Thursday, December 09, 2010

Photo Duet: Chill

Last day of this week's Photo Friday Theme: Chill. Stepping out for a few quick errands today and "brrrr" - the weather in my corner of the world is in line with the theme.

I'm racing to get the photos (three in one) posted but wait- chill! Or rather du calme!

gauche Chill in the air, on the trees, on the rooftops...
A Taninges, France en fevrier 2009. Photo p_ff.

droite "Chillin under the gun"
In the waters of the Atlantic so it's "chilly chillin"
A Le Mans, France en août, 2002. Photo composé par KK.

chill - verbe transitif
mettre au frais make cold (food, wine)
vin blanc frais chilled white wine
frapper make cold (champagne)
glacer make cold (glass, person)
être glacé jusqu'aux os/jusqu'à la moelle
to be chilled to the bone/to the marrow

chill - verbe intransitif
se refroidir
rafraîchir chill out

chill - noun
la fraîchuer, la froideur coldness
il fait assez frais; un peu froid there's a chill in the air
son observation a jeté un froid dans l'assemblée
his remark cast a chill over the meeting
j'ai senti une certaine froideur dans son accueil
I sensed a certain chill in his welcome

chill out - verb intransitif
décompresser (familier)
du calme! chill out!

-- much, much more (definitions, audio for pronunciation, conjugation information) at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

E is for Equipier

Another French film and hâllo again to Sandra Bonnaire. I'm not obsessed with Sandra Bonnaire but I think someone at my local library might be. In fact, I'd seen this DVD with Sandra Bonnaire on a bicycle with a warm smile many times before. I would consider watching the movie but in the end, I had always passed it up because of the lighthouse pictured in the background. It seemed to me that it meant the movie would be desolate.

The last movie I'd seen starring Bonnaire was Chabrol's La ceremonie and I remembered only cold cunning smiles. I decided to see what was behind this warm smile.

L'équipier I thought meant team. L'équipe (f) means team, l'équipier means team member or friend or a shipmate. In English the movie title is just simply translated as "The Light" while in German it's "Die Frau des Leuchtturmwärters" (The Wife of the Lighthouse Keeper).

Yes, Sandrine Bonnaire does play the wife of the lighthouse keeper. The story is also set on the very small island of Ouessant in the Celtic Sea close to the English Channel. The lighthouse though is offshore- which I did not expect.

The story does deal with a lighthouse keeper, his wife, the isolation of working in an offshore lighthouse and of the small town. Why is the lighthouse keeper's wife smiling? It has to do with a young lighthouse keeper. It's 1963 and Mabé's (Sandrine Bonnaire) father, a lighthouse keeper, has just died. Antoine Cassendi (Grégori Derangère) is his eager and enthusiastic young replacement.

This movie is not desolate at all- it's full of emotions and people being happy, too despite their struggles and periods of isolation. All the titles apply to the story: it's about shedding light on the past, being the light in someone's life, being a friend and part of the team. It's not exactly a "feel-good" movie but it had me smiling warmly more than once.

L'équipier, 2004

Directed by Philippe Lioret

For a very thorough review of this movie in English

French trailer with English subtitles

La photo: Uniforms for the self-proclaimed team of "Oyster Mercenaries" at Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall, California. Juillet, 2010.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

...des histoires pour s'endormir

As I've failed at attaining and improving French grammar through osmosis, I've decided to accept the inevitability of learning French grammar. So I'm back to doing some self-study and homework "by the book".

This week started out with a bit of grammar ("de") and I've delved a little deeper. What I've come up with is that uses and rules of "de" and "des" feel very innumerable to me at the moment and sometimes incomprehensible still.

I'd love to explain what I've learned but although I have embraced learning French grammar-I am also still looking for the fun and excitement in it. Anything I post now is going to put us to sleep. Unintenionally. I'll save then my introductions to my grammar guides, Mr. Brown and Mr. Picard for a rainy day and introduce you today instead to Belgian writer Carl Norac and French illustrator Thomas Baas. It's their intention to put you to sleep- fast.

Petites histoires pour les enfants qui s'endorment très vite is a charming book of bedtime stories whimsically illustrated by Thomas Baas. It's for kids who want to fall asleep quickly but this adult French learner was much too captivated by the expressive words and drawings to close my eyes, much less sleep.

Carl Norac is also a poet and you can hear that in the rythmn and rhyme of his bedtime stories or rather sentences. the longest stories are three sentence long! The beginning is always the same and contains "de" (we just can't get enough):

C'est l'histoire de ...

C'est l'histoire d'un baleineau...

C'est l'histoire d'un robot...

C'est l'histoire d'un mille-pattes...

C'est l'histoire d'une petite larme...

