Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anthony Bourdain Follows Orson Welles' Footsteps in Declaring War on a Neutral Country, But Did He Get the Wrong One?

In what is quite possibly our favorite film of all time, Carol Reed's The Third Man, Orson Welles famously spoke these self-penned words about Switzerland:

"You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Mind you, this was said while in Vienna, Austria.

And now, Anthony Bourdain seemingly wants to outdo Harry Lime himself. From Bourdain's blog:

And finally, this was the episode where I, at last, got to settle the score with Switzerland. Perhaps launching an ICBM at them was a bit much -- but my skin really and truly crawls at even the sight of an Alpine vista. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it has something to do with Helmut, the Swiss/German barber I had to go to as a child. He had one of those wall murals of Lake Geneva with snow capped alps in the background -- and I always associate those images with getting an ugly and humiliating haircut from a stern-looking old guy with a scary German accent. Followed by bullying at school. Even Ricola commercials make me break into a cold sweat.

Lederhosen, Alpine hats, cuckoo clocks, St Bernards, cross country skiers and the Sound of Music make me phsyically ill. They remind me of hair clippings itching my nose, a coiff that would make a middle Brady blush, and the feeling of many tiny little fists in my face as from behind, someone goes for the atomic wedgie . So it was with real joy that I initiated launch sequence. Hell, I ain't ever making a show there anyhow. And their cheese? It sucks.

Achtung, baby! We almost sensed a famous Austrian invitingly patting a leather couch in the great beyond and rubbing his hands at the prospect of such a field day.

We ought to know better, pace that famous Austrian, than to analyze a man's nightmares and jokes, but what the hell? So, Tony, possum, are you quite sure you have the right target in your sights? Because it seems to us that your story is, well, full of holes. (And Gruy√®re sucks? Really? Isn’t that what goes on the onion soup at your restaurant Les Halles?)

In your list, the only things that could be considered exclusively or prototypically Swiss are St. Bernards and possibly cuckoo clocks. Lederhosen are not exclusive to Switzerland; the Germans have them, and the Austrians have them. Ditto Alpine hats. Cross country skiing seems more Nordic than, say, Alpine skiing, and The Sound of Music, well, there you're just plain wrong. That's Austria, silly, and in the movie the Von Trapps were trying to escape to Switzerland. If we may go all Dr.-Drew-diagnosing-Tom-Cruise on you, we'd say you have a problem with Teutons.

And yet, what's this?

Why, it's you in the German capital. So, you'll go to Berlin but you won't set foot in der Schweiz? Tony, Tony, what gives? Show us on the doll where the bad barber touched you.

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