23 December 2021

Bernard Tanguy's Je pourrais être votre grand-mère | I Could Be Your Grandmother (2010)

Je pourrais être votre grand-mère is a much-awarded eighteen-minute short concerning SDF (homeless) immigrants and people's reactions to them. A business lawyer has one camped out opposite his comfortable apartment, all her belongings at her sides. She has a semi-literate sign in front of her asking for help, and the lawyer can't sleep, imagining this woman as his peasant grandmother tending animals. He tears up the cardboard package of an internet supermarket firm and in felt tip writes 'Je pourrais être votre grand-mère' ('I could be your grandmother') and gives it to the woman the following day for her to display.

In the evening, when he returns to his apartment, the woman shouts 'Merci, merci!' to him, and shakes the generous takings she's received that day. The problem is, other SDFs copy the card verbatim in hope of the same success, but the lawyer is understandably troubled when he sees not only a young SDF woman with the same sign, but also a young man: they can't possibly be grandmothers.

So the lawyer makes new signs, such as 'parti de rien, arrivé nulle part' ('left with nothing, arrived nowhere'); 'vivre à découvert' ('living without shelter'); a wink to Obama's election slogan saying (in English) '1€ Yes, you can'; criticisms of world trade, such as 'Golden parachute' (again in English); a 'soldes' (sale) sign reduced from 1€ to 2€; 'ISF*/SDF on a tous des problèmes' ('Fortune tax/NFA we all have problems'); to be realistic (and inevitably controversial), there's even a person holding a bottle of wine with a can of Special Brew at the side with a sign 'Que celui qui n'a jamais BU jette la première pierre' (a slight variation of the biblical 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone', but with "has never DRUNK" to replace the original).

And there's the sign 'La faim justifie les moyens' ('The hunger/end justifies the means', with a pun on 'faim' and 'fin'), although there are problems. This, although short, is an important film.

*In 2017, Édouard Philippe's government, under Macron, decided to sugar the pill for the wealthy by abolishing the ISF in favour of the IFI (impôt sur la fortune immobilière), a stealth tax in favour of the rich.

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