vendredi 23 janvier 2015

Magic in the Moonllight

Just a couple of months ago, I went into a theatre where they showed Woody Allen's latest opus which I immensely enjoyed.

It was pure pleasure from first to last sequence. Funny of course; witty, intelligent, full of surprises. I didn't know any of the main actors but was heavily relieved when Colin Firth stopped through a tirade that had become so stupid it had turned insufferable to watch and listen to. Thank God it was also the turning point of the plot (much clever one really).

lundi 5 janvier 2015

Mixed Nuts

For the umpteenth time tonight there has been a rerun of the French movie Le Père Noël est une ordure on French TV. The flick is drawn from an extremely successful 1979 play. The movie has attained a cult status in France. It's just silly and totally unpretentious but quite effective.

Just, I had no idea an American remake had been directed in 1994 by no less than Nora Ephron with Steve Martin and Madeleine Kahn. I'm sorry to say I had never heard of that actress before. John Steward also is part of the cast.

Apparently the movie didn't make it in the U.S although the viewers' comments aren't all that negative.

The scene in the elevator exists in the original version and features a very well-known French actress, Josiane Balasko who, for the sake of it, is married to the American actor George Aguilar.

mercredi 5 novembre 2014

What Hemingway missed in Paris

Since his ''A moveable feast'' memoirs were published 50 years ago, Ernest Hemingway has epitomized the very symbol of Parisian appeal to educated Americans. Yet, it has been 90 years since he spent the better years of his youth in the French capital and though the Paris he knew hasn't changed much since then, many, many monuments, museums, bridges, parcs and views have been added to the Parisian skyline.

Here are the most important of them:

The Louvre pyramide of course, built by an American architect (1985).


Arab World Institute (1987)

Parc de Bercy (1993). 

Hemingway indeed has missed quite a lot in Paris but he couldn't know of course since all these buildings, parcs, bridges and monuments have been created long after his death.

There are always new projects in the making in Paris and 2015 will see the opening of the Philharmonie de Paris. Curiously enough, the French capital never had a philharmonie before. 

Am I happy to live in Paris? Yes
Am I happy to pay taxes so that part of my money is used to create architectural  masterpieces? Yes, yes and yes! 

dimanche 3 août 2014

Freedom of speech (cough... cough...)

 "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". This line is a perfect summary of the current situation in the middle-east. Now add to this the blurring that is made of words telling the tale and you get the perfect description of sheer madness.

Just the word "anti-Semitism" is used in a sense completely different of its true meaning (look up at Wikipedia) and is simply absurd since it would mean being opposed to the people living in that region, notwithstanding their faith, Christian, Muslim or Jewish. Who actually is "anti-Semitic"?

An atheist trusts reason and not faith, why should h/s have any sympathy or respect for believers of the flying spaghetti monster or any form of obscurantism and superstition? Is philosemitism (actually meaning a particular love for Judaism) mandatory? Why should reason defer in front of people who believe they have been chosen by the god they made and consider the rest of humanity as somehow different of them? Why should reason bow in front of people who assert they deserve a special and privileged treatment just because they believe they are the descendants of 12 tribes of peasants, fruit pickers and cattle raisers?

The decision to set up a Jewish State in the middle of the Muslim world in 1948 was the most insane thing to do, akin to moving Vatican city in the vicinity of Mecca. Chaos guaranteed until the end of times that is until Israel collapses and vaporizes all its neighbours when it disappears, and sure it will like the IIIrd reich was meant to last 1000 years.

mardi 24 septembre 2013

Another American in Paris

This is a painting I've known for decades now since it hangs in the Gare de l'Est in Paris, a railway station close to where I live.

This station was the departing point to the front in eastern France for hundreds of thousands young French soldiers from 1914 up to 1918.

Just, little did I know that the painter was an American one who had lost one of his sons some months before the end of this nameless massacre.

The young man we see wearing a white shirt in the middle of the painting is holding a bouquet of flowers in his rifle which reminds of the French expression "partir fleur au fusil" which indicates how light-heartedly people at the time thought the war would be a matter of few weeks before the Germans would be flatly defeated.

There is a strong temptation to imagine this young man is actually Albert Herter's own son since this painting is made in remembrance of him and how could possibly his father not want to represent his beloved deceased in a painting dedicated to the dead of WWI?

