Rightwing Film Geek

How French of her


Before this year, the only actors to win an Academy Award for a performance in a foreign-language film¹ — Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni — were Italians. Last week’s awards saw the first French performance to win an acting Oscar — Marion Cotillard for LA VIE EN ROSE. If these past few days indicate the character of French thespians, I hope there won’t ever be a second.

Marion Cotillard is a 9/11 (Un)Truther. (And that may not be her nuttiest bit of paranoia — she sure doesn’t believe “everything they tell” her about man landing on the moon, either).

plane.jpgHere is the interview in French. Here is the translation by the Times of London:

Marion Cotillard: I tend rather often to take the side of the conspiracy theory…. I’m not paranoid. It’s not paranoid because I think that they lie to us about an awful lot of things: Coluche, 9/11. You can see on the internet all the films of September 11 on the conspiracy theory. It’s fascinating, even addictive.
They show other towers of the same type that aeroplanes have run into and which burnt. There is a tower, in Spain I think, which burnt for 24 hours… It never collapsed. None of these towers collapse. But there (in New York), the thing collapses. Then afterwards you can talk about it for a long time. The towers of September 11 were stuffed with gold. And they were swallowing up cash because they were built, I gather, in 1973. And to re-cable all that, to modernise the technology and all of that, it was much more expensive to carry out the work than to destroy them. …. Did man ever walk on the moon ? I have seen a lot of documentaries on that and really, I wonder. In any case, I do not believe everything they tell me. That’s for sure.

To paraphrase Orwell, there are things that one doesn’t *answer.* No serious person expects actors to know their ass from a hole in the ground. And no serious person expects anything from the French, particularly une artiste, except America-hating terrorist-loving tripe, the nuttier the better. Kathy Shaidle has a line to dismiss the psychopaths at Du and Kos — “if Bush is Hitler, why aren’t you a lampshade?” In that same spirit, Marion, if the US government were as you think it is, killing 3,000 people on its own soil to save the cost of rewiring a couple of buildings, why hasn’t it rubbed you out for exposing this? If it were as evil as you seem to have no difficulty entertaining, it could even cover up its involvement in your murder. If you really, truly believed this, mon cherie, rather than stating it for the sake of posturing, you wouldn’t be filming in Chicago.

But it IS worth asking, why does Cotillard think this? Where does she get these ideas? The very fact that she’s just an ordinary person without special knowledge is exactly the point. Most people on most subjects, after all, are ignorant and just uncritically soak up what they’re told by those surrounding them. So perversely, the ignorant are a better indication of the zeitgeist than the knowledgeable. Cotillard’s droppings reveal a meta-narrative about how the world works — that (1) there’s a “They” who secretly control everything and manipulate appearances to fool everyone else into thinking They don’t and that what you see really isn’t (“towers stuffed with gold”? were they using Christian children’s blood too, Marion? Has the Sears Tower not been rewired since 1973 too?); and (2) that meta-suspicion is the most-rational approach toward that They, given they hoodwink the rest of the world.

Cotillard’s idiocy, which she shares with a whole “movement” called “9/11 Truth,” represents a particular form of idiocy to which contemporary minds are particularly vulnerable for a variety of reasons:

  • the eternal appeal of Gnosticism and being One of Those Who Know
  • a suspicion-inducing understanding of history and psychology, that people’s motivations are not what they say
  • authority-phobia, based on post-1789 hatred of throne and altar and a conception of this age as “reality-based”
  • peculiarly, a form of hyper-rationalism, based on that same presentism, that everything in the world is and must be explicable;
  • a certain childishly popularized form of Marxism that sees ideology everywhere and reason in oneself
  • an even more childishly popularized form of postmodernism that winds up questioning knowledge itself
  • certain hyper-individualistic habits of mind taught in the schools and lionized in the culture (“being a critical thinker” or “thinking for yourself” or “thinking outside the box” are all Good Things)
  • the surfeit of information in a mass-media society, with its absolute freedom to spread uncensored like a plague
  • a consumerist mentality that says even reality itself is subject to being shaped according to what I want

I recommend as an antidote the movie ZODIAC.

After her interview, admittedly a year old (what did it say that her spoutings were taken as unremarkable for a year?) became widely disseminated, her agent came back with a statement that, in my opinion, exactly confirms what I say.

Marion’s reaction is that this video was filmed in special circumstances after a broadcast on Coluche (popular comedian killed in 86 motorcycle accident) and she was being asked to react to this broadcast. Marion then simply expressed the view that she wanted to form her own opinion (on 911) from watching various reports, but she never wished to call into question the events of 11 September.