Petites histoires pour les enfants qui s'endorment très vite

Description by the publisher: éditions Sarbacane

La photo (m_ff) : I've never seen a fanciful chicken like this, not even in my dreams. I believe this chicken belongs to the breed known as "Polish" though they did not originate in Poland. The French name for this breed is "Padoue" after the Italian city "Padua". On the grounds of Avril Williams "Ocean Villas" Bed & Breakfast in Auchonvillers, France. Octubre 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

D is for "de"

My learning French is supposed to be fun so I avoided grammar as much as I could. I thought I could absorb the rules and intuitively construct sentences correctly through weekly conversations with my French teacher, listening to some podcasts, watching videos and movies and reading.

What I've learned in the past twelve weeks though is that there is only so much I can learn without learning grammar. And that turns out to be not enough. "Duh!"

In the spirit of "restarting with my French ABCs" - I continue the "recommencer" with a "grammatic" letter "D" or as it were "de".

"De" (pronounced duh) is a preposition with many uses. It usually means "of" or "from". In French an apostrophe is never used to indicate possession.

When "de" is followed by the articles le and les it contracts (unless le or les is a direct object - a subject for a future post) but it never contracts with la or l':

de (of, from) + le (the) = du (of the, from the)

de + les (the; plural) = des (of the, from the; plural)

Où es le bureau du commerçant?

Where is the office of the merchant?

Mme Picard est une amie des étudiants.

Mrs. Picard is a friend of the students.

Le salon de la maison est grand.

The living room of the house is large.

Il sait le nom de l'hotel.

He knows the name of the hotel.

-Sample sentences from the grammar notes of chapter five of "French Made Simple" revised edition by Julien LaFontant and Pamela Rose Haze; 2006 Edition The Stonesong Press, LLC

More grammar notes on

Practice (with audio) with Le Point du FLE

La photo: Seeing the Light (at the end of a tunnel of grammar?). Saint-Sébastien, Espagne. Mai 2009.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Photo Duet: Warped

That KK and Petit Foufou happen to have children featured in this week's "Warped" theme of is totally coincidental. KK chose her picture without seeing mine- and indeed, I took my picture earlier today without seeing hers.

Medieval Day Care - Octobre 2004 - Cathar Region, Languedoc

(Queribus castle ruin inserted into the background)

kk: Image portrays why my decision not to be a mother was a good one. This seems a great idea to me!

Quand je serai grande...

21 octobre 2010 - Nord-Pas-de-Calais

p_ff: This poster at a roadside bus stop catches my eye and I would see the poster again a few times in town. I have to wonder- is this poster really speaking to little girls playing with dolls?

"Quand je serai grande, j'allaiterai mon bébé" When I grow up, I will breast-feed my baby

déformé warped

se déformer literally to become warped

figuratively (mind, humour) tordu

(personality, sexuality) perverti

(account, judgement, view) faussé

-from oxford-hachette French Dictionary ©2005 Oxford University Press

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Photo Duet: Burgundy

Burgundy is a place, a wine and a color. For this week's Photofriday assignment, kk and I both go for bordeaux instead of the the place or wine: La Bourgogne and le bourgogne, respectively.

gauche - Pink to Burgundy

Dans un bureau de poste quelque part en le Lot, un département de la région Midi-Pyrénées. Mai, 2009 p_ff

droite - Mother and Child

Molded plastic chairs as seen in a shop window. Colmar, septembre 2010. kk

La Bourgogne (proper noun); en Bourgogne

Burgundy (region in France); in Burgundy

le bourgogne

Red wine from the French region of Burgundy

(le) bordeaux

refers to the color: a deep purplish red

noun (masc) and adjective

-via but actually an entry from the Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary © 2005 Oxford University Press

Saturday, September 25, 2010

C partie duex: chefs-d'oeuvre, Centre Pompidou-Metz

Qu'est-ce qu'un chef-d'oeuvre? Well that's the question upon which the inaugural exhibition of the recently opened Centre Pompidou-Metz is trying to answer.

There's a lot to see: over 700 works of art are on display. I was pleased encounter some of my favorites art objects, discover work I wasn't familiar with from favorite artists as well as see something totally new to me. It is an overwhelming exhibition, a sensory overload. At the end... I think the question remains: What is a masterpiece?

Chefs-d'oeuvre at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

until 25 October 2010

le chef-d'oeuvre noun, masculine

chefs-d'oeuvre plural

There's actually no need to translate this word as it can be found in the dictionary as is.

Seen from a view of posterity, her "boring" job was to provide Julia Child with the discipline, the autonomous organizational skill, the patience to devise, test and perfect the recipes in her encyclopedic chef-d'oeuvre: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (1961, 1970), on which her immortality can be said to rest.”

