French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

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French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Thu May 04, 2017 8:17 pm

Not sure where to post this. There are SPOILERS in the post.

Krzysztof Kielsowski's Blue, featuring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Régent, has their two characters using 'vous' with one another, even though they have known each other for a considerable period time and have had consensual sex with one another. I don't understand why they still use 'vous.' Can someone explain?

One such instance is in Scene 18, beginning at 1:20:54.
Blue, Miramax, DVD Video 28658. The date given on the box is 1996, but I think my copy was made, going with Amazon, in 2003. In French with English subtitles.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby guiguixx1 » Thu May 04, 2017 8:41 pm

"Vous" can also be used in some formal contexts quite naturally even when the people know each other (dans le contexte d'une soirée pour des gens de la noblesse, par exemple), although it is indeed quite rare.
As a funny example (but this has nothing to do with what I've just said), my grandparents never use "tu" with each other but always "vous". They've been married for over 50 years. Bu this is of course an exception.

Do you have any internet link to your movie so that I can have a better idea of the context and of the reason for their use of "vous"?
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby zenmonkey » Thu May 04, 2017 9:33 pm

Among a few social groups 'vous' for the familiar is a type of affected or learned snobbery. It rose from copying the nobility and the idea that it is a sign of respect even among those close to you. Here is an article on the phenomena - in French of course...

http://madame.lefigaro.fr/bien-etre/vou ... 0815-97844

Remember that it is also a reaction against the Revolutionaries - so the royalist continued to use the vous voiement even after there was a decree forcing the use of 'tu'.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby tomgosse » Fri May 05, 2017 12:24 am

guiguixx1 wrote:"Vous" can also be used in some formal contexts quite naturally even when the people know each other (dans le contexte d'une soirée pour des gens de la noblesse, par exemple), although it is indeed quite rare.
As a funny example (but this has nothing to do with what I've just said), my grandparents never use "tu" with each other but always "vous". They've been married for over 50 years. Bu this is of course an exception.
I had a French teacher say that he never heard his grandparents use "tu" in public. And, he had no idea what they used in private moments.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby Speakeasy » Fri May 05, 2017 3:11 am

(guiguixx1) ... my grandparents never use "tu" with each other but always "vous". They've been married for over 50 years. Bu this is of course an exception ...

(tomgoose) ... I had a French teacher say that he never heard his grandparents use "tu" in public. And, he had no idea what they used in private moments.


(1) If you watch enough French "period" films, you will notice that even ardent lovers are portrayed as practicing the "vouvoiement" form of address to one another.

(2) As to the most recent examples of this practice in Québec, my wife and all of our Francophone friends (we're all aging boomers) have often recounted having heard their respective grand-parents "vouvoyer"-ing one another in public and in family gatherings. However, their respective parents never adopted this practice and it simply died out.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby Carmody » Fri May 05, 2017 12:01 pm

In Texas, Virginia and many parts of the Southern US, when speaking to parents children use the more formal Sir and Mam as opposed to the You. Growing up summers in Virginia I saw it all the time across the economic and social strata. In New York it is greatly frowned upon.

Maybe tutoyer is a bit like that.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby DaveBee » Fri May 05, 2017 12:14 pm

Carmody wrote:In Texas, Virginia and many parts of the Southern US, when speaking to parents children use the more formal Sir and Mam as opposed to the You. Growing up summers in Virginia I saw it all the time across the economic and social strata. In New York it is greatly frowned upon.

Maybe tutoyer is a bit like that.
In one episode of Un Village Français, the doctor's wife phones her mother, and calls her (I think) "Madame" and "Madame Mère" (the conversation ends with insults!)
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat May 06, 2017 12:01 am

Leave it to director Kieslowski to leave a trail of confusion :!:

guiguixx1 wrote:"Vous" can also be used in some formal contexts quite naturally even when the people know each other (dans le contexte d'une soirée pour des gens de la noblesse, par exemple), although it is indeed quite rare.
As a funny example (but this has nothing to do with what I've just said), my grandparents never use "tu" with each other but always "vous". They've been married for over 50 years. Bu this is of course an exception.

Do you have any internet link to your movie so that I can have a better idea of the context and of the reason for their use of "vous"?


