"Karambolage", the show that plays clichés between France and Germany

Broadcast on Arte for fifteen years, "Karambolage" dissects the French and German cultural peculiarities with humor. The program celebrated its 500th on February 10th.


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The recent French controversy over the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle has shown that in Franco-German terms the clichés have a hard life. The President of the National Assembly, Marine Le Pen, and MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan strongly supported that this treaty, signed on 22 January by President Macron and Chancellor Merkel with the aim of strengthening the relations between Germany and France, among other things, was planning to sell Alsace and Lorraine to Berlin. On the other side of the Rhine, the very serious daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung took the thing with humor. On the "front page", he published a large photo of golden-yellow helmet, commenting: "There is apparently nothing that is absurd enough for anyone to believe. "

Playing the card of humor against the most worn-out clichés, it is also the watchword of the show Arte "Karambolage", which celebrated, on February 10, its 500th. For fifteen years, every Sunday evening at 8 pm, she dissects the French and German cultural particularities that say so much about the collective representations. His eleven minutes have become cult, especially since social networks have devoted short video formats. "Karambolage" gathers every Sunday a million spectators on both sides of the Rhine.

From detail to the universal

Producer and director Claire Doutriaux had the idea of ​​the show when she returned to France after fifteen years in Germany. "It seemed to me that the French had a vision of Germany that did not correspond to what I had experienced. There are also clichés on the German side. And I needed to talk about these cultural questions that we are obsessed with when we live between two countries, "she tells a restaurant in Berlin, seated in front of a roll of deer, a typical dish of the region, but without doubt inspired by French immigrant Huguenots in Prussia in the 17th century. In Paris, his "Karambolage" team gathers authentic Franco-Germans, who work according to the following slogan: "Starting from the detail to open towards the universal. "

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Each subject starts with an astonishment that leads to a questioning between the two cultures. It can be a word, a memory, a ritual or an everyday object. Thus the column Morris, emblematic of Paris, which was actually invented in Berlin. Or the progressive revelation of François Mitterrand's face on television - an unprecedented process - the night of his victory in 1981. Or the controversy of French chocolate / chocolate bread. The form is one of the strongest features of the show: the subject is carried by an impertinent graphic design, on which thirty people on both sides of the Rhine are permanently working.

"We take the side of the second degree, self-deprecating, but giving the keys of understanding to all. This is what creates a real community of vision between French and Germans. Claire Doutriaux, producer and director of "Karambolage"

Sometimes the program ventures into the intimacy of Franco-German relations. In a show on Valentine's Day, Claire Doutriaux thus delivers some indiscretions about her youth in West Germany in the 1970s, then in full sexual liberation. And wonders: how do we talk about sex in both languages? Why do the French have so many expressions to say "to make love"? Over the years, the wait on this topic has become strong. In the mail of the readers of the show, many Franco-German couples, political or not, seek to understand why the passion of the
first time gave way to misunderstandings ...

For, between French and Germans, how to remain light and deep despite the past and the incessant comparisons between two models that tend indefinitely to want to designate a winner and a loser? After fifteen years of "Karambolage", the feedback can be meditated: "We take the side of the second degree, self-deprecating, but giving the keys of understanding to all. This is what creates a real community of vision between French and Germans. "

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Despite the recent controversy, Claire Doutriaux does not believe in a decline in trade. "In France, we are much more interested in Germany than in the beginning of" Karambolage ". There is the Merkel effect, which has changed the image of the country, and Berlin, which has become a cultural reference. For a certain generation of young people, travel and weekends in neighboring countries are commonplace. And, among them, Germany has become an obvious destination. "

Cécile Boutelet (Berlin, correspondence)

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REF: https://www.lemonde.fr/m-le-mag/article/2019/02/11/karambolage-l-emission-qui-se-joue-des-cliches-entre-la-france-et-l-allemagne_5422017_4500055.html