Yesterday was my Tadpole free evening and so I clambered aboard the number 26 bus and took myself off to the cinema at the Bassin de la Villette. There I bought a ticket (tarif chomeur, for now) and slunk into the café to scavenge for something filling to wolf down beforehand, imperative if I was to curb my tummy’s protests for the duration of the film. I fancied a panini, maybe a toastissimo, something warm and crunchy oozing carbs and cheesy cholesterol. But it was not to be. Instead, safe in the knowledge that they were protected by a pane of glass, an unappetising array of cold sandwiches and tired salads gave me the finger.
For a moment I wished I was in England, where stop-gap food can be something of an art form. In France, snacking is an activity so frowned upon that little is done to encourage it. In the case of the Mk2 cinema, the dire quality of the café fare can probably also be attributed to the fact that next door, in the same complex, is a proper, pricey restaurant with real cutlery, porcelain plates and glassware. The ploy almost worked, but time was short, my film due to start in twenty minutes, and last time I ate there, the service was nonchalant, to say the least.
I made off, dejectedly, with a slice of reheated goat’s cheese pizza on a paper plate, a plastic knife and fork, and sat on the terrasse watching a gimmicky little boat ferry people between the two cinemas on opposite banks of the canal St Martin.
The food may have disappointed, but the film was pure delight. A gem. I laughed out loud until tears rolled down my cheeks. I vowed never to enter Tadpole in a beauty pageant. I cringed and squirmed thoughout the “superfreak” dance routine, hands clapped over my mouth to stifle my whimpering.
As the credits rolled there were cheers and a spontaneous burst of applause. I joined in, grinning widely, exchanged a “c’était génial, hein?” with a complete stranger.
They may not be much cop at snack food, but the French really do know how to appreciate a film. Together.