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Viva Maria! fun film, fine French lesson

How did I never know about this movie?

August is French month in our "Six Languages in Six Months" program. This is hardly an intensive course that Mr. G and I are giving ourselves; we only take "lessons" every few days, and they consist of parroting a few phrases on, reading a page in a picture book of French words for children, or watching a French film. Last week we watched Amelie. This week, we hit the local video store that carries a large foreign film selection and grabbed two more movies that looked good.

Last night, we watched Viva Maria! This movie stars Brigitte Bardot (one of my official muses of beauty), George Hamilton speaking French, and Jeanne Moreau. The setting is a fictitious nation that looks a lot like Mexico, in the early 20th century (but was obviously filmed in the '60s). The fusion of 1910 and 1960s aesthetics, as well as the language and cultural mashup, is delightful and cheesy in the best way possible.

The premise sounds very adult: Bardot's character is an Irish/French girl raised as a child terrorist who goes on to invent the striptease, then help lead a revolution in Latin America. It's full of sex and violence, and yet, it is not at all graphic, and it feels like a kids' comedy. The humor is silly and cartoonish. There isn't any actual nudity or gore. One of the funniest scenes is when the main characters "strip" onstage for the first time. Due to the elaborate undergarments of the time, the ladies remove four or five layers of clothing (while the crowd goes apeshit) and end up not showing much more skin than they had been to begin with, considering that their base layer is a full corset with puffy, knee-length bloomers. Most of the violence is equally goofy; a man gets his head blown off with a bomb and continues to walk around, carrying his own head while making a snide remark.

It was a surprisingly light and fun movie, and the quality of the picture and sound was remarkable for the time it was filmed. And wow, who knew George Hamilton spoke fluent French?

The BEST surprise about this movie rental for us is that, because three languages are spoken in the film (French, English, and Spanish), it comes with French subtitles! That means we can watch the movie again with the French titles on, reading the French as we hear it spoken. That is so useful for picking up conversational phrasing and pronunciation.

And all of this may be good for Baby G, too! I just read somewhere that babies start the process of language learning in the womb. No kidding. Of course, they don't know what words mean, but they become familiar with the voices of Mom and Dad and others who often speak in their presence. At birth, babies turn toward these familiar voices. But even more interestingly, a newborn also prefers to pay attention to a stranger speaking his/her native language than a stranger speaking a foreign language. Already, the baby is familiar with the sounds and cadences of Mom's language and is more interested in that one.

Also, babies in the womb learn to associate sounds with how Mom feels about them. If a song makes Mom happy, the baby feels the benefit of her happy hormone releases and her heartbeat and rate of breathing, movements, etc. If Mom is scared by a sound (like the soundtrack to a creepy movie), that fear is transferred to the fetus so that at birth, the child will fear the same sound. Isn't that wild??

So my guess is that if Mr. G and I watch foreign films and practice speaking non-English languages, and if I feel happy and excited about learning and speaking these languages, then I am already training Baby G to have an interest in a variety of language sounds.

Talk about a head start. The "Mozart for baby's intelligence" trend may have been debunked, but sound/emotion associations and sound familiarity starting in the womb are very real phenomena. Just thinking about it makes me feel so excited and engaged with my baby already.

Viva Baby G!


  1. This sounds really good! I might have to take a look!!! Thanks for sharing!

    Reminder - Guess that Character Blogfest is this Thursday and Friday! I look forward to describing your character!

  2. Come to my blog! I have an award for you! ;)

  3. Great post, Jeannie! Your baby is lucky to have such fun- and knowledge-loving parents!

  4. You've redecorated again. Looks great.

    I love Bardot, too. She looked really good for a really long time. I love Sophia Loren and Raquel, too. If they can look great at 70, there's no reason for me to be walking around in stained sweats and grey roots. Seriously. These women are an inspiration to us all.

  5. How interesting! Who knew you could make a baby quatra-lingual before birth!

  6. Hi, Jen! I haven't forgotten. The fest will be lots of fun.

    JC: Thanks! I will check it out.

    Aw, thanks, Jess! It was great seeing you last weekend and meeting your guy. :) I like him a lot!

    PC: Yeah, I get tired of backgrounds quickly. Maybe it's my nesting instinct. Haha. I LOVE Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch, also. Such amazing confidence and ownership of their sensuousness and fabulousness! Talk about gilfs. I want to be them when I get old, too.

    Miss Rosemary: Haha, I don't think I can do that exactly, but I can maybe influence the child's sound preferences. Did you know babies can hear way more phonemes than adults, because our brains learn to decipher only the ones found in our familiar language(s)? Fascinating. I'm just trying to keep my baby's ears flexible.

  7. this movie sounds fun and weird. Awesome that you're trying to learn the language. Good luck.

  8. How exciting! I started taking my French lessons again about a month ago, and it is going well so far. I figured I have already learned some of the language, so why not keep going and try to get fluent? With French and Spanish, think of all the cool types of r's Baby G will be able to make!

  9. Mary: Oui ! Il est merveilleux.

    Davin: I heard something on NPR about how adults losing the ability to learn language over time is a myth, so I got very inspired. Rs are so much fun! French, Spanish, and soft or rolling German Rs... Homeschooling is going to be fun for ME also. :)

  10. This sounds like a great movie! Thanks for the tip!

  11. That's cool! I live in France but I admit I'm not a huge fan of french film. It's just hard to find the ones that aren't dark comedy or where someone doesn't die at the end. 'Amelie' is a good one. A few of my favorites are 'L'Auberge Espagnole' , 'Les Visiteurs', 'Moi, Cesar', 'Bienvenu Chez Les Chtis' and a newer one that just came out was good. It's called 'Tellement Proche'.


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