This is exactly what I mean when I talk about hyperindividualism, consumerism, authority-phobia and a surfeit of information.

holocaustboy.jpgWhat exactly, does Marion Cotillard have the right to an opinion about? There’s obviously a sense in which she has the power to think as she will (that’s the same sense in which one has the right to be an idiot, the right to murder, the right to stick a fork in a baby’s head, the right to refuse to see her movies). But nobody has any “right” to “form her own opinion” on a matter of simple fact — e.g., that Muslim terrorists crashed two jets into the World Trade Center and brought the towers down, killing about 2,800 people; that the Apollo 11 space craft landed on the moon; that the Earth revolves around the sun; that the Nazis killed almost 6 million Jews; that the Earth is several billion years old. Indeed it is part of the disease of liberal society that it fosters endless debate about subjects that are not debatable because it has no means of ending them, and indeed prides itself on that impotence.

This reportage has been taken out of context and one can only condemn such practises. Marion deplores that. She is currently filming in Chicago and has a lot of work. She is in an ocean of happiness and voila, this row blows up. It’s rather strange. It’s an old report, not at all current. Why bring it out now?

Talk about conspiracy theories. I narrow it down to vengeance-seeking from Julie Christie or The Jews.

I talked three times to Marion overnight. This is worrying her. She is still in shock and does not really know how to react. She doesn’t have to apologise for a badly presented and badly interpreted reportage….

From the sounds of things including your defense of her, Monsieur, the reportage seems quite accurate. “The US government committed mass murder on its own soil to save the cost of rewiring two buildings” … has no other interpretation or presentation possible except the most childish knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

She hopes that the Americans will have enough distance to understand, but her career is not just American. She can make films everywhere.

[VJM puts on Dana Carvey’s Church Lady voice] Well, isn’t that special — “I don’t care what Americans think of me because I can make movies anywhere.” I hope the French lady has enough distance to understand that she will have to make movies elsewhere.
¹ Robert DeNiro and Benicio Del Toro both won for Supporting Actor while mostly speaking a foreign language throughout — Italian in GODFATHER 2 and Spanish in TRAFFIC, respectively. But both films overall were American-made and mostly in English (entirely IIRC, outside the context of those two characters’ plot threads). They would not have come close to meeting the Academy’s criteria for a foreign-language film.

P.S. … I doubt I have any readers who believe the UnTruthers (I certainly hope I don’t). But if there are, let it be noted in advance that you can stroke your theories elsewhere. Not here.

March 4, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


  1. The cognitive dissonance of these so-called truthers is staggering. America’s conspiracies are all-powerful, but all they can do against the brave souls exposing their lies is marginalize them (and considering some of the big names who believe this crap, some aren’t even marginalized.) It’s like there’s a certain segment of the population that’s just immune to logic.

    You might be amused by the challenge one wacko in Worcester, Massachusetts made to some folks associated with the local Catholic Worker to settle his “Mossad is responsible for 9/11” theory through gladiatorial combat. It’s precious: http://anthonyhmura.blogspot.com/2008/02/zionist-911-gladiator-calls-out-terror.html

    Comment by Adam Villani | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  2. I keep thinking of that old MR. SHOW sketch, especially that one particular line: “There’s a reason for the phrase, ‘as dumb as an actor.'”

    Now, I realize that most actors are fairly intelligent. Yet how many of them have actually had something interesting or insightful to say to the press about subjects not related to filmmaking? Not all that many. For all their intelligence, it’s their egotism and their eagerness to keep the spotlight on them that comes out whenever the camera’s rolling. After all, do Marion Cotillard’s ideas about 9/11 really make a difference? But because she’s made a career out of appearing on camera, by golly she’s going to get them out there.

    I’ve enjoyed Cotillard’s performances in a number of films- not so much LA VIE EN ROSE, but some of her earlier French work- but this is pretty embarrassing. Sure, it’s a year old, but it’s nonetheless a matter of the public record, and in our information age there’s no statute of limitations on that.

    In the words of Mark Twain, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” This goes double if the camera is rolling, and I think more actors would be wise to remember that.

    Comment by Paul C. | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. You deserve whatever you get for coming out as a 9/11 Truther so I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Ms. Cotillard. However, I was less mad after I read she also didn’t believe in the moon landing; I’m more apt to say this is a very, very stupid girl, rather than an instance of calculated, coherent BushAmericaMilitary Hate. She DID grow up in France, after all; they’ve probably been teaching her about how Americans are the root of all evil since she was six.

    Of course, I may be suffering from another American malady: the tendency to forgive women of all varieties of faults because they are beautiful and talented.

    Comment by G-Money | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  4. I value your political commentary, but I get brushed back by statements like this: “And no serious person expects anything from the French, particularly une artiste, except America-hating terrorist-loving tripe, the nuttier the better.” Coupled with the title of your entry, this statement has the effect of limiting your audience to people who already share your emotional orientation. There’s a lot of French culture out there – some of us have built whole realms of their intellectual life around it. It’s not all nutty. And you most definitely don’t have to go to France for this kind of paranoia-laced view of the world: just stand by the water cooler in any American office, and you learn quickly how deep this kind of thinking runs in the human psyche.

