Thursday, March 31, 2011
Cult film alert!
Where do I begin, this film is fantastic on so many levels!
Betty Blue, or 37°2 le matin by Director Jean-Jacques Beineix stars Jean-Hugues Anglade (Subway, La Femme Nikita, Killing Zoe, La Reine Margot, The Sopranos) and Béatrice Dalle, who was discovered in this film.
Released in 1986, this film was nominated for best film, best actor, best actress, best director, best music, best editing, best supporting actor, and best supporting actress.
Béatrice Dalle is brilliant as Betty, completely unhinged (is she playing herself, I wonder?), who meets up with Zorg the handyman, scoops him up, and catapults him into her life of surrealistic madness. Jean-Hugues Anglade, Zorg, loves her faithfully to the end. Ah, and what an end!
A masterpiece of sensual madness.
Gros bisous d'un chef-d'œuvre et a demain.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The other day, mon fils brings home a gargantuan bag of shelled walnuts and says, "Mom, we need to bake something with these."
"Why?" I ask.
"For school," he replies, "we're going to sell the cookies we bake and buy a guinea pig for our class."
'Cool,' I think. Then I ask, "Where did you get all these and who the heck shelled them because that was a big job?"
So he explains:
Outside the Biology teacher's classroom at school, there are five walnut trees.
The biology teacher picks all the walnuts and makes kids shell them in detention, ha!
Whilst said errant students crack nuts, the biology teacher strolls nonchalantly around the classroom nibbling on them exclaiming, "Mmm, boy, these sure are good!"
I love how these kids are being taught so many things in one fell swoop. I love how they reap the benefits of their hard work in detention by transforming Mother Nature's bounty into salable goodies to eat into a cute pet to take care of in the classroom.
Bravo, biology teacher!
Gros bisous des noix et cobayes et a demain!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Woody Allen's new film, Midnight In Paris, soon to be released. Bien sur the famous cast is as long as a catwalk model's legs: Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, and Carla Bruni (Yes, Mrs. Sarkosy!) to name a few.
I'm loving the Van Gogh-inspired poster for the film.
Things seem to get a little surrealistic round about Midnight In Paris, fais gaffe, you too might one day be obliged to confront the illusion of a life different from your own!
Gros bisous de surréalisme et a demain!
Monday, March 28, 2011
I have to admit, there is nothing like a good, greasy old, yummy kebab every now and again. You can find a kebab place almost anywhere.
Getting a little saucy with some veggies in a wrap. Yum!
Must have a side of fries and a cold frosty coke or beer. The experience will stay with you ....
Bon, gros bisous de kebab et a demain!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
My heart aches, I grieve at the loss of such an amazing person. She gave her all to the cinema and to help others, particularly in fighting AIDS. My only comfort is that she has gone on to a better place and feels pain no more. My hope is that she has been reunited with those she loved and lost.
Here is a lovely tribute to Elizabeth narrated by Paul Newman.
Clips from my personal favorite films:
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
My all time favorite film. Period. The acting is breath-taking, the direction exquisite. She won an Oscar.
Getting angry, Baby?
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Relationships are complicated. She was nominated for an Oscar.
Won Elizabeth Taylor an Oscar
And, last but not least, a film I happened to watch just the other weekend. It's 3 1/2 hours long, so be prepared to settle in on the couch for an entire afternoon...
Larger than life and pure genius.
Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz likened Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's on-set chemistry to "being locked in a cage with two tigers."
Here are some exquisite photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton from Life.com
Gros bisous de tristesse et a demain.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Cyrano de Bergerac, yes, one of my all time favorite French films. Who can resist a line like this?
"My nose is Gargantuan! You little Pig-snout, you tiny Monkey-Nostrils, you virtually invisible Pekinese-Puss, don't you realize that a nose like mine is both scepter and orb, a monument to me superiority? A great nose is the banner of a great man, a generous heart, a towering spirit, an expansive soul--such as I unmistakably am, and such as you dare not to dream of being, with your bilious weasel's eyes and no nose to keep them apart! With your face as lacking in all distinction--as lacking, I say, in interest, as lacking in pride, in imagination, in honesty, in lyricism--in a word, as lacking in nose as that other offensively bland expanse at the opposite end of your cringing spine--which I now remove from my sight by stringent application of my boot!"