At the very beginning of this trailer, even before the video part begins, is an example of the 'vouvoyering': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxu6my_t4pM This is after, but not immediately after, their consensual sex, and Binoche is saying, ""Vous me montrez quelque chose de ce vous avez composé?" To expand on the circumstances, and introduce more spoilers, the context goes something like this. At the beginning of the movie, Binoche's character along with her husband and daughter are involved in an automobile crash. Husband and daughter die, and Binoche is left to grieve and to cope. The husband was a famous and prosperous composer, and he had an assistant, rather more of a hack than a help, apparently, who harbors feelings of love, perhaps only puppy love, for Binoche, the wife. After Binoche deals with the number of things one must deal with after the death of a spouse, and one rather young at that, she gets around to the assistant. The love making follows, not to be repeated, right away, at least. So in that sort of suspended animation grief can leave us in, Binoche and the assistant are still in a way in the old relationship, in spite of sex, hence they retain the formal 'vous.'

I'm getting dizzy, but to move on to what Zenmonkey wrote:

zenmonkey wrote:Among a few social groups 'vous' for the familiar is a type of affected or learned snobbery. It rose from copying the nobility and the idea that it is a sign of respect even among those close to you. Here is an article on the phenomena - in French of course...

http://madame.lefigaro.fr/bien-etre/vou ... 0815-97844

Remember that it is also a reaction against the Revolutionaries - so the royalist continued to use the vous voiement even after there was a decree forcing the use of 'tu'.


The article does make it clear that some native French-speakers use 'vous' where one might normally expect 'tu.' A further instance of this being Tom's teacher's grandparents. The social background of Binoche's character is opaque, to me, at least. Or am I supposed to assume that because the husband composed "classical" music and that because Binoche was more than a mere assistant to him, they came from the upper class? In supposedly egalitarian America that would not follow, but maybe it does follow in France. I don't know.

DaveBee wrote:
Carmody wrote:In Texas, Virginia and many parts of the Southern US, when speaking to parents children use the more formal Sir and Mam as opposed to the You. Growing up summers in Virginia I saw it all the time across the economic and social strata. In New York it is greatly frowned upon.

Maybe tutoyer is a bit like that.
In one episode of Un Village Français, the doctor's wife phones her mother, and calls her (I think) "Madame" and "Madame Mère" (the conversation ends with insults!)


Do some Americans still refer to their parents as 'pater' and 'mater'? Would that be the equivalent of Hortense's calling her mother "Madame Mère"? And would that mean Hortense came from aristocracy, more or less? Then if so, lending some force to the idea that Binoche was posh (sorry ;)).

So now, I see, I have something to be on the lookout for in other French films.
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby Ani » Sun Jun 04, 2017 5:57 am

MorkTheFiddle wrote:perhaps only puppy love, for Binoche, the wife. After Binoche deals with the number of things one must deal with after the death of a spouse, and one rather young at that, she gets around to the assistant. The love making follows, not to be repeated, right away, at least. So in that sort of suspended animation grief can leave us in, Binoche and the assistant are still in a way in the old relationship, in spite of sex, hence they retain the formal 'vous.'

....

Do some Americans still refer to their parents as 'pater' and 'mater'? Would that be the equivalent of Hortense's calling her mother "Madame Mère"? And would that mean Hortense came from aristocracy, more or less? Then if so, lending some force to the idea that Binoche was posh (sorry ;)).

So now, I see, I have something to be on the lookout for in other French films.


In several books I have read, I noticed that characters who had a former relationship in which they used "vous", they had a discussion at some point along the lines of. "Hey well maybe I guess we should tutoyer now. What do you think?" "Yeah I guess that would be fine" .. It always comes much later than I would expect as an American trying to get a sense of all this politeness. My assumption has been that if the primary relationship used vous, that it is more comfortable to keep using it then to mistakenly assume the relationship has moved faster than it has. I haven't seen Bleu in 15 years and can't remember a thing about it but I gather from your description the initial relationship was business? So "one time maybe accidental" sex wouldn't necessarily supersede the lasting professional interaction.

I have never once heard an American use pater or mater. The only association I have in my head for pater is the Pater Noster :) But like Carmody said, sir and ma'am are still common. (Especially if you're in trouble!)
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Re: French use of 'vous' vs 'tu' in the movie Blue

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sun Jun 04, 2017 5:31 pm

Ani wrote:I haven't seen Bleu in 15 years and can't remember a thing about it but I gather from your description the initial relationship was business? So "one time maybe accidental" sex wouldn't necessarily supersede the lasting professional interaction.

I have never once heard an American use pater or mater. The only association I have in my head for pater is the Pater Noster :) But like Carmody said, sir and ma'am are still common. (Especially if you're in trouble!)


Warning: Possible Spoilers

The gentleman in question was a business associate of Binoche's late husband. The husband composed music of a classical kind, but it is never clear to me just what the associate did.

Pater and mater are terms I have heard used in movies in reference only to the upper crust of society and possibly only in British movies. I have never used or heard used either word in real life except possibly in jest.
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