Fool's Mate (French: Le coup du berger) is a twenty-eight-minute short film directed by Jacques Rivette. It stars Virginie Vitry as a wife cheating on her husband (Jacques Doniol-Valcroze). When her lover (Jean-Claude Brialy) buys her a mink coat, the adulterous pair hatch a plan to avoid her husband's questioning the coat's origins.
Released in 1956, the film is something of a curio thanks to a scene in which Rivette and French New Wave contemporaries Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut are seen in the same room as party guests.
I clicked on Wikipedia.fr, to see what they had to say about it:
Le Coup du berger est un film français réalisé par Jacques Rivette, sorti en 1956. En 1960, Alfred Hitchcock tournera pour la télévision Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's coat (titre français : Le Manteau) d'après une nouvelle de Roald Dahl qui semble en être un remake.
[Then: a 116-word plot synopsis and a survey of production details.]
Some of what I learned from Wikipedia is sort of interesting, but nothing as fascinating as seeing how the French and English Wikipedia articles about Le coup du berger differed. The wikipedia.com article does not mention the obscure Hitchcock television remake that is referenced in wikipedia.fr. The trio of French New Wave directors in the film’s party scene is not remarked upon in the text of the Wikipedia.fr article, although it is included in the survey of production details.
Virginie Vitry : Claire, la femme de Jean
Anne Doat : Solange, l'amie de Claire
Etienne Loinod : Jean, le mari
Jean-Claude Brialy : Claude, l'amant de Claire
François Truffaut : un invité à la soirée
Jean-Luc Godard : un invité à la soirée
Claude Chabrol : un invité à la soirée
Jacques Rivette (voix)
Neither the information about the Hitchcock remake nor about the Chabrol-Godard-Truffaut cameo is pertinent; they're just tidbits. In fact, the Wikipedia.fr account is misinformation. Its author is aware that might be the case, so he qualifies his conclusion. He says that the Hitchcock film seems to be (semble en être) a remake. Turns out: it’s not. Wikipedia.com led me to a super little essay by Barbara Mikkelson, who says that the story which is the plot of the film is an urban legend, and that in 1946 (ten years before Le coup du berger) it was included in a list of overused plots.
Wikipedia.com’s nugget about the party scene, although not pertinent, has the advantage of being true, and it alerts us to something to look out for when we watch the film. Both factoids blur on their edges into inside gossip and name-dropping. English Wikipedia’s cineaste drops the names of three French directors and French Wikipedia’s cineaste drops the names of an English director and an English writer.
That’s not surprising. An appreciation of foreign films over domestic ones has been a mark of sophistication ever since I was a kid. The purpose of the reference to foreign cinema is, in each case, to make sure that the reader knows that the author is a sophisticated film buff.
A preference for foreign culture – foreign writers, musicians, philosophers, scholars – over one’s own culture has been a sign of putative erudition and intellectual superiority since the Renaissance. For example, Paracelsus’ choosing The Canterbury Tales to interpret as a series of prophetic dreams, instead of turning to the Die Fröhlichen Pilger of his fellow-Salzburgian, Hans Folz; or Shakespeare’s use of foreign sources and foreign settings for his plays (except for the histories, naturally).
Often, to the sophisticates of one culture, what the sophisticates of another culture choose to venerate from theirs seems rather peculiar. We Americans wonder at the earnestness with which the French have studied and analyzed what they consider to be the masterpieces of Longfellow, Poe and Jerry Lewis. In the same way, the French are amazed at the way we revere Jean-Paul Sartre who, in France, is considered a negligible second-rate thinker, who had his fifteen minutes of fame in the 1950's when the American media discovered some of the more prurient aspects of his disjointed philosophical system known as Extendentialism. In fact, in a recent article, “Une Palpation du Cœur de Sexisme Américain”, in the French feminist journal, Entre les Jambes, Calixte Royer concludes by excoriating l'intelligentsia transatlantique for making into a demi-god (demi-dieu), the cranky little communist (petit communiste grincheux) who was the troublesome lover (gênant amant) of Simone de Beauvoir.
(More on Wikipedia)