just met who annoys him. Naturally.

We are shown how different they are through a series of activities in the room, like her putting on perfume which he is highly over-sensitive to, which leads him to open the window, which she is chilled by. You get the picture.

After more awkward scenes and dialogue, they order room service and sit down for a meal together, in which they start asking very personal questions of each other. This might be interesting if the answers were at least slightly insightful. They aren't.

Rose and Félix sitting in the hotel room, annoying each other.

I watched all this for over half an hour (the whole film is an hour and a half long) and realized I really had no interest in either character or in seeing what happens next. I started fast forwarding, looking to see if something else happens. They keep talking. She showers (which then shows her with her hair down, a cue that she is loosening up). They talk some more.

Eventually, they end up sleeping together (which was obviously the outcome before the film even begins). I am sure there is more to it, like some touching emotional scenes when they realize they have fallen for the other. However, I couldn't find a reason to be caring about any of it.

The film does have an R rating, meaning it contains something inappropriate for young kids, like swearing or nudity. There is a brief scene in which Rose climbs nude out a swimming pool, which doesn't seem to add anything to the film, so I can only assume it was added to get the adult rating.

The language of the film is French, but if that is your only reason for watching it, I would suggest another film with something interesting to say.


The second painful-to-watch film, Barbara, takes place in East Germany in 1980. It is about a doctor who has been punished for some reason and sent to work in a clinic in some small country town.

There is so little dialogue and the scenes are so drawn out that it is hard to figure out what is going on. We see that she is depressed and withdrawn through many scenes with her staring blankly while smoking a cigarette. The only other two characters of note are the head of the clinic, Andre, who tries hard to gain Barbara's trust, and a female patient who becomes pregnant, Stella.

The general intention of the film seems to show how tense and miserable things were under the Communist regime of East Germany, and it does this so well that I became depressed. Meanwhile, the action of the film is just a series of scenes with no explanation, and the only way to figure out what is going on is to look it up online.

Barbara giving a hard, blank stare. There are a lot of these.

For example, we see Barbara being shown the basement of the house she is staying in by the landlady. We see her riding a bike, then boarding a tram. She meets a woman in a bathroom somewhere who gives her a packet of money, which Barbara hides under some rocks on the way home. When she arrives home, two men are there and they search her place while she watches, blankly. Later, she meets a man in the woods at a planned (apparently) rendezvous, then they part again. She oversleeps and Andrea has to wake her up to take her to the clinic.

It goes on and on like this, all quietly and slowly. It could be possible to care about the characters, but we know too little about them to have any emotional attachment.

I did a little better with this film, managing to watch it for over almost half of its one hour, forty-five minutes playing time. It was just too depressing and uninteresting, though, and I didn't even bother to fast forward to look for anything later in it. I have no idea of how it ended, and I have no problem with that at all.


I know both of these films are viewed rather highly by many people, which is the main reasons I wanted to see them. Perhaps they will appeal to you. Personally, they lacked enough energy or feeling to keep me watching, and I definitely would not recommend them to anyone.

At The Cinema - Cutting Room Floor
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Jet Lag" Internet Movie Database <>
• "Barbara" Internet Movie Database <>
All images are copyright Canal+, Les Films Alain Sarde, Pathé (Jet Lag) Productions, TF1 Films Production or Schramm Film Koerner & Weber, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), ARTE

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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