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Post Deja-Vu, Plus Ca Change, and Groundhog Day
Created by John Eipper on 02/04/18 7:32 AM

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Deja-Vu, Plus Ca Change, and Groundhog Day (David Duggan, USA, 02/04/18 7:32 am)

I don't mean to quibble with my fellow Romance language enthusiast and editor, but I believe the proper French expression for what Groundhog Day is conveying is "déjà vu," not "plus ça change."

The idea of the movie was that this misanthropic newscaster was condemned to repeat his doomed existence of reporting on Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating rodent, for the rest of his life. Phil Connor, the newscaster, is able to realize the endless and unbreakable loop of his existence, and to alter his behavior, if not that of those around him. In that respect, the only change was to Phil's attitude.

And as to movies becoming metaphors, I'm not sure that The Manchurian Candidate, Sophie's Choice, Fight Club or The Matrix qualify. The metaphorical beauty of Groundhog Day is that the ridiculous holiday has developed a secondary meaning of repeating your life again and again, and just about anyone can relate to that. Matrix is simply another word for a web from which there is no escape; the Manchurian Candidate is simply a Trojan Horse in a business suit (anyone born in Manchuria would be ineligible to be president under the Constitution); Sophie's Choice is a life-or-death decision by a parent to decide which of two children should live faced with a concentration camp, which I hope nobody has to make; and Fight Club was a dystopian underground demimonde, the first rule of which was that you do not talk about it. Like Catch-22, they were all novels before being made into films; Groundhog Day was sui generis. High Noon comes close: nothing in the title itself suggests an hour of decision on a dusty street under the sun's relentless glare.

As to Groundhog Day's release date of Feb. 12 twenty-five years ago, of course that was for the Valentine's Day weekend. As a "rom-com," the movie needed to peg itself to some sort of date-night which I'm happy to say, Groundhog Day has not become. One thing which I neglected, however, and which bears mentioning is that Groundhog Day was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, the county seat of McHenry County, some 70 miles northwest of Chicago. With its own opera house where Orson Welles first learned his craft as a high school student, Woodstock is the epitome of small-town America.

JE comments:  Mea culpa and fait accompli.  You're absolutely right, David.  Déjà vu it is.  As for the filming of Groundhog Day, I assumed it was in Punxsutawney (Pennsylvania), the spelling of which I checked.  Twice.  There's a book to be written on how stand-in cities are selected for film projects.  (I recall a Sylvester Stallone film from the 1970s, F. I. S. T., which was set in Cleveland but filmed in Dubuque, Iowa, because it "looked more like Cleveland in the 1930s.")  Presently, tax incentives may be the most decisive factor.


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