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Film / Zazie dans le Métro

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Zazie dans le Métro is a 1960 film from France directed by Louis Malle.

A middle-aged man named Gabriel comes to the train station in Paris. His sister Jeanne is visiting the city from somewhere else to have a weekend of sex with her lover, so she dumps her daughter Zazie, approximately ten years old, in Gabriel's care for the weekend. Zazie, as it turns, out, is a proto-Bart Simpson from France, with a foul mouth and a highspirited attitude who delights in insulting her neighbors. Her one goal in her weekend visit with her uncle is to ride the Paris Metro...but it's on strike.

A weekend of comic adventures ensues. The wacky plot incidents that occur over Zazie's madcap visit include: a horde of German groupies who chase after Gabriel, a comically ineffectual pedophile (really), a chase scene that's essentially a live-action Tex Avery cartoon, and a bar brawl. The entire film is nonstop surrealism.

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Tropes:

  • Ash Face: During the Live-Action Cartoon Zazie whips out a gun and pulls the trigger, leaving the pedophile covered completely in ash.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A smiling Gabriel waits for Jeanne as she dashes to him...and right past him and into the arms of her boyfriend.
  • Balloonacy: Gabriel's four German groupies each grab one balloon from the guy who is releasing them from the top of the Eiffel Tower, apparently to study the wind. All four of the girls gently descend to the ground.
  • Bar Brawl: The dinner that the whole gang goes to after the show—Gabriel, Zazie, Albertine, the chorus girls, the German groupies, the guy in the polar bear suit, the whole cast basically—degenerates into a fight. Then it degenerates into a ridiculous, epic brawl that literally destroys the set. Then Pedro/Trouscaillon/whoever arrives with what looks like a bunch of riot police, and attacks, and the set around that set is destroyed, in a long sequence of utter chaos. Zazie sleeps through it all, except at one point where she wakes up, flings a plate of pasta at someone, and goes back to sleep. The sequence just gets crazier and crazier, until by the end Stuka Screams and the sounds of bombs are playing over the soundtrack.
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  • Bar Slide: The pedophile orders a glass of white wine; one instantly appears and slides across the table to him.
  • Blind Mistake: A woman is reading a magazine on a park bench—upside down. Gabriel's eyeglasses fall all the way from the top of the Eiffel Tower and land right on her nose. With Gabriel's glasses on, she flips the magazine right-side up.
  • Bookends: Opens with a POV shot of a train pulling into Paris. Closes with the exact same POV shot, except the reverse, of a train pulling out of Paris.
  • Comedic Lolicon: This trope, rarely seen in Western media (another example would be Buck Henry's "Uncle Roy" character on the early seasons of Saturday Night Live) is seen in the person who once calls himself "Pedro Surplus", who follows Zazie around. He clearly is a pedophile who wants to take advantage of Zazie, but all he does is buy Zazie lunch (where she splatters his suit with juice from her mussels) and a pair of blue jeans, before she leads him on a silly Live-Action Cartoon chase all around Paris before escaping. The whole sequence is played for laughs.
    Pedro Surplus: I love little girls and little boys!
  • Conversation Cut: The pedophile has finally cornered Zazie in a crowd of people by pretending to be a shopkeeper that she stole the blue jeans from. The crowd is jabbering excitedly, some disapprovingly about wayward youth, some urging the shopkeeper to have sympathy—and suddenly the whole crowd is at the front door to Gabriel's apartment.
  • Drag Queen: Gabriel's job, as a drag queen performer in a late night review. Unfortunately we never get to see him do it, but we do see the gigantic dress that he wears for the performance.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: How gorgeous is Albertine? Mado, the waitress in the cafe downstairs, tells her she's hot and urges her to change into something more revealing.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: One very wacky weekend.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Gabriel's ridiculous monologue atop the Eiffel Tower, made doubly ridiculous by the over-the-top Large Ham way he delivers it.
    Gabriel: I got a confession stuck in my craw. I can't hold it in no more! I'll say nothing of my youth. Of my upbringing, I had none. Of my education, there's little to tell. On this score, there's no more to say. Now I come to my military service on which I won't dwell. A bachelor early on, life made me what I am. Rise, descend, descend, rise, come, go—so does Man until he finally vanishes. A taxi bringeth him. An elevator taketh him away. Neither the Tower nor the Pantheon take any note. All Paris is a dream. Zazie is a reverie. All this is a reverie within a dream. A reverie within a dream....And over there, way out yonder, the cemetery is piled high with former Parisians, who went up and down countless steps, to and fro along endless streets, until in the end they went and were no more. Pleasure bringeth them, a hearse taketh them away. Meanwhile, the Tower rusts, the Pantheon cracks, quicker than their bones rot and melt away in the humus of the woeful metropolis. But I...I am alive! And there my knowledge ceases. Of the cabbie and my niece, 1,000 feet up in the air, and of my sweet spouse, Albertine, back at the hearth, at this precise moment, I know only this: that they are almost dead since they are not here. Created in a flash, animated in a splash, negated in a dash.
