About Me

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In my interests below, I list French language, cinema, theatre, politics, art, and wine. And while French brought me to a lot of these things, I also like all of them in a more general way. I really love languages and their connections. I also have a thing about how theatre and cinema, art, politics and wine all hook up in some way. As I think of these ideas, I can hear the thwonk of the cork coming out of the neck of the bottle, and the gentle squeak as the cork is twisted off the tire-bouchon. Ah, that oakey, musty, acidic aroma wafting, wafting and people talking and talking and talking. And, oh they found out we have some sets of boules and they want to play pétanque. "Let's pick teams and play in the shade of those plane trees." The sounds of summer resonate: the crunch of the terrain under foot, the click of the iron bocce knocking in the players' hands, and the soft kiss of the wooden cochonnet as it hits the ground scuttling down to its resting point where it will await the arrival of each team's battle-worn aggies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New York Times on Clichy-sous-bois

New York Times article  (France’s Ideals, Forged in Revolution, Face a Modern Test)
It talks about life in Clichy-sous-bois in the aftermath of both the riots from ten years ago this October and the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket shootings makes for interesting reading. The article is reasonably short, so it does not expand on some ideas. I was particularly interested in the use of the term "enlightenment fundamentalism".

Friday, January 2, 2015

Bruno Dumont a chronicler of life in the North of France

Stephen Holden's breezy but as usual well-written and thoughtful review of Bruno Dumont's latest film to come to the USA - L'il Quinquin - makes one or maybe two small but significant slips.  He says that the film is set in the extreme northwest of France, which would put it in Brittany - le "Far-Ouest"- a place of Celtic sensibility.  However, one of the significant elements of all of Dumont's work - with the exception of the Camille Claudel film - is that his work emerges almost organically from the North - the area of Northeastern France where he is from: Ballileul, Dunkerque, Douai, Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing.  The region is the Nord-Pas-de-Calais - part of French Flanders - that means a few things: life in small towns in this area hangs between the rural and the urban, the industrial and the agricultural creating a gritty often grimy entanglement of a peasant's hard-nosed look at life cut with a working-class sense of struggle. It is also the place of carnival where larger-than life giant puppets that come out for the raucous festivities; a time when conventional hierarchies and decorum are thrown over as the kings and queens of the carnival throw caution to the wind, usurp power, and engage in lustful riotous acts.  Lastly, this region has a sense and history of incorporating the grotesque/macabre into its artwork - the deepest carnal instincts flare up in all kinds of ordinary situations. J'attends avec plaisir la sortie du film.

Alane Delhaye and Lucy Caron

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Canadian-American in Paris

Love is here to stay!

Canadian-American Frank Gehry has had a wonderful week in Paris with his Louis Vuitton Foundation inaugurated on Monday while the George Pompidou Center is giving his work a major career retrospective.  Paris continues to enthrall with her capacity to preserve the old and integrate new architecture.

"The harmonious combination of history and modernity in Paris is truly unique. Other cities, notably many Italian cities, are also steeped in history and have incredible contemporary art and design scenes. But the old and the new tend to remain very separate. In contrast, Paris has learned to integrate the two. It negotiates the fine line between its rich history and cutting-edge design in fascinating ways. Many other European cities struggle with this awkwardly and often unsuccessfully."  Michael Hermann interview in This Paris Life

Friday, June 27, 2014

Venus in Fur: Theatrical Cinema at its Best

The French Press really loved La Vénus à la fourrure (Venus in Fur – written by Roman Polanski and David Ives – the latter is the dramatist who wrote the Tony-nominated play) – you can check out the ratings on the French site allocine – even if French is not a language you speak well, the star ratings will give you an idea of how well this film went down.

If you’re interested in reading more (in English) check out the Press Kit that was put out for the 2013 Festival de Cannes where Venus was in competition.

Watch a clip from the play that opened off-Broadway in 2010 and moved onto Broadway in 2011 – I think Nina Arianda is delightful.

Trailer with Emanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Almaric

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Camille Claudel 1915 - Austere Emotion

Bruno Dumont's Camille Claudel 1915 depicts three days in the life of Camille Claudel, the French sculptor, who was confined to a mental asylum by her family in 1913.  Bruno Dumont collaborated with Juliette Binoche in creating the scenario and arranged for filming to take place in a real asylum near Avignon in the South of France with mental patients and their nurses taking part in telling the story of a few days in Camille Claudel's life.

In this interview on NPR, Binoche discusses the film, the issues it raises, and the life of Camille Claudel.  Juliette Binoche interview
Sheila O'Malley's thumbs-up review published on Roger Ebert's site
New York Times - Stephen Holden, "The Agony of an Artist's Commitment"

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Attila Marcel: Memories, Movies, and Make-Believe

Sylvain Chomet's fisrt live action film has not been widely reviewed outside of his Canadian homeland, so here are two reviews, one from the 2013 Toronto Film Festival and the second from the Montréal Gazette:

Attila Marcel: Toronto review
Attila Marcel: Montréal Gazette

Age of Panic - La Bataille de Solferino

Age of Panic, one of today's new films at the Sacramento French Film Festival has had a couple of interesting reviews from Variety and from Filmmaker's review of the Lincoln Center's Rendez-Vous with French cinema earlier this year:

Rendez-vous with French 2014: Age of Panic and Other
Age of Panic Wins Audience Award at Paris Cinema Fest