N'est ce pas?
Gerard Depardieu is Cyrano de Bergerac in this swashbuckling love story.
You can also read the book: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmund Rostand translated by Anthony Burgess.
Gros bisous d'un nez dites péninsule et a demain!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I thought we might start this beautiful day with some beautiful music!
Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937) French composer of Impressionist music.
Born in the Basque area of France (near Spain), his family moved to Paris when he was 3 months old. Maurice began piano lessons at the age of 6 and was composing by the age of 12. His first public piano recital was at the age of 14.
Maurice Ravel was not your typical wild bohemian as many artists at the time were; rather he dressed like a dandy and was aloof, focusing on his music. He was so structured that Stravinsky referred to him as the "Swiss Watchmaker". His sexuality is a mystery, he is not known to ever have had an intimate relationship. Ravel said, "The only love affair I have ever had was with music".
A contemporary of Claude Debussy (see my blog), and great friend, his String Quartet in F is modeled after Debussy's Quartet. It is brilliant and I adore a good piece of chamber music.
String Quartet in F
Ravel wrote a ballet called Daphnis et Chloe. It took him three years! Worth the wait as Stravinsky called it "one of the most beautiful products of all French music". The project pushed Ravel into bad health and he took a break from music for several years.
Daphnis et Chloe - Suite Number 2 (Daybreak)
In 1928, Ravel toured America to great success. He met American composer George Gershwin and went to Harlem with him to listen to Duke Ellington. He also stopped over in New Orleans where he listened to jazz, causing him to include jazz elements in his later work.
His mother's Spanish culture had a great influence over his music as can be seen in Bolero. Shortly after his return from America, he composed what is most likely his most famous piece.
Gros bisous de la musique Impressionniste et a demain!
p.s. One of my constant readers over on my facebook page sent me this amazing youtube of
p.s. One of my constant readers over on my facebook page sent me this amazing youtube of
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Aidan is sharing the love!
I recently had the pleasure to meet Aidan from Conjugating Irregular Verbs down at the Blogapalooza in Aix-En-Provence. She organized the whole thing! Aidan is great, vibrant, and fun. I am in deep admiration of her and her husband who decided to live their dream; they moved to France several years ago and have been winging it ever since! Aidan is an excellent cook, each Sunday she does a Seasonal Sunday blog, sharing her yummy recipes. Therefore, how apropos that she be featured as a guest blogger on Sunday where she shares her recipe for Confit de Canard (one of my favorites). Enjoy!
Blogapalooza in Aix, Aidan on the right.
Confit de Canard
When Charley asked me to write about one of my favorite French things the hardest part was thinking of just one. Everyone knows about the cheese, wine, beauty and sublime frustration of the language and Charley gives us all wonderfully engaging glimpses into history, art and film.
You may not be surprised to know that I’ve chosen to tell you about food and what I’ve learned about myself from living in a place where food is art as much as sustenance, where eating is a shared ritual and where time can stand still for two hours for the sheer pleasure of feeding your body and spirit. I’ve always loved cooking for my family; from menu planning to experimenting with what I’ve got in the pantry. It’s fun to try new things when food is so delicious and brings so much joy to the table. And the best part is sharing it with friends and family.
We recently had American friends offer to come over and prepare something I’ve never made or had before—confit de canard. They brought everything they needed to prepare a delicious lunch; down to the apples and pastry for the tarte au pomme.
Confit de canard is duck thighs. Duck thighs preserved in congealed duck fat. In France you can buy big, circular tins of this at any grocery store. It’s as ubiquitous as wine. In the US and other places it may be harder to find and very expensive if you do. It’s worth a try though, it really is.
You can also make it yourself from scratch, cutting up the duck, cooking it and preserving it yourself from the comfort of your kitchen. I’ve found a recipe for that here if you want to feel like you’ve really accomplished something.
There’s a lot of fat. It’s not a bad thing. Stay with me. What the fat does is imbue the duck with a moistness and richness you can’t imagine. The French use these duck thighs in one of my favorite dishes, cassoulet, so I’d had it in that before. But in cassoulet it’s cooked with sausages and white beans in stew form so the fat sort of melts into the dish and adds a richness of flavor. (You should try this too.)