This is another piece of information I've learned about the links that tie Americans and Paris. Guess there are still many others that I'm not aware of.

mercredi 4 septembre 2013

Punishment and rehabilitation

So Ariel Castro has been found dead by hanging in his cell.

Ever since I was a young man, I've always opposed the death penalty for many reasons, the least being that at the very moment the so-called penalty applies there's no penalty any longer. But the imbecile crowd is pleased and convinced "justice" has been made.

The State, through its officials, knows this isn't a question of "justice" but the ultimate goal of the death penalty is to frighten the masses and asserts its power in the name of protecting the citizens.

But sometimes the ones who've been convicted to death commit suicide and the State isn't at all pleased with this last act of rebellion of individuals.

This is another question I've been asking to myself when I was young (I no longer do since I know the answer): Why aren't death convicts given the possibility at any moment to put an end to their life the way Erwin Rommel was?

The belief is widely propagated that justice is all about punishment and rehabilitation, just that in the case of the death penalty there's no rehabilitation prospect and what is left is the notion of punisment which -precisely- is not a punishment as we've seen above. Talk about "justice" then when there's neither rehabilitation nor punisment.

For the State, death as final outcome of trials isn't the point of course since the whole affair has nothing to do with "justice" but all to do with asserting its terrifying power. For the masses on the contrary, death epitomizes the strictest punishment "justice" can deliver, the one considered the best and most adequate outcome of any judiciary process whereas it is the very opposite, just another tragical farce based on sheer sadism for barbarians.

Most of us believe death is deliverance and in the same time, all those who support the death penalty (many of them believers) consider it to be the most terrible punishment. So which is which then?

(The film is Death by hanging by Japanese flm maker Nagisa Oshima)

lundi 2 septembre 2013

Déjà vu

Whenever I peruse the cartoons in the international press, it‘s always a sure bet that, when it comes to portray France and the French, I will meet 5 permanent fixtures cartoonists all over the world resort to:

1°) The Eiffel Tower.
Well, nothing wrong here, it helps to settle the setting. A bit repetitive but, well, no doubt, we’re in Paris, France.

2°) The béret.
Well, why not? Although it’s meanly worn on the country but I can see some in Paris too. Spaniards also wear the beret and much more than the French.

3°) The baguette.
It’s one among many other products bakers make and sell and one that is essentially to be found in Paris. But then again, it’s OK.
Now, this is really much more surprising. Where does that cliché come from? No French that I know of or see in the streets, on flicks or ad posters never wear striped jersey.

I once thought that it was a souvenir of Auguste Renoir’s painting at the time of Guy de Maupassant, but after I checked, the jersey wasn’t striped.

It eventually dawned on me that it had to do with le Mime Marceau (the upper part of his costume) who apparently made a smashing impact on the perception some Americans seem to have regarding the French. 

Because I’m positive on this: Next to no French ever wears a striped jersey, even on the beaches in July/August. But never mind…

5°) Napoléon.
There seems to be a real obsession with this historical figure, and not only among American cartoonists. You can be sure to find him in cartoons from Germany as well as Norway or India, Brazil or wherever.

Whichever French politician is portrayed, he’s entitled to his caricature as Napoleon. Be it De Gaulle, Mitterrand, Chirac and now Sarkozy, all French leaders are would-be Napoleon. Like every new Russian leader is the new Tsar of all Russias...

Let me tell you, if there’s something the French don’t exactly mull over it has to be Napoléon.

Of course 2 or 3 of these clichés are often to be found in the same cartoon.

My feeling is that cartoonists the world over haven’t much idea of what modern France and the French are and they all have to use again and again worn out clichés. On the other hand that’s what caricatures are made of: clichés and prejudice. 

If only they could be funny…

vendredi 30 août 2013

Does Goldie know?

I've just discovered this segment of another film by Woody Allen with Goldie Hawn dancing with him on the quais next to the Pont de la Tournelle south of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

Some visitors (and most Parisians) may not know that on the bridge stands a statue of Sainte Geneviève (yes, 1500 years ago) that was realised by a French sculptor best known for this other world known piece:

Did they tell Goldie?

jeudi 29 août 2013

SemperFidelis needed here

At the end of his resignation speech Tricky Dicky famously says "au revoir" and tells there's no correct word in English to convey what he meant. Why weren't "We'll meet again" or "See you someday" for example appropriate to what Nixon wanted to say? "We'll see you again" does he eventually says.

