Archive for November 2008




Le cinema

French movies can be weird, don’t you think? But I love them. Not only do I love to be immersed in the French language, but there is an off-beat quirkiness that I also feel an affinity for.

 

I have recently seen four French movies: Hunting & Gathering, made in 2007, starring Audrey Tautou, Francoise Bertin, and Guillaume Canet; Paris, a 2008 film by Cedric Klapisch, starring Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, and Fabrice Luchini; and two of Jacques Tati’s classic satires on modernism from the 1960’s, Mon Oncle and Play Time.

 

Hunting and Gathering is really a relationship movie that could have been located in any city of the world, but I am a big fan of Audrey Tautou. It is a feel-good movie with a satisfying ending where lonely strangers meet and enrich their lives through their human contact.

 

Paris is a beautiful portrait of this city in the current time. Separate stories are told but are linked by the most tenuous and irrelevant thread. The music and cinematography are beautiful. Scenes vary from beautiful, shocking, bizarre, discordant, sad, and funny. I loved this movie and can recommend it to all lovers of Paris.

 

I had seen Mon Oncle and Play Time many years ago when I was a design student. It was weird to watch these movies, that were made in the 1960’s, now in 2008. Jacques Tati makes social commentary about the modernization of France, which was seen by many as an abomination. The skyscrapers of Paris are still seen as a separate part of the city and despised by many. Dialogue is sparse, but he loves to use footsteps on hard surfaces throughout the movie as a nagging reminder of the dehumanizing nature of “progress”. We have “progressed” far now from the 1960’s trends and this distance offers us more food for thought.

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Add a comment November 27, 2008

Understanding French chic

What is it about French women that make them so stylish? How can other women attain that certain something? Is it inherited beauty? Attitude? The ability to choose the right fashion? In her book Two lipsticks and a lover, Helena Frith Powell studies and tries to pinpoint just how French women achieve that feminine charm. two_lipsticks_and_a_lover_powell

 

Helena Frith Powell is an English woman who moved to France with her young family. She was immediately struck by the way French women behaved and dressed and this book, published in 2005, is the result of her studies. This book is informative and funny and well worth reading if you also wish to enlist some Frenchness into your life.

 

These are some of the observations she made:

  • French women never drink to excess.
  • French women only wear running shoes when they are exercising and never anywhere else.
  • French women don’t believe in exercising. They don’t like to sweat. But they do a lot of walking, running around, cycling, etc. as part of their daily activities.
  • French style means to make an effort at all times and not to skimp on the details.
  • French women always wear good quality well-fitted matching underwear. “If your underwear isn’t right, nothing else works.” ~ Chantal Thomass
  • French women control their eating and meal portion sizes and never snack.
  • French women look after their skin by twice daily facials at home with good quality skin care products. “To erase the passage of time is a mistake. The most beautiful thing in a face is expressions. It’s better to have a few wrinkles than a face with no emotions.” ~ Elisabeth Bourgine
  • French women believe they are beautiful and this attitude is apparent in their expression, movement and posture.
  • French women try to retain their mystery when it comes to sex and are never blatant.
  • French women read well and widely as intelligence is seen as a mark of beauty. “The French are persuaded that the enjoyment of beauty and the exercise of critical intelligence are two of the best things worth living for.” ~ Edith Wharton

 

Helena says, “French women don’t believe in sweating so they don’t exercise. But they do a lot of running around. Just walking around one of the French department stores is the equivalent of a three-mile hike. And then there’s the effort of taking your clothes off and putting them on again to try others on. Exhausting. I reckon it’s possible to burn at least 200 calories an hour, as well as £200.”

 

On the strength of this I purchased some new matching well-fitted underwear, and some good skin care products, and did not renew my gym membership. I have been either walking or cycling to work. I am wearing dresses more often and I am amazed at the improvement in the service I receive when shopping just because I am a little better dressed.

1 comment November 20, 2008

French bric-a-brac

My first reconnaissance for local French stuff took me to two shops: French Vanilla in Mornington and Almost French in Dromana.

 

amost_french_dromana_window_nov08Almost French is a tiny shop in a small strip of about five shops on the outskirts of Dromana. Surrounded by eucalypts and the nearby State Park where kangaroos and emus can be seen regularly, its location is not one that would catch too much passing traffic – especially the French enthusiast. A cleverly arranged shop window invites one in to browse the lovely objects. There are cushions, merino rugs, printed motif quilts, candle holders, glasses, bags, soap, jewelry, lamps, pictures, napkin holders, and more. The space is not cluttered as there seems to be only one of anything. It is quirky and “almost French” as the names describes.

 

french_vanilla_mornington_shop_1_nov081French Vanilla is in Main Street Mornington vying for attention amongst the many gift, fashion, and home-ware stores there. Inside you will find bags, clothing, home-wares, candles, lotions, inspirational books, and a selection of Putumayo music CD’s. The store ladies were dressed in feminine clothing and accessories. There really isn’t much to associate itself with France apart from some bags with French motifs.

 

These two stores did little to satisfy my desire for that French feeling that I found while I was in France. And for me it is not about bric-a-brac. I find more beauty in a vase of roses from my garden than some quirky dust-gathering ornament. Still I had to look as this is the point of this little project. My search goes on…

 

Driving home via the coastal road along the winding cliffs of Mount Martha with the blue Port Phillip Bay beside me and playing Italian music in my car did remind me of the coast near Sorrento Italy and Nice France. If I ignored the typically disappointing Australian architecture along the hilltop, I could almost imagine myself in Europe again.

Add a comment November 12, 2008

French blood

Deception is a novel written by Michael Meehan and published this year. It is about a young Australian man who traces his family tree to Paris during the student riots of 1978. He meets an obnoxious young lady in Paris who is also researching her own family history and their two tales are entwined both in the past and in the “present”. They relive the disruption of the French Revolution amidst the disruption of the student riots. The tale follows the journeys of their ancestors from Paris to New Caledonia, Australia, and then out to the South Australian desert near Mount Deception. Colourful characters abound; the ancient French aunts still living but not for long, and the homeless vagrant intellectual who is a font of all knowledge although banned from the libraries of Paris.

 

Reading this story aroused in me a thought to trace the French branch of my own family tree. All I have heard through family stories is that they fled France during the French Revolution, arrived in England, changed their name, and then eventually traveled to Australia. I knew my Great Grandmother who died as an old lady many years ago when I was still a young girl; still too young to be interested in family history.

 

I will trace this line of my family tree, learn the history, and then perhaps at some future time I will go back to France and visit the places they once lived.

Add a comment November 4, 2008

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