For the confit de canard Mr America cooked for us, it was all duck, all the time. I can only describe it as duck bacon for it was cooked crispy, crispy on the outside while the inside stayed succulent and warm. Divine.
Here’s how you prepare it: first, you remove the duck thighs from the fat, count on two thighs per person for a big meal and you’ll have more than enough….it is rich. Then you scrape all the excess fat off each thigh and put them in a skillet. Have a bowl or jug at the ready for the rendered fat because as you warm the thighs to a crisp the fat will continue to melt off. A lot. Don’t think of it as fat or as gross. Instead think of it as flavor, richness; a sometimes delicacy. The trick is not to overcook it because it is already cooked before it’s nestled under all its fat in that big, round tin.
What you want to do is crisp the skin and warm the inside. Mr America crisped it good, real good. Like bacon.
While all this was happening they roasted potatoes, parsnips, and butternut squash. In duck fat. Plus, fresh thyme and rosemary.
For dessert Ma Fille was in charge of the tarte au pomme. Simply made with a prepared pastry crust, there’s an entire section of all varieties of these in the refrigerated aisle, applesauce and sliced apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Nothing heavy will do after a meal of confit de canard.
It was one of the nicest lunches I’ve ever had. We had a bottle of wine, ate leisurely and then went for a long walk and run around with the kids afterwards. Trés French.
This is what I love about France. Meeting new friends who will come over and make a delicious lunch for me, trying something that French people grow up with but is different from my cultural past, learning how to prepare a new meal, spending an hour together in preparation of the meal and then another hour eating it together, having the children try something new and enjoy it and coming back home after a long post déjeuner walk to a warm fire in the fireplace.
This is the winter version of my French love. The summer version will be similar only with a lighter meal, a longer walk, and a dip in the pool instead of sitting in front of a warm fire. Can you tell that I love France? Bien sur!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Let's go back in time about one hundred years to Paris, France. World War I, or the Great War as they called it then, sparked the Dada movement amongst writers and artists. This movement's policy was primarily anti-war and anti-bourgeois; artists believed that excessive rational thought and bourgeois values had brought about conflict and war.
During the war, Dr. André Breton worked with injured soldiers using Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical methods. One of his patients was writer Jacques Vaché, who greatly intrigued him. After the war, in Paris, Breton began a literary journal called Littérature where he and other writers began experimenting with Automatic Writing. The goal was to write utterly spontaneously without censoring the thought process. Dreams were recorded and published simply as they had been remembered. The more they wrote, the more writers they attracted.
Dadaism morphed into Surrealism.
We all know that Surrealism gave birth to phenomenal artists like Magritte and Salvador Dali:
Allow these visual images to give you an idea as to what the Surrealistic movement did to the written word. The goal was liberate the imagination!
Enter café Les Deux Magots in Paris' chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood. Beginning life in 1813 as a luxury fabric store, it morphed into a wine shop, and then became a famous café for writers and intellectuals in 1914.
Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Wilde, Saint Exupéry, Francois Truffaut, Pablo Picasso, all flocked to Les Deux Magots cafe where they sat for hours, debating, philosophizing, arguing, writing. Can't you just imagine them, legs crossed, cigarettes in hand, the debris of tea and espresso cups scattered about the tables ....
How many written works of art were born there?
Every singe morning, Jean-Paul Sartre came to Les Deux Magots and wrote for hours on end. Since 1933, Le Prix des Deux Magots has existed, awarding a prize each year to the best French novel.
All my life I've wanted to be a writer. Pulling up stakes and moving to France has helped me to break down the cultural and social barriers that kept me from being able to freely express myself. And I believe that is the key to being a writer: freely expressing yourself with no social rules and regulations to hold you back, no little voice in the back of your head chanting, 'What is everyone going to think about what you're writing'.
I moved to France, bien sur, a little extreme! Do whatever you have to do to get into your zone. Open up your mind and just let things flow into your head and out through your fingertips. Allow yourselves to be inspired as I have been from these great French writers. Find yourselves a little cafe and order up a steaming mug of tea or coffee. And write spontaneously without censoring your thought process.
