Yeah, we snickered more than a few immature snickers at the name of this town in northeastern France. Bitche, pronounced just like you think, is dominated by a massive citadel that withstood an entire year of siege during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Today, you can take an audio-visual tour through the underground fortifications. As you pass through the bakery, the well, the officer’s quarters and so on, bits and pieces of a movie about the siege are projected on screens slyly installed below the vaulted ceiling.

It’s a peculiar way to see a movie, akin to sitting inside the real Helm’s Deep watching a version of The Two Towers where Gandalf and Éomer never show up. But despite the presence of Virginie Ledoyen as the scheming wife of Napoleon III, the film never takes on a life of its own beyond the cheesy illustration of historical events and some vague points about the futility of war in general. We didn’t feel the need to pick up the full-length DVD in the gift shop. Let me tell you though: there’s a patisserie downtown that serves some truly bitchin’ chocolate cake.

La Forteresse Assiegee. Gerard Mordillat, 2006. **

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