Thanks for the add! Gros bisous :-)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Real royalty

Call me lucky or unlucky, but I put on TV this morning just in time to catch the new royals, heading out of Westminster to get back to Buckingham Palace, and lo and behold, didn't Alexander McQueen copy MY wedding dress? (well my mum's, seeing that I wore hers). But Alex tho, don't you worry, I won't sue for copyright infringement, as we say in French: J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter  (I have other cats to whip, really its's not that hard to decipher).

All this talk of royal wedding for some reason-unknown to myself as per ususal.made me think of Catherine Deneuve, who I think is possibly the closest we French have to royalty. And then one thing leading to another, I was soon reminiscing, as one would, about Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, and the song which is amongst my top ten sing-under the shower, sing-while-you-cook, sing while-you-think, sing while-you-do whatever, in other words La Chanson des Jumelles (video under for those of you who would have the temerity of admitting to not knowing this absolute pillar of French popular culture, and you'd better revise on Harley Davidson by Brigitte Bardot, as this assignment is likely to crop up soon. Soon is the word!)

If you want royal, this movie is IT.
Royal - The amazing score by Michel Legrand
Royal - Catherine Deneuve and sister François Dorléac.

Look how elegant they are. The costumes are so conceptual. They wear the same clothes, but observe the colour coordination and the cut of the dresses with a flare skirt, which instead of slits (too vulgar) have colour panels within the flared skirt. Notice also the bodice shape that follows the body contours, but, no décolletage, and the Ascott-worthy hats.
These girls are perfect women, not only are they beautiful but they are witty, talented, sassy, and both sexy (we are informed of their exploits in one of the songs) and idealistic. They don't care about money, they want to meet their prince charming. Awwww! Fairy tale stuff. Never mind the sailor who knows exactly what the love of his life looks life, although he has not met her yet. Classic!
Royal - Director Démy for hiring Gene Kelly and George Chakiris for this ambitious French musical. lets not forget that Truffaut and Godard held American cinema as the pinnacle of perfection, and Hollywood has repaid the compliment at times, by doing remakes of French comedies mostly (Dinner for Smucks being the last example of this phenomenon). Think about it, the achievement was incredible, in fact I think it was more or less unique. Gathering lead American actors to play second fiddle in a French movie. Wow! Plus we knew that Gene Kelly could dance, and sing.
 But who knew that his accent was perfect... maybe even ...Royal!

I mean really imagine a movie now starring Leonardo De Caprio AND Brad Pitt with say Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg, which takes place in the back of beyond! (I think the closest I can think of and that was a few years ago, is Chocolat with JohnnyDepp and Juliette Binoche).
I mean seriously West Side Story, the royalty of American cinema, brought to small town France, for an equally fairy tale-like (but less Shakesperean) movie.

So for those of you who don't care too much about the royal wedding today, but wanna stay in regal mood, why not plan a screening of this classic of French cinema. And please check out that impeccable accent!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal Jesus

I had all sort of plans for this Easter week, starting from the tradition of Palm Sunday in France Les Rameaux, which was like a little Easter of kinds. My grand mother would adorn a box tree branch (buis) with all sorts of sweets, all kids would walk up to mass buis in hand, and then there was the excruciating wait of looking at this promise of sugar heaven, throughout the whole mass... you see the priest had to bless this buis before you could touch the sweets. And the fact that these sweets had been blessed by the little Jesus by proxy made them all the sweetest.

For a child churches are weird places, so many statues of the Virgin Mary, and different saints with pathos on their faces which you would be hard pushed to associate with a human being. One of the things that used to fascinate me was the ange-quêteur a bit like this one here.
You can see one in action here. I think you may understand the magic of it all for a child.

Add to this the smell of encense and you can taste the mystery, glory and boredom all at once that was mass for me as child holding my little branch of buis, a week before Easter and waiting and waiting to get back home for the big sugar rush.

But today of all days is Jesus's day, son of man, son of God. No matter whether you are a believer or no, you have to wonder about what goes on in the mind, heart and soul of one who knows he is condemned, the mental suffering, the moments of doubts, and it is no surprise that visual arts can really help us to grasp this amazing phenomenon which is the passion of Christ.

My purpose today is to mention a French documentary called First Passion, by Philippe Baron.

This documentary talks about the first feature length feature made about the passion of Christ, From the Manger to the Cross, a movie by Sidney Olcott shot in 1912 on location in Palestine. The documentary covers a lot of ground going from the extraordinary ambition of this project which aesthetically wanted to replicate the imagery of French painter James Tissot, to the fact that the nuns of a nearby convent treated the actress playing Mary just as if she was Mary, to the issues that actors who play Jesus face in general after playing such a role on the big screen, the fact that it was the first time that an audience was required not to eat, not talk to one another and generally behave themselves for the duration of the movie, because of the subject matter.