—The Wall Street Journal, "Julia Child: The OSS Years"

However, there was one thing at Les Jardies of which he was really proud; and that was his system of bell-ringing, which he considered a _chef-d'oeuvre_.”

Honore de Balzac, His Life and Writings

-Example sentences in English from a compilation at the online dictionary

(CHEF se prononce CHÈ.) n. m. Ouvrage parfait ou très beau en quelque genre que ce puisse être. Ce palais est un chef-d'oeuvre d'architecture, un chef-d'oeuvre de l'art. Un chef-d'oeuvre de la nature. Les chefs- d'oeuvre de Corneille.

Par extension, C'est un chef-d'oeuvre d'habileté, de malice, d'impertinence, etc., Ce qu'un tel a fait, a dit, annonce beaucoup d'habileté, de malice, d'impertinence, etc.

Fig. et par ironie, Il a fait là un beau chef-d'oeuvre, voilà de ses chefs-d'oeuvre, se dit d'un Homme qui a causé quelque désordre, qui a fait quelque chose de mal par inadvertance, par emportement.

Il se disait autrefois de l'Ouvrage difficile que faisaient les ouvriers dans le métier où ils voulaient passer maîtres. Présenter son chef-d'oeuvre.

-Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, huiteme edition (1932-5) thanks to the ARTFL Project: Dictionnaires d'autrefois

La photo: Viewing the clouds of Metz, France from Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec's installation, 32 Clouds, at the Centre Pompidou-Metz. Septembre 2010.

Monday, September 20, 2010

C est pour Claude Chabrol, cérémonie et chocolat

C est pour (partie une): Claude Chabrol, cérémonie et chocolat

What a mouthful. Where to start?

If it's about the nouvelle vague then Chabrol. If you're hard-core about your devotion to French New Wave cinema, then you know that Paris-born director Claude Chabrol's film Le beau Serge (1958) is credited with starting the movement. I was totally unaware of that before today. My introduction to Chabrol came earlier this year with a "must-see" recommendation of his 2006 film Merci pour la chocolat. A few weeks ago I saw a film he directed more than 10 years ago: La Ceremonie.

I would describe both films as well as the main characters as enigmatic and distant. For both films it took me a moment to begin understanding who's who and to start unraveling the story and the relationships. Both stories take place within the setting of a family. Yet, I couldn't warm up to the stories, get into them emotionally. I really felt like an observer all the time- held back by an invisible hand. This might have been Chabrol's intention, to hold me back, keep me as a witness or an onlooker.

la cérémonie noun, feminine

a) ceremony; tenue de cérémonie formal dress; (military) dress uniform

b) ceremony, formality; (informal) faire des cérémonies to make a fuss;

sans cérémonie informal reception; to do unceremoniously;

avec cérémonie to do ceremoniously

le chocolat

a) chocolate

b) chocolat chaud hot chocolate, drinking chocolate

looking it up in English yields more results for chocolate:

some chocolate du chocolat / des chocolats (plural)

chocolate cake/sauce gâteau/sauce au chocolat

a chocolate Easter egg un oeuf de Pâques en chocolat

white/dark chocolate chocolat blanc/noir

milk chocolate chocolat au lait

chocolate powder chocolat en poudre

chocolate brown, chocolate-coloured chocolat

-from the online French dictionary compiled by Neil Coffey

Claude Chabrol 24 Juin 1930 - 12 Septembre 2010

La Cérémonie, 1995

The movie is based on the English book A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell

Merci pour la chocolat, 2006

The movie is an adaptation of the American novel The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong

La photo: On the grounds of the Di Rosa Art Preserve in Napa Valley, California. Juillet 2010.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Photo Duet: Daybreak

Before this week's theme changes- the photo duo strikes again.

Metz, Septembre 2010

p_ff: Yes, I snoozed through the official start of daybreak at 7:07 am last Sunday in France. I must admit, je n'ai jamais été une personne matinale. Still, morning person or not, I managed to catch some traces of daybreak: a vestige of warm sunrise colors in the clouds, the empty streets, the "night lights" spotlighting architectural features of the hotel still aglow. In the German Imperial District (city was ruled by Germany from 1871-1918) on our side of the Avenue Foch, from a fourth floor terrace: I was still enjoying the calm that is usually associated with the break of dawn.

Fain-lès-Montbard, Juin 2008

kk: An early morning peek through fogged windows at the rolling green lawn of the Château De Malaisy near Dijon suggests we are the only guests at this 17th century mansion turned hotel. June is still pre-tourist season in much of France, and the peace and quiet suits us just fine.

daybreak = die Morgendämmerung = l'aube (f), la pointe (f) du jour

-from the "Leo" online dictionary German to French (and English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian)