Saturday, September 27, 2008

Geriatric love

I watched a French movie on TV5 channel last week. Before you conclude that I am one of those high-brow students of serious cinema, let me clarify that I watch French movies only because I can understand them far better than I do English ones. The former provides me with the benefit of English sub-titles, while the latter erroneously assumes that I can follow the accent.

As usual, I don’t recall the title, but the story dealt with the tender love developing between a 75-year old man and a 72-year old woman, with some intimate scenes thrown in.

I was wondering what sort of audience would want to watch such movies, when I realised that most western countries have a demographic profile in which the average age is significantly higher than in the country that Bolly/Kolly/Tolly/Mollywood films cater to. So, the French movie that I saw would strike a cord with such people.

Cinema, with romance as the theme, engages the viewer in one of two ways. In the first, some part of the story or some facet of one of the characters makes the viewer recall and relate to some incident or episode that had happened in his/her own life in the past. In the second, it appeals to the ‘fantasy’ of the viewer and makes him/her wish that such an incident/episode would happen to him/her in the future.

A ‘normal’ love story involving a young couple is a safe formula. You will have the ‘oldies’ reminiscing about their affairs of the past, and the teens wishing for a similar thing to happen to them in the near future. The formula works well when you are assured of a huge audience with an average age that is below 30.

But, when you have a population that has a high geriatric content, as can happen in France, what do you do? If you’ve got to make movies that can send this group on a trip of fantasy, you need to woo them with promise of romance. A 75-year old man watching the movie needs to be sent back home, heart filled with hope. He must be made to ‘voluntarily suspend disbelief” as Coleridge put it, albeit in the context of reading poetry.

France must be full of such lonely old people and to get them into the theatres, French movie directors need to spin fantasises and help infuse some romance into their dreary lives.

Maybe, this is the reasoning behind the “story of tender love developing between a 75-year old painter and a 72-year old woman, with some intimate scenes thrown in.”

But, why did I sit through and watch the entire movie? Wonder which one of my fantasies it pandered to. …


dipali said...

Of being old and yet being dashing and romantic!

braindrain said...


a) Have you tried watching these movies without subtitles. They are all the more interesting. I recently watched the last years Cannes Film Fest award movie 4 months 3 weeks 2 days without subtitles. It did not make any difference :)
b) You probably would have god the DVD which is not originated from China. If you want to have a hearty laugh, you can rely on them.
c)French movies are fantastic. They always make better movies that Hollywood. I find them very closure to life and reality.


Anonymous said...


Raj said...

dipali, quite possible.

brain drain : will try watching without subtitles. but, then I can watch the english movies also.

anon : eww what?

nasha said...

to start with , i love your blogs especially the father daughter conversations . but i did not understand the reason for this blog.

are you trying to say that a love story between old people is made just to cater to the 'lonely old'.if so i totally of the most romantic movies i have seen is about the love between two old people.
why does a trip of fantasy for the old any different from the one directed at younger audience.After all isn't that an innate character of a human,to seek companionship be it any age.

all i am trying to ask is that why is love(even if it is just creating fantasies) for the old portrayed in a different light.

Raj said...

Nasha, I was trying to figure out how such movies would make 'commercial sense', as the demographic profile of movie watchers, I felt, would show a high percentage of youngsters, who may not be able to relate to 'geriatric love'. But, I do appreciate the point you are making