    Comment by Dan Sallitt | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  5. Uncle Dan:

    Obviously, some of the statements I make about France are exaggerated a bit for comic effect. No sane man, especially a cinephile, can deny their cultural achievements. Le Chuck once slyly said after some anti-France rant at the 2002 TIFF: “and yet, you seem to like their movies an awful lot lately,” referring (just to stick to the 2001/2 Toronto fests) to TIME OUT, LA PIANISTE, THE LADY AND THE DUKE, THE SON, IRREVERSIBLE, AMELIE, 8 WOMEN. A word search for “France” on my Past Top 10s page gets “more than 100” hits.

    Nevertheless, it is simply a fact that one malady of French culture and politics is nutburger anti-Americanism (and it long predates both Iraq and Bush … “the US has no culture” is from a film that had its North American premiere Sept. 12, 2001) and a more general dislike of Anglo-Saxons (Cotillard herself has said she has no “Anglo-Saxon ambition” to be a star). Sane men know that and so it’s part of their expectation about French public figures. Expectations need not always come to fruition to be rational.

    As for “terrorist-loving” … again, it has been French foreign policy since the late-60s to curry political favor with the Arab states and to play footsie with Muslim terror groups, from the PLO to Saddam Hussein. 9/11 Trutherism has its beginnings in France — Thierry Meyssan’s claim that the Pentagon was hit by an American cruise missile was the subject of a whole book in spring 2002 (again note, before the Iraq war) and was a huge success in France, selling 200,000 copies and drawing respectable public support.

    And petty anti-Americanism and anti-Anglo-Saxonism has been a constant feature of French foreign policy since Charles de Gaulle (“Vive Quebec Libre!” and vetoing Britain’s entry into the Common Market just to pick two things just from him that don’t even refer to the US). Also remember an air raid against Qaddafi’s Libya in 1986 in retaliation for a bombing in Europe that aimed at Americans. And remember how the Pentagon put up a map showing the route the planes took from Britain, and how it went west into the Atlantic, across Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean? That was awesome.

    Yes, one can hear paranoia-laced ravings also at an American office water-cooler (and Hollywood parties). But the particular shapes they take, and thus their particular poison-quotient at certain times and toward certain other groups, do differ according to national culture. And their effects on decision-makers differ also.

    Comment by vjmorton | March 4, 2008 | Reply

  6. I liked the bizarro touch of saying 9/11 was an inside job not because of Zionism, or some desire to start a big war or something, but because demolition costs are too high.

    Comment by Adam Villani | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  7. Given geography and the vicissitudes of history, it’s not that surprising that France should have a conflicted history with Anglo-Saxon culture. (My sense is that Franco-German cultural attitudes are equally checkered.) Nor that France would have a distinctive relationship to the Arab world, given its history and demographics. And France isn’t the only Western country where leftist culture has had such influence on popular culture – I’m thinking of Italy.

    I guess the holding context here is the disagreement between the U.S. and France over Iraq, and the subsequent anti-French feeling in the U. S. I suppose you have warmer feelings about that phenomenon than I do – I felt as if my intellectual homeland was being impugned.

    Comment by Dan Sallitt | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  8. I felt as if my intellectual homeland was being impugned.

    I hadn’t really thought in terms of an “intellectual homeland” before, but I would say that politically I follow in the Anglo-American tradition, whereas artistically I have an affinity for German and Japanese works in addition to the Anglo-American side. I don’t have any trouble impugning the Germans or Japanese, though; not only are their historical crimes against humanity well-documented, but I also acknowledge their many crimes against good taste and sanity to this day.

    Comment by Adam Villani | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  9. No, Dan, you have cause and effect exactly backward and are speaking as if history began with George Bush.

    French dislike of Anglo-Saxons and the US especially (and the return sentiment) long LONG predates the Iraq war and isn’t especially tied to it (French “anti-imperialism,” say, began at the precise moment they no longer had an empire). I gave several examples which don’t seem to have made an impression on you if you really think the Iraq is any sort of “holding context” — Godard, DeGaulle, Meyssan, Qaddafi, pre-1990 Saddam, Cotillard on stardom, etc. I could give a hundred more.

    As for France’s pro-Arab policies in the Middle East, they were not the result of demographics, though the current numbers may have reinforced it. Remember that France was Israel’s main source of aid and weapons from about 1950, replacing the Soviet bloc, to the 1967 war (and the Jewish state was far more belligerent at that time than today). Plus, almost all the Muslims in France are from ex-colonies in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa (i.e., not historic Palestine or Iraq), so this can hardly explain the love for Arafat and Saddam. And if it were to do so, it would have been doing so since the founding of Israel and would have prevented, say, the Suez invasion.