And weren't American voters somewhat flummoxed by the use of a foreign word (and a French one at that!) in such a circumstance by an American president? 

mardi 20 août 2013

Which future for America?

There was this article in the NYT some days ago and I was musing about the perception of American identity by current white American citizens.

I explain: What do Latinos care about the history of the US or Native Indians who have nothing to do with England and the British colonies except that their arrival meant the beginning of their downfall?

And colored people as well as Americans with Asian ancestry, I guess they couldn't care less about the Indian wars, the Siege of Yorktown or the Civil War (except for Black people of course since that battle marked the beginning of the end of their plight).

Europe also knows a great influx of immigrants mostly from Africa and Arabic countries and the process of integration is far from being an easy one.

My guess is that Turks in Germany don't care a fig about former kings, princes or dukes and that they hardly know who Bach, Goethe or Kafka are or that a German monk named Martin Luther was at the origin of the most major split within the Christian Church, a split which eventually caused the migration of thousands and thousands believers to the New World. On the other hand they’re free from any guilt regarding Auschwitz or Edith Cavell (don’t mention her name when you’re having an Englishman and a German as guests in your house).

The difference between our two continents being that, according to all demographic projections, white Americans will be the minority in America about 30 years from now whereas native Europeans will remain a strong majority.

How do white Americans feel about this trend which tends to illustrate that a nation of colonists eventually is submerged by other immigrants because in a world where all nations have at least hundreds and hundreds of centuries - if not millenaries - of History, new comers just arrive too late and will always lack what lays at the core of all nations.

vendredi 16 août 2013

Marie-Antoinette in Hollywood

Seven years ago the American director Sofia Coppola directed a movie dedicated to the life of Marie-Antoinette, and it wasn't the first one coming from Hollywood, far from it. Remember Norma Shearer among others?

And I was wondering, why does this unfortunate French queen raise such interest in America?

One may expect an English queen to be the subject of an equally attentive curiosity. But which one, save Anne Boleyn? And past English Royalties probably don't sound too sympathetic to Americans.

- A very dramatic story, good script for Hollywood, yes but what else?
- Nostalgia for a time when the Ancient Régime looked like a Disney fairy tale?
- She was the wife of the French king who was on the throne when Lafayette went to the help of the American revolutionaries?

I can't see any other reason for this apparent American fondness for Marie Antoinette, something you won't find in the UK.

A former Austrian princess who became queen and who was the very image of luxury and abandon with eventually an infamous death, and all this somehow related to the very first days of the American Republic, that must be it...

samedi 10 août 2013

Henri le Chat noir

When Maureen Dowd wrote her unwillingly funny piece in the NYT the other day, she quoted A. Camus and a line I have never heard before: "Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?" 

The existential trend of post-war France and Sartre as well as Camus have apparently left an enduring imprint on the image many Americans have of France and the French. It is not the first time -by far- that I read a text which indeed indicates how in America France is often associated with philosophy and deep thinking an essential element of everyday living.

As a funny illustration of this perception here are the thoughts of an American French speaking cat.

mercredi 7 août 2013

Three Americans in Paris

A feel-good film which also reminds how depressively sooty the monuments were in Paris at that time. At 3:10 Audrey Hepburn is standing on a terrace at Montmatre and the second after we see the Hôtel de ville and the river Seine. Just the camera has moved in between since this view is impossible from Montmartre. The second segment was shot on top of the left tower of the Notre-Dame cathedral. And the same goes at 3:23 where the camera now is situated on the roof of the Grand Palais. The reason is that each of the three stands at different locations as we soon discover.

I haven't the sligtest idea what are the structures we see at 3:50 framing the Eiffel Tower on the sides of the screen???

lundi 5 août 2013

I am so scared!

And now there is this joke of (fabricated) purported menaces from Al Qaeda that have been intercepted and have led to the temporary closure of some 20 American embassies in the Middle East.

This is the umpteenth time in the last 10 years that we're being told that there are impending acts of terrorism which require that special security measures be taken. Some cynical anti-American minds would be too happy to note how quickly the US recedes in front of imaginary threats as reliable as the grand story of the wmd in Iraq.

Better take it in a humorous light mood and watch delicious Jean Seberg in one of her very early movies, whose title is quite appropriate to the current situation. 

But wait! I'm told Jean Seberg too was taken care of by the infamous Ruskies.  

What a world of illusion and manipulation we live in! Once again I turn to Kant and his famous Sapere aude!

vendredi 2 août 2013