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)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Continuons: B - partie deux

B est pour Boudu sauvé des eaux

At first I was going to just write about the film Boudu starring Gerard Depardieu that was released in 2005. Until I found out that it was actually a remake. And not even the first. In fact, in 1986, Nick Nolte starred in American director Paul Mazursky's version: Down and Out in Beverly Hills. I tracked down the original and the director is no less than the son of French impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Boudu sauvé des eaux is my first encounter with Jean Renoir's work. I was, until now, ignorant of his fame and critical acclaim. When Renoir died in 1979, Orson Welles wrote a tribute in the Los Angeles times calling him "The Greatest of all Directors".

Michel Simon stars as a tramp named Boudu who is saved from drowning. His bourgeouis savior, Lestingois, invites him into his house to recover. The film is about the the rescue and the ensuing complications and consequences.

So how does the original Boudu of Renoir and Simon in Paris fare against Nick Nolte in Beverly Hills and Gerard Depardieu in Aix-en-Provence?

Obviously I "understood" the American version a lot more than both French versions not only because of the language but also the culture- though not specifically Beverly Hills. When I saw Boudu with Gerard Depardieu I was already familiar with his work ( lists over 150 movies he's been in since 1967) and though I saw the movie in French it was subtitled. Linguistically I understood almost nothing of the original since my DVD version didn't have subtitles and my French is not that good, yet. Also I hadn't heard of the director nor the actors. Still, armed with having already seen the the remakes I had enough information about the plot and I was able to pay more attention to the direction, the cinematography and the acting.

Despite my limited understanding of the dialogue, I liked Jean Renoir's version filmed in black and white the best. I prefer the Parisian location and Michel Simon is my favorite Boudu. While watching the film there were moments where Simon reminded me off Nolte and Depardieu's rendition– when I realized, oh it's actually the other way around if anything. Either Nolte and Depardieu based their Boudus on Simon's or they all have a good "tramp" in them.

I thought Renoir's version had the best ending of the three. Yet, I must say that the film isn't laugh-out-loud funny like some scenes in the later versions– it is hard to identify with the 1930s and we are a more sophisticated film audience. I'd have to say, almost as a warning, that this version is one for fans of Renoir, Simon, or hard-core cinemaphiles.

Orson Welles on Jean Renoir

La photo: Strasbourg, août 2010.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Continouns: B - partie une --> Belle de Jour

B is for Belle de Jour

I'd heard of this movie many years before I watched it just a few days ago. I didn't know much about it except that it was French, starred Catherine Deneuve and was about a housewife turned prostitute.

On my previous visits to the local library I had decided against renting it out even though it was directed by famous and critically acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. However, on my last visit- well there wasn't much left in the B section that I hadn't seen so I consoled myself with the fact that though the "housewife-turned-prostitute" plot wasn't turning me on, seeing something by Buñuel did interest me.

I'd taken a film colloquium in college. Bien sûr, the silent surrealist short "Un Chien Andalou" written and directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, released in Paris in 1929 was a must-see on the syllabus. To say the least, it's a very memorable film. 38 years years later "Belle de jour" is released. 44 years later, I watch the movie.

The beginning is quite shocking, even though- certainly since Buñuel's time- films have become even more shocking and graphic. It looks so simple, somehow innocent until we get a glimpses of what Denueve's character, Séverine Serizy's daydreams are about. Catherine Deneuve plays both characters Séverine and her alter ego Belle with equal coolness and yet an emotional yearning comes through- for both characters. For me it became a double-story, more and more intertwined and in the end... well I don't want to spoil it. Suffice to say, I was glad I saw it. It's a cinematic milestone that francophiles and cinema buffs shouldn't miss.

La photo: Street leading to the gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg with traditional half-timbered houses on one side and flain façades on the other. On all sides, vendors of all types. Strasbourg, France. Août 2010.