    Plus, Cotillard and Meyssan’s Trutherism is not about Iraq even in the most superficial of “holding context” senses; they would have been just as likely (and just as defensible) had Saddam Hussein had a fatal stroke on Sept. 12, 2001.

    Comment by vjmorton | March 6, 2008 | Reply

  10. “I liked the bizarro touch of saying 9/11 was an inside job not because of Zionism, or some desire to start a big war or something, but because demolition costs are too high.”

    I would like to make some sort of joke about how the French gave us deconstruction and now are angry when we use it, but that would be stupid. I can, however, imagine such a comment in the middle of “La Chinoise.” In that film Godard makes these young student activists sound as deadly serious as they are naive, but the tone of the film is not as negative as it is constructive. Ever since then I have taken such comments with a Godardian nod.

    Comment by M. Leary | March 6, 2008 | Reply

  11. Plus, Cotillard and Meyssan’s Trutherism is not about Iraq even in the most superficial of “holding context” senses; they would have been just as likely (and just as defensible) had Saddam Hussein had a fatal stroke on Sept. 12, 2001.

    Do you not think that the Iraq War has created an environment conducive to the proliferation of leftist anti-Americanism?

    Comment by Adam Villani | March 6, 2008 | Reply

  12. Perhaps, Adam, but I don’t think that’s terribly relevant to Trutherism, which is not an intellectual position that might be affected by a rational consideration of facts, but a moral failing, a psychological defect and an offense to reason. If a leftist embraces Trutherism (or rightist … there are right-wing forms of it at the nearest Ron Paul rally), he hardly needs the (stipulated) injustice of the Iraq war to justify his stance. He’d find a reason with President Gore or President Nader.

    Comment by vjmorton | March 6, 2008 | Reply

  13. Trutherism, which is not an intellectual position that might be affected by a rational consideration of facts, but a moral failing, a psychological defect and an offense to reason.

    I agree with your assessment of trutherism, but the Iraq War makes a lot of people angry. (Heck, it makes *me* angry.) There doesn’t need to be a rational link or justification to become a truther, but I would hardly think one would come to it without being angry at the U.S. already. Iraq War -> lots of angry people -> some of those angry people also happen to be morons -> some angry morons become truthers.

    There were people angry at America before (Jose Bove, WTO protests, et al), but things have ramped up since George W. Bush became President.

    Comment by Adam Villani | March 7, 2008 | Reply

  14. I would hardly think one would come to [Trutherism] without being angry at the U.S. already.

    Sure … but my point is that if one is demented enough to have reached Trutherland then no specific “cause” was ever needed to reach it. Or rather, there will ALWAYS be a cause because there always needs to be one. If one doesn’t exist, another will be invented or the goalposts will shift until one is found.

    Comment by vjmorton | March 7, 2008 | Reply

  15. Victor – when I said the Iraq war was a “holding context,” I meant for our different reactions to anti-French commentary in 2008, not for any actual national attitudes under discussion, which of course evolve over long periods of time.

    Do you believe that France’s change of Israel policy in the late 60s has no relation to the factors I mentioned? Assuming that the French left gained traction circa 1968, that would presumably synergize with its traditional concerns about the country’s colonial past and high-profile Arab minority.

    Comment by Dan Sallitt | March 7, 2008 | Reply

  16. But when anti-French comments are not primarily about the Iraq war, but 9-11 Trutherism, there is no reason to let Iraq affect one’s reaction to them. Or are you saying what I take you to be saying — something to the effect of “the justice of the Iraq war is so transcendent that somebody or some group (like a country, say) who was right on it by my lights acquires some sort of immunity against ridicule on unrelated subjects, no matter how bonkers.” ‘Cause only if that IS the case need Iraq be any kind of holding context.

    As for France and Israel, no it didn’t — the historical timeline says exactly the contrary. It had everything to do with the Algerian independence ending France’s pariah status among the Arab states in the mid-60s, and then the Six-Day War giving France an excuse to switch sides in the interest of Arab oil. France imposed an arms embargo on Israel under Charles DeGaulle in 1967, i.e., under both a rightist president and before “the 68.” France didn’t have a left-wing government until Mitterand in 1981, by which time it had been 10 years since it had thrown in with Arafat and was in its honeymoon with Saddam Hussein, consummated by conservative Jacques Chirac selling nuclear plants and equipment for weapons — thank God for the Israeli Air Force.

    Comment by vjmorton | March 8, 2008 | Reply

  17. No, I’m not saying that France deserves the moral high ground for not sending troops to Iraq. I thought I was speaking plainly enough, but: there is a xenophobic edge to American attitudes toward France since Iraq. My response to your comments about France certainly took place in this context: I might not have been as sensitive otherwise, despite my immense debt to French intellectual and artistic culture.

    Comment by Dan Sallitt | March 12, 2008 | Reply

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