Le Nouveau Monde (New World; The New World) (1995)





Director:     Alain Corneau. 

Starring:     Nicolas Chatel (Patrick Carrion), Sarah Grappin (Marie-José Vire), James Gandolfini (Will Caberra), Alicia Silverstone (Trudy Wadd ), Guy Marchand (Dr. Carrion), Baptiste Trotignon (Rydell), Sylvie Granotier (Mrs. / Mme. Carrion), Simon Mary (Annoine), Ronald Baker (Augustus), David Johnson (Mel), Roger Dumas (Le curé), Joséphine Serre (Young Marie-José Vire), Gregory Diallo (Young Patrick Carrion), Dany Brillant (Le chanteur, Ballroom Singer) , Joe Sheridan (Mr. Wadd ).

French resentment of the "American occupation"



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.


The Germans occupied northern France in 1943.  Patrick Carrion says that his mother was beautiful but in 1943 she lost her eye to a hot ember from the kitchen stove.  Patrick watches as his mother goes to her room.  Her husband comes over and starts to knock at the door, but decides not to follow through.  Mother comes out to tell her husband that this is her room.

Marie-José Vire and Patrick are boyfriend/girlfriend.  One night her mother abandoned her and her father without even leaving a note.  Patrick and Marie-José hug and kiss each other. 

Patrick has to help hold an old horse down as his veterinarian father cuts off its testicles. 

Patrick and Marie-José bury some of their old toys.  They have two holy wafers and they promise to go to America.  They watch an American soldier and his family from behind a bush.  Then they go through their garbage.  They grab the American magazines. 

In 1952, more than 14 thousand American soldiers were stationed in Orleans.  They take the magazines and row to the other side of a pond.  There they have a secret place with lots of different American products, including food. 

In 1959, Patrick and Marie-José were 16 years old.  They return to their little special place on the island where they have sex.  But then Marie-José says she's not going to have sex again with him, because in love it's all or nothing.  Patrick says with her it's usually nothing.  Marie-José gets angry and leaves Patrick's side.

Two Frenchmen are trying to paint a sign on the road surface saying "Go Home Yankees!"  Patrick sees this and yells for them to stop it.  He bumps into one man with his bike and knocks him down.  Then the other man starts fighting with Patrick.  The two men knock him to the ground and he hits the right side of his face on the curb.  He is a bloody mess. 

Will Caberra just happens to pass by and he and Mr. Wadd find the young man face down.  He and his buddy jump out, check out the young lad, throw him into their car and take him home to have his wounds treated.  A young pretty blonde girl Trudy Wadd comes out to investigate what's going on.  She goes and sits down by Patrick and tells him it's not so bad.  The rock-n'-roll singer Buddy Holly just died in a plane crash, so he's not got it so bad.  Patrick's father comes by and gives the young lad one stitch on his eyebrow. 

Will takes Patrick out for a ride in his Chevrolet.  Patrick is entranced by the black music he hears being played for the American armed forces guys.  Soon enough Will gets involved in a fight and makes it worse.  He obviously likes slugging people.  Trudy's family grab Patrick and pull him out of the canteen, but he almost instinctively is drawn back to watch the fight.  Trudy has to go back and pull him out.  The fight breaks down to whites versus blacks.  Trudy gets on Patrick's bike and Patrick get on her bike.  She asks him if he knows the singers:  Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Paul Anka, Buddy Holly?  She says she will play him the records.  She stops bicycling to take her own bike back from Patrick.  Marie-José sees Trudy fussing over Patrick's wound and she doesn't like it.  When Trudy leaves, Marie-José tells Patrick that it's either her or that bimbo.  Then she asks him why he didn't take her to the American base?  Patrick says the French are not allowed there.  He then tells Marie-José that she is beautiful and the two kiss. 

Patrick tries to have sex again with Marie-José but she doesn't want him to.  He gets mad and leaves, while she begs him not to leave her all alone.  He goes home and starts to enter his mom's room, turns around and leaves.  He goes over to listen to the French and black Americans playing American jazz.  He starts experimenting with the snare drum because he knows the band needs a new drummer. 

One day when the guys are practicing, Will comes in already drunk.  Will is a real racist and he tells the black guys there that they are not supposed to be in the canteen until after 8:30 p.m.  The black guys want to leave, but Will wants to screw with them some more.  He head butts one of the guys.  Will says he will give Patrick a pearl set of drums.  Will grabs Patrick's hand and takes him over to the drum set someone left him.  Patrick is wary of Will after he has seen him in action several times with the blacks.  

Patrick practices his drums at home, but his father doesn't like it.  So he talks with the priest about practicing in the church attic.  Although Patrick is not an altar boy anymore, the priests wants him to perform as one for him. 

With the help of Marie-José, Patrick sets up his drums and phonograph up in the attic of the church.  He asks Marie-José to leave now, because he swears he cannot play a note with someone watching him.  Marie-José tells him that he is neglecting her and she doesn't like it.  He asks her:  "When will you sleep with me?"  Marie-José leaves. 

The guys are practicing and Will and Trudy come to listen to them.  Marie-José is there and she is not too pleased with Trudy being there.  Marie-José starts flirting with Will.  When everyone leaves Marie-José starts to leave.  She starts crying and Patrick demands to know what the problem is.  She says she takes her temperature everyday and today they could have had sex together.  She says Patrick doesn't love her anymore.  Patrick doesn't say anything.  He just says he's going to go practice. 

