I'm really not much of a one for movies. The odds of finding a story that can be competently told in visuals over two hours or so, or simply of visuals that are engaging for two hours in a row, isn't too high as far as I'm concerned. It's enough time that I feel like I wasted it if it's a shit movie, and not enough time for me to commit to the alternate universe if it's not a seamlessly great film. So most of the time I'd rather just not watch movies. It's too irritating.
So when I watch a movie that I love, it's even rarer than it should be, because I don't watch enough movies, and it brightens up my whole week. And the other night, I saw a movie I absolutely loved - JCVD. Holy shit. I asked the F-word (who loves movies, and is always bothering me to watch more of them) to procure it for us because I thought it might be a little funny, and it had made some reasonably big waves in Belgium when it came out in 2008, and - honestly - I've reached the point of culture shock (Australia is so fucking white sliced bread) that I miss both the French language and Brussels.
But the nostalgia value of seeing bank machines and boulevards I used to use and the freak value of seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme acting like a human being were outweighed within 15 minutes by the film I was watching, though both the first two contributed a lot to the overall experience. There were points I was at tears. I was so engaged that it was only as the film was ending that the thought occurred to me - holy shit - Van Damme is fucking magnificent in this role.
As the F-word, who was similarly enthralled, pointed out, it probably helped he was playing himself, in a very direct and apparently very improvisational way. And I'm sure it also helped he was doing it in French. He isn't from a rich family, he's from Francophone Belgium, and he's middle-aged, so the odds of him having anything like an education in the English language as a kid are non-existent to laughably non-existent, which means that in just about any film you're likely to have seen him in (and besides the fact of the script being a very secondary consideration in them) he was probably learning a lot of his lines phonetically. In any case it was fucking magnificent. The director really got something fucking fantastic out of him.
Anyhoo, I really recommend watching it, I really recommend learning French so that you can listen to the dialogue (the subtitles are inadequate), and I'm not going to say anything about the content of the movie, not wanting to spoil it for you. Just two things:
1. Van Damme's timeless contribution to linguistics, and something he's been laughed at extensively for in the Francophone world, is a coke-fuelled, egomaniacal gem of a patois called Zen Franglais, which is pretty much what it sounds like.
Knowing about this will help you enjoy the movie. But the Anglophone world has never really noticed it, probably because the Anglophone world is incapable of understanding how someone trying to speak English could be funny, and incapable of speaking enough French to understand the hilarity of the context, and much less likely than the Francophone world to disdain coked-up celebrity egomania - witness the enduring Charlie Sheen industry, where the ranting is a hell of a lot more mean-spirited and egomaniacal than Zen Franglais. Here's the most notorious sample:
2. This is the most fucking Belgian movie I've ever seen. As the credits rolled, even though my nostalgia had really been fluffed, I'd been well reminded of why we left in disgust. Let's just say - it's fucking realistic.