French Citroens, Superior Germans, Stereotypes And Major Hallucinogens

June 3, 2010

When I was a student traveling in Europe over 20 years ago, and then again when I worked on the Continent, anytime I had the chance to rent a car, I asked for the German model, either a Volkswagen or a Mercedes-Benz or an Audi. Why? Because I knew those cars would be great on the highway, they were straightforward and self-evident in their mission of motoring pleasure.

And every so often, as life and car rental agencies often do, you get stiffed at the counter and don't get what you ordered even though you checked ahead of time and that small-brained, teased-hair Manuela behind the counter absolutely assured you the Audi A4 would be there for you, tank filled, interior clean and shiny.

But sometimes I got shafted with a Fiat Multipla (Fiat should have been bombed into dust for that rolling crap wagon) or worse, an ill-tuned SEAT or an Opel Kadett that should have been scrapped about a century ago. Or, I got a French car, like a Renault or a Peugeot. And I was always ambivalent about the French cars, could never really hate them or warm up to them.

My memories of French cars were sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Soft seats, soft brakes--feh! Comfy ride, not too bad on gas, yay! But they never really stuck with me. And neither did their advertising, not even the ads they showed here in North America where they actually sold "les autos de merde" right up until 1990 or so.

But then I came across this wacky Citroen C5 ad that has changed my mind. I have to admit I have always LOVED Citroens because they were so unique, so I decided to watch this ad hoping It would be unique too. Indeed it was, and I couldn't stop watching it. I must have watched this four times in a row to try and figure the damn thing out. And then I remembered, the French are the kings of absurd film and perpetuating European stereotypes. And this ad fits right into that description.

It's a bizarre piece of film (it's more than an ad) about stereotypical Germans (blond, aggressive, sausage-eating, car-obsessed folk) who fall for a French "maiden"--the new Citroen C5, which is pretty neat looking. There is the requisite Wagner with his Ride of the Valkyries, there are images of sausages, blond women, dueling with swords and other madness. The more I watched it, the more I think the producers, actors and directors took some major hallucinogens before, during and after the making of this film noir Citroen--and washed it down with booze and maybe smoked a joint to complete the weirdness.

It's great to watch if only to try and figure it out. Enjoy it. Or be scared.

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