Voila, bonne continuation de l'écriture et a demain!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Vieux Lyon is located at the bottom of Fourviere Hill, along the river Soane.
Built in the Renaissance period and completely refurbished, it is the most beautiful part of the city. Day or night, there is a lot going on: loads of restaurants, shops, museums, and ... Irish pubs.
The Smoking Dog
And, my personal favorite, Johnny's kitchen, to name a few.
Johnny's Kitchen has chicken wings, onion rings, baked potatoes loaded with goodies, and killer burgers
Not to mention frosty cold beers.
Just don't drink too many and get lost in Vieux Lyon's famous secret passages, les traboules. There are dozens of them in that part of the city. You can actually traverse Vieux Lyon without being outside. The Resistance used them to hide from the Nazis during WWII.
Nothing like a good burger at an Irish pub every now and again!
Gros bisous des pubs Irlandaises et a demain!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Friday night I was invited to eat chez une copine. She served up some bone marrow for an aperitif.
Now, I've eaten bone marrow in cardons à la moelle (see blog & recipe) and its pretty darn tasty, but eating it straight out of the bone like a cave man--chic to serve as an aperitif or not--was a stretch for me.
Poking it with my fork, I noticed how it wiggled. Brave soldier that I am, I pressed on.
And then I vomited! Just kidding ....
It was rather good, tasty, I loved it!
Voila, my bone marrow adventure!
Gros bisous des os à moelle et a demain.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
While rambling around the Burgundy countryside, I stumbled upon an intensely interesting wine shop...
Seemingly innocent and innocuous on the outside, one you're inside, it's a whole other world.
Seemingly innocent and innocuous on the outside, one you're inside, it's a whole other world.
The clerk was busy with a few other customers, I had a look around. I saw some stairs leading down into the caves, the lights were on, there were no signs indicating we should stay out, so down I went.
Into a whole other unbelievable world!
It seemed to go on forever and, in a way it does, as I later discovered.
Then I turned a corner onto this!
I was like, what? How is this possible? What is it for? My author's imagination went into overdrive, I wiped my trusty iPhone out and started taking photos, ka-chee, ka-chee.
The closer I looked the more macabre it got. All the light fixtures looked like this.
Crazy little statues and faces filled nooks and crannies.
These guys scared the heck out of me! There were just off the main chamber, in a dark stairwell going somewhere I didn't really want to know about.
I had the courage to move in closer ...
and closer ...
This figure seemed to beckon to me to follow it. I politely declined.
Then the clerk came rushing downstairs and said, "There you are!" I went up with him and sat down to some spectacular wine tasting. Really, really good wines.
Whilst tasting said excellent wines, the propriétaire, Philippe Leclerc, came in. Have a look at his website, his family has owned vineyards in the Bourgogne area for several generations; Monsieur Leclerc really knows how to make good wine.
Anyhow, what a nice guy, we were chatting and I raved about the caves and chambers below the store and then I mentioned that I write horror and historical mysteries. His eyes lit up and he asked, "Would you like to see my private rooms?"
So off we went, even further into surrealism.
Monsieur Leclerc has been buying up houses in his village so that he may dig a maze of labyrinth-like tunnels below them. For 25 years he has been paying masons to dig and build, dig and build underground tunnels. I asked him if he thought he might be a Knights Templar reincarnated, because that's what the Knights Templars did--dig and build--again, his eyes lit up and he coyly replied, "Maybe."
He has recently been working on what he refers to as a piece of art. He does much of the work himself, but also has artists with whom he has worked closely for years. It is not underground, rather, above ground, up and up, and up. He has taken the gorgeous old houses he purchased and transformed them into a private space where he has held "get togethers".
We climbed stairs and entered an open area. This lady greeted me. I wondered if an alien was going to shoot out of her chest Sigourney Weaver-style.
Then I turned around and saw this!
Curious, I moved closer ... careful not to step on these stalagmites. Philippe told us he would cover them with plate glass after he designed some writhing bodies among them, all bloodied up as though they had fallen on the spikes. Nice touch.
As for the devil, he wants the eyes to shoot out lazer light beams and