Raiding the archives: How Tasty Was My Little Frenchmen

When I don’t have any topic on hand, I’m going to go back to posts I’ve already written elsewhere and placing them on my blog because the majority of people that visit my blog haven’t read these before so it’s new content for them. Nice to stock up on topics before I take my hiatus.

How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman is a Brazilian film set during France’s and Portugal’s early trading with Brazil’s natives. The film is essentially about how a Frenchman gets confused as Portugese because he’s found with Portugese men when this the Tupinambás attack. In actuality the Tupinambás trade with the French, but do not know how to verify whether or not he is French (not understanding the difference between French and Portugese) and the issue isn’t helped by the Frenchmen that trades with the villagers who tells them that the captured Frenchman is indeed Portugese. So he’s giving 8 moons (months) to live in the village until he is cannabalized. Before then though, he is given status as any other villager including a wife.

For those who’ve seen the any movie about or with Native Americans or “tribal” people in general, you’ll be happy to know that there isn’t any noble savage tropes in this movie. Everything is as it was. A few reviews/discussions I’ve read about the movie has described it as a black comedy or satire and using some variation of it being shot like a documentary. I do not believe it resides in either camp. While you might laugh at some cultural misunderstandings between the two, the movie is largely played as a matter of fact between the two cultures about what they do and do not understand about each other.

Also, I can’t say it is shot like a documentary because documentaries are shot in a myriad of ways. The most fitting way to describe it to myself at least would be non-sexual voyeurism. Obviously, voyeurism is defined by the fact that what you’re seeing is sexual in nature, either by the person being watched or intended affect on the watcher. However, nothing is sexual about the movie even though all the indigenous people are naked throughout the film. I would be hard pressed to say I didn’t constantly look onward. Maybe not as a pervert (or maybe so), but because the idea of being constantly naked is alien to me and it never really settled in my mind. Everyone is shaved too which is extremely odd, but all the characters are Europeans and it was filmed in 1971 so it really isn’t surprising from that front.

The movie didn’t strike me in any particular way while watching it, however in one of the extras a professor offered something completely obvious that I had missed. It’s a critique of not only the first encounter of Europeans with Latin America, but also colonialism and neo-colonialism. The Frenchmen was happy enough to be with the Tupinambás. He would go so far as to fashion his hair like the natives as well as partially (un)dress like them. But when speaking to the captive Frenchmen who would only refer to them as “savages” and scoffed at the prospect of giving them gunpowder. He would only trade for triquets like beads or mirrors to the women in exchange for Brazilian wood. Obviously setting forth the chain of events that still continue to this day of trading valuable natural resources for a price worth far less.

As for the ending? He does indeed get eaten. With resistance only insofar as he expected to give because part of the ritual entails that he must attempt an escape. Once captured, he must hurl rocks or fruit at his captures as they prepare to eat him. The Frenchmen doesn’t seem to resign to his fate because with as little as one month left he attempts to make an agreement for gunpowder in exchange for his freedom. This falls on deaf ears because even though the gunpowder is delivered, his freedom is not given. On the otherhand however, he has grown to accept his fate in several ways with him going on completely along with the ritual and attempting to take his wife with him in his brief attempted escape.

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About panamaenrique

Afro-Latino film lover in NYC. I love blues, jazz, soul, funk, and everything else under the sun. Any questions, comments, or concerns about anything I say, feel free to hit me up. My contact info is there and I'll be sure to give you a lengthy response about what I said and why I said it.
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