Parlez-moi d'amour

Several years ago, I worked at a shop in Rochester that got a lot of interesting regular customers. One was an elderly German man named Hans, who would stop in during one of his extended walks around the city. Hans was very popular with the shop manager and recounted stories of his life in Germany including being in the movie Metropolis—the 1927 Fritz Lang film! He was one of many children used as extras. Did we believe these tales? Absolutely—his age, the details, and Hans himself were too believable to discount. I still can’t fathom I’ve met someone who actually appeared in Metropolis.

We played an eclectic mix of music in the shop and a favorite, at the time, was the Moderns soundtrack. The album features two versions of “Parlez-moi d’amour”—one sung by Charlélie Couture, and the original version sung by Lucienne Boyer. The Boyer version happened to be playing when Hans came in one day, and he asked me to play it again after it ended, and then again. We listened to the song several times as he told me, in heavily accented English, about listening to the song when he was young and how much it meant to him to hear it again now. Every time he would return to the shop and I was working, I would cue the song up for him. One day he came in and gave me a folded piece of paper. He had typed out the lyrics of the song, first in French and then translated into English. A few days later, I came into the shop to find that Hans had left something for me—an older Barbara Streisand record that included “our song.” Not Boyer, but as close as he could find I suppose. I never saw Hans again. His visits to the store had dropped off, and I soon moved away. I am sure Hans has long since passed but I couldn’t help asking after him on a recent trip to Rochester (no one had seen him in over a decade).

We meet a lot of jerks in life, sometimes on a daily basis, but every time I hear this song it reminds me that there are sweet, decent people out there.

posted by Rachel