Gérard Depardieu is a French Actor

Gérard the waiter
Gérard as a waiter in the only 'Depardieu' scene in the film.

Film Review of 'Green Card'

Paris:- Monday, 7. April 1997:- When I heard Gérard Depardieu was going to be in a movie named 'Green Card,' the whole movie didn't flash through my mind, but a good part of it did.

Even though it has been shown on TV before, tonight was the first opportunity I had to see it, so I did. The film was released in 1990, and although it seems like yesterday, it probably isn't to you and you shouldn't count on me to review really new movies, if any at all.

'Immigration' in quotes is in the news quite a bit these days, and it is not long ago that there was a fair amount of talk about how difficult it is to get a 'Green Card,' which is a permit to work in the USA, as well as reside there. Rumor had it that there were over 100,000 Irish running around loose, without Green Cards, but that was then, like this movie.

Besides starring Gérard Depardieu, the other thing 'Green Card' had going for it was that it was directed by Australia's Peter Weir, who also did the films, 'Dead Poets Society,' 'The Year of Living Dangerously,' 'Witness' and 'The Mosquito Coast.'

Weir wrote the 'Green Card' script and Disney loved it, and they especially loved idea of Depardieu playing the part. Depardieu loved the script, but was nervous about his first English-speaking role. Weir kept Two innocents on a sofa his lines simple; in character, as if he were a Frenchman in America for the first time. Which Depardieu almost really was; in 1990 his English was only approximate, just like my French is today.

One way of getting a 'Green Card' is to marry an American citizen, and if this is a 'marriage of convenience,' then the French certainly have a term for it, and it is 'marriage blanc.' So, I am imagining this story, and with Depardieu in it, and I think it is going to be a super movie.

But not the version I saw tonight. The original version, the US-release version, is in English, of course. Everybody speaks English and Depardieu speaks his cracked French-accented English, and this gives the story a certain authenticity. On French TV's TF1, I saw the French-release version; the one dubbed into French.

In the first couple of scenes, I could swear that even Depardieu's voice was dubbed by an actor other than himself. Incredible to see Depardieu and somebody else's voice coming out of his mouth! I am sure most of the film was dubbed by Depardieu - but the story, in French, had no sense anyway.

Besides the language schmozzle, the first few scenes were totally incoherent. I didn't know what was happening.

Depardieu eventually shows up as a waiter, working illegally. This is the one bit of Depardieu in the entire film where he is doing his familiar Depardieu act, the one that was supposed to lend the entire story its sizzle. But after this moment, the rest is like a collapsed soufflé. Of the hundreds of possibilities for the situation, the few that are explored are without story conviction. Without it, an essential element - of conviction - that Depardieu brings to almost any movie he is in, is lacking in this film.

The concept apparently was that Depardieu is supposed to be a Gérard Depardieu character, smoking Gitanes, drinking red wine, making large gestures - but in the film story, he is supposed to be a composer - and he gets to let this rip exactly once, and the rest of the time he plays an abstracted dishrag.

I really like Depardieu and over the years I have seen most of his movies; he works with good directors and as his life goes along, he continually expands his considerable talents - and from what I read, he is a major motor in the French film business - besides having acted in about four or five films a year since 1971.

He has been in Oscar-winning films three times plus he has won three French 'Césars' for leading roles, and been in one Cannes winner and three Jury's Special Grand Prize winners. His award nominations are too many to count.

'Green Card' supposedly made a lot of money for Disney in the US and it ran for a year in London. If the French Gérard and Andie McDowell were 'cool' to the film, as suggested by Depardieu's biographer, Paul Chutkow, it is not because their 'national treasure' went to America to make a movie - it was because the movie didn't survive the dubbing.

Depardieu speaking accented French, dubbed into French, is nonsense. The only way to take Depardieu is in VO - 'version originale.'

After making 'Green Card,' Time Magazine ran a profile on Depardieu, in which he was supposed to have said he took part in rapes in his youth. As I have suspected since I first heard this story, this is not what he said. Time picked up this supposed 'quote' from an original profile done by Harry Stein, in the days when we were working for 'The Paris Métro' newspaper.

Those were wild times and Harry was good for a laugh, and Depardieu was in his 'wild days' then too, and they probably had a few glasses. Depardieu probably spoke some of the GI English he picked up as a kid living near a big US Air Force base, and I never heard Harry speak a lot of French.

Depardieu didn't rape anybody; he only acted as if he might have. Time Magazine, knowing full well that Depardieu had been nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor, in Cyrano de Bergerac - also nominated for Best Foreign Film - chose this exact moment in 1991 to trot out its story - based on a dubious 1978 interview.

Foreign actors do not win the Best Actor award in Hollywood for movies not originally in English; and a Swiss movie titled 'Journey of Hope' picked up that year's Best Foreign Film award.

'Green Card' started showing in the US in December, just before the appearance of the Time article and before Gérard Depardieu the Academy Awards, and I am trusting the biographer's figures about how much money it made in the US. It was no blockbuster, but the backers got their money back, with interest.

The Time hoopla probably cost Disney some tens of millions, but that is peanuts. It cost a great actor a lot though; and Time Magazine has never admitted their lousy fact-checking.

I think most film fans did what I did; they took the title, 'Green Card' and imagined the story, and then they went to see a dud. A dubbed dud is... there is no word for this, and I don't feel like making one up.

Meanwhile, Gérard Depardieu has gotten older and wiser and he keeps on making good movies, and spends a fair amount of time getting dirt under his fingernails in his own vineyard, where he makes a sturdy red wine as best he can; just like he acts.

He is also a true human being and he makes mistakes like you and me occasionally. 'Green Card' was one of them.

'Green Card' scenes © TFI/Disney
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