  • Facecam: There are several shots of Gabriel's absurdly beautiful wife Albertine framed this way. First, there are multiple shots of her walking down the hallway of the apartment, face held still in the picture Facecam style. Then when she rides her moped to the dance hall where Gabriel performs, she's framed this way again.
  • Free-Range Children: When told that Zazie is escaped and is running around Paris all by herself, all Gabriel does is go to bed.
  • Groupie Brigade: For no obvious reason, four very good-looking young German women (the bus driver calls them "Gretchens") on the Paris tour bus attach themselves to Gabriel at the Eiffel Tower, swooning over him, cuddling with him and touching him. They follow him around for the rest of the movie, despite his occasional efforts to ditch them.
  • Hammerspace: Where Zazie must have gotten the gigantic magnet—it's at least three feet long—that she uses against the pedophile, who is on roller skates.
  • Jump Cut: Used many times to reinforce the surrealist mood. In many scenes characters simply pop in and out of different places in a room, sometimes in the middle of a conversation, like the cafe owner downstairs who materializes in three different places as he complains about Zazie's bad manners.
  • Karma Houdini: It may be Unreliable Narrator, but Zazie claims that her mother chopped up her father with an ax, and was acquitted. In fact, everyone congratulated her after.
  • Live-Action Cartoon: The whole movie is this to an extent, with bizarre surrealist humor—characters jump around from place to place in a scene, the action is occasionally sped up, four women each use a single balloon to safely glide from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the ground. This is most explicit in the chase scene between Zazie and the pedophile, which plays exactly like a life-action version of a Tex Avery cartoon. Zazie produces a stick of dynamite out of nowhere, and an old-fashioned bomb with a wick, both of which she flings at the pedophile. At one point she turns into two different Zazies. At another point in the sequence, the pedophile is chasing her through a marketplace, when she repeatedly gets him to stop by...producing cameras out of nowhere and getting the pedophile to stop for photos.
  • Mouthy Kid: Zazie is very mouthy, complaining loudly about the Metro being closed, pestering Gabriel about whether or not he's a homosexual, and generally being a pest.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: At one point in the Live-Action Cartoon sequence, Zazie has the good luck to encounter some statues that are the same size as her and dressed identically to her. She hides among them while the puzzled pedophile tries to figure out which one is her.
  • Pie in the Face: People fling pies at each other during the wild, chaotic brawl that ends the film—except that they aren't pies, they're plates of pasta and sausage.
  • Roof Hopping: The pedophile chases Zazie over some roofs during the Live-Action Cartoon sequence.
  • Running Gag
    • The bumbling pickpocket. He tries to pick Gabriel's pocket and pulls out an alarm clock. He gets his hand stuck in Mme. Mouaque's purse.
    • Gabriel continually misidentifying the same church. (It's St. Chapelle Cathedral.)
    • The cafe below the apartment where Gabriel lives is revealed to be a set. It's continually being redecorated and changed to a different set.
  • Sadist Teacher: Discussed Trope, as Zazie says she wants to be a teacher specifically so she can be this. She proclaims that she'll jab her students in the butt with a compass and fill their mouths with chalk.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Zazie curses a lot. When she is told that the Metro is closed for a strike, she says "Damn and shit!"
  • Surrealism: Many many examples from beginning to end.
    • During the scene where the pedophile is strolling around with Zazie, there are repeated shots of a man playing an air violin, as violin music is heard on the soundtrack.
    • There's a guy in a polar bear suit at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Also at the top is a sea captain—who is splashed by a wave.
    • At the flea market where the pedophile buys Zazie blue jeans, someone is selling a child. The child is wearing a sign that says "SECONDHAND".
    • The entire Live-Action Cartoon chase sequence, which is just that, a long sequence of the film shot to closely mimic an old Tex Avery cartoon. At one point in the scene Zazie turns into two different Zazies, one of which throws the blue jeans over the pedophile's head to another one.
    • Vittorio Caprioli who first appears as the Comedic Lolicon, and then keeps appearing in different roles—he's a policeman, he's a fascist general, he's a ticket taker on the train.
    • At one point during the climactic Bar Brawl, the cobbler produces a shoe gun, and shoots somebody.
    • The bird in the cage gets hit with a spray of water, and turns into a dog.
    • In a scene where the pedophile is talking to the cobbler downstairs, the cobbler suddenly turns into a black man, and then turns right back.
  • Trash the Set: It doesn't really count as Proscenium Reveal because the movie has obviously been presented as a movie earlier—the cafe set keeps getting remade from scene to scene to scene. But the bar brawl that ends the film totally destroys the restaurant set that it's being filmed in, then destroys another set apparently build around that one. Before its over cameramen and boom mic operators are getting swallowed up in the chaos.
  • Undercrank: Done repeatedly to reinforce the mood of bizarre surrealism, as people move around erratically. For one particular scene, the actors playing Gabriel and Zazie walked very slowly in a crowd scene while the camera was turned at 12 fps. So when the film was sped up to normal speed of 24 fps, they appeared to be walking normally while everyone else appeared to be zooming around them.
  • Video Credits: Film clips of all the main characters appear along with their names at the end.
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