To give you an idea of the aesthetic aspect of the movie, here are a few of Tissot's religious paintings.
 Jesus is betrayed
Jesus bearing his cross
Scene from the movie
And this extraordinary scene entitled What Jesus saw from the cross, where Jesus doesn't feature physically on this painting, but his presence can not but weigh heavily on the viewer's conscience. This painting in my mind gives the adjective "awesome" its true meaning. If your curiosity is piqued you see From the Manger to the Cross on line here.

And before I disappear for a few more days, I want to wish you all a very Happy Easter, Joyeuses Pâques, I hope that the Easter Bunny or Les Cloches de Pâques (depending on which country you live in), don't forget you, and I leave you in the good company of the holiest sinner of rock and roll... Johnny Cash in and his famous rendition of Dépêche Mode's Personal Jesus.

Chocolate and/or pious thoughts to all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yuri and the girl with the mousy hair

Is space the final frontier? In another life I could of course ask Yuri, what a guy, eh! Makes me dream of the days when I used to get into one of these and the world was mine for about 3 minutes. What a thrill, especially when you got to the top!
I was a bit too young when Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space, and any way we did not have TV, but I sure did not miss the landing on the moon, AND I am so looking forward to men going to Mars. The suspense is killing me. Will it be the Chinese or the Americans? All I know is that by 2030, guys, we are there! So I really look forward to seeing a rerun of the landing on the moon, but this time on Mars. 
Plus seemingly they are using the same capsule design, for ORION, and they will be landing in the desert somewhere. I remember so well when the astronauts would lose contact with NASA once they went through the atmosphere, and then you did not know whether they made it or not, the impending sense of possible tragedy, and the relief to see them come out of the capsule alive.
Testing, testing, yes we have landing...
And then to top it all, I go to my dentist who tells me that in his lifetime (and he 40ish) we will be able to regrow teeth. A true marvel. Hurrah for the human race!

So many questions in my head... when we go to Mars, is there going to be passport controls, who is going to be in charge once there, once we get there, could we actually end up living in space rather than on planets, see we only have been settled for about 1% of our time on this Earth. Wanderers we were before, wanderers we may be once again. If we fuck up too much down here we may just not have the choice anyway. What will be the spaceports like? What will it be called a spaceport, a rocketport, a Marsport? Which kind of money will they operate on Mars....

Meanwhile I love airports, hence all these questions I guess. I love airports and plane journeys, long plane journeys in particular, because you enter in a bubble where time almost stops. Once on the plane they bring you stuff, you can watch movies you would never dream of watching in ordinary circumstances. Airports are modern-day cathedrals, by the sheer scale of them. Airports are intrinsically children of the 1960's, you wont find an "old" airport that looks old, say like Grand Central, or Gare de Lyon. I love discovering new airports. Each airport has a story to tell.

Recently I had to travel to Philadephia via Frankfurt, long story. Philadelphia airport is a rather crummy airport, BUT, they decided that the International Arrivals Hall was possibly the face of Philadelphia and by extension the face of America... so when you get into Philly, this very airy space "The American Dream", designed by Robert Fisher is there to greet you.
 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

“Declaration” is a ten-foot high artwork of illuminated glass, creatively divided into thirteen segments representing the original colonies. “This artwork,” says Fisher, "presents an image of the entire Declaration of Independence, enabling a visitor to read its phrases and understand why our country declared itself free." Rendered like parchment, the glass has the text sandblasted into its surface. Fisher chose to produce this aspect of the artwork at Franz Mayer of Munich, Germany, an internationally renowned stained glass atelier. (same souce as above).

On the other hand, land in Frankfurt, and it is your nose thats get the first whiff of this airport which reeks of cigarette! Yes you read this right cigarettes! YOU CAN SMOKE IN FRANKFURT AIRPORT, I thought for a minute that I was transported back to the 20th century.
Look at these people in that little booth, smoking their lungs away, and let me tell you it's not as if these were sufficient to contain the lovely smell of cigarettes. Ah the good old days when I was a smoker!
And in case you don't believe me (because it is quite difficult to conceive that you could be allowed smoke in an airport nowadays) here is the monorail platform that says Frankfurt (if you care to read backwards).
Frankfurt airport is a den of sin and turpitudes. The next thing is that you can also gamble there, see below. I was slightly pressed for time, otherwise I had in mind to look for the "SexZentrum"next, just to see if they have one in the airport, you for busy people who don't have time to get to town.
Vorsprung Durch Teknik, isn't it what they say?
Back home in Dublin, I had the pleasure to discover Dublin new Terminal 2. Oh wait, its not me! Anyway it is "boooootiful", but it also deserves a whole post to itself.

And to celebrate Yuri's day, and the likelihood of man/woman going to Mars, there was only one song, and one song only....