Will comes up to the church attic with a new drum for Patrick.  Marie-José comes up and then goes back down with Will. 

Patrick makes out with Trudy.  Trudy's mother comes home and Trudy and three other girls get into their cheer-leading costumes and practice their routines.  Patrick tells Mrs. Wadd that he has to leave.  On his way home he sees Will and Marie-José making out in Will's Chevrolet.  Patrick runs away from the sight. 

Patrick plays at the canteen.  He is really good now at the drums.  Will drives Patrick home.  He tells Patrick that he's rotten inside.  He had a wife, but she left him. She left him for a Korean.  He says he wishes he had a son.  Patrick sees his father going to work and he asks if Will can come along with them.  Will feels sick watching the vet and goes outside. 

Marie-José says they have to get out of France.  De Gaulle wants all the Americans out of France.  Her dad says that she and Patrick hang out too much with the Americans.  Marie-José is hanging around Will too closely and he keeps moving her back away from him.  Marie-José is still being pushed back by Will.  Rydell, the pianist, leaves the party.  Patrick chases after him and Rydell tells him that the white Americans are stealing the black music from the blacks, but can only make a pale imitation of it.  He says the only real Americans are the black Americans.  He adds:  "But I'm white!" 

Will tells Patrick that he can be his son, but Patrick says no.  Will pretends that his feeling aren't hurt and leaves.  Marie-José comes up to him and asks Patrick what Will told him?  Patrick says he said nothing to him.  He goes home to study for his exams. 

On June 12, 1959, the band cuts a record on the American army base.  While recording, they are interrupted by the higher military brass.  When they take a break their black trumpeter overdoses in the bathroom and dies.  In honor of the trumpeter the canteen has a night of gospel singing. 

Patrick rows Trudy over to his secret place.  He catches some frogs and roasts them over the fire.  Trudy won't eat the frogs and she won't go swimming because she says the water's too dirty.  Patrick runs into his little hut.  Trudy follows him in and they hug each other.  Later they come out, sit on the ground by the lake and kiss.  He says they have a great concert coming up, but Trudy only wants to talk about how many children they want to have. 

Will drops Marie-José off and picks up Patrick.  It's Patrick's birthday.  Will puts a paper bag over Patrick's head and then they go to the Post Exchange.  He tells Patrick to get anything he wants.  Patrick tells Will thank you.  Will tells Patrick that the Americans have to leave France and so he wishes the French good luck with the Russians. 

Dad tells Patrick he's not going to the big concert.  He says his finals are in a week and he's not going anywhere.  He locks Patrick in his room, but Patrick just escapes out a window.  He calls up Will and tells him he has to take him to Dreux and the concert.  The problem is that Will is drunk and Patrick tells him to come anyway.  He is to pick up Marie-José on the way there.  Will is killed on the way over.  Patrick tries to get close to Marie-José, but she just backs up away from him. 

Patrick finds out that Rydell was just terrible at the concert.  He just suddenly stopped playing.  Patrick goes over to the pond and swims across it to his secret place.  He finds Rydell there and tells him Will is dead.  Patrick goes home and tries to talk with his mother.  She just asks him why is her here, what does he want?  Patrick says:  "Nothing at all."  He leaves.

Will's body is going to be transported back to the United States.  Marie-José tells Patrick that she loves him and that he is the only one for her.  She starts crying and says she doesn't exist without Patrick.  Two days later the priest has a special ceremony for Will just for Patrick.  Patrick passes his exams and his father is happy with him.  Patrick attends a dance.  Marie-José is there to congratulate him on his exams.  She kisses Patrick really hard.  He gave his drums to a fellow who plays in the French rock-n'-roll band. 

Patrick is still not responding to Marie-José, so she gives up and tells him that Will was a much better lay than he was.  Then she dances with the guys at the party.  Patrick leaves.  During the night he suddenly gets up sensing that something is wrong.  Marie-José is going to cut her wrists in the bathtub.  He grabs her out of her bathtub and yells for his father to come down to help Marie-José.  Dad patches Marie-José up.  She wakes up and sees the two families staring at her. 

The French and Americans are going to have a football contest.  Marie-José and Patrick come out to watch. She tells Patrick:  "We're the Martians, not them!"


Enjoyable film.  I thought from the review that the American sergeant was going to doing something awful to discredit American culture in the eyes of the adoring French fans of all things Americana.  But no, it was actually the French lad Patrick's own fault, for becoming so fixated on himself and his love of American music to the exclusion of many French aspects of culture, including his own French family.  He gets a bit carried away with his over-focus on the United States.  This causes him to become almost totally fixated only on his own concerns and leads him to ignore his life-long girlfriend, Marie-José.  He's just not being very kind to others.  American teen-agers were also being attracted to a sense of new freedom in the rock-n'-roll rhythms of American music. So it's no wonder that the French youth were also being attracted by the new sound and beat.  In fact, rock-n'-roll worked its way around the globe. James Gandolfini as the violent and racist Will Caberra was good in his role of a hateful man a little too close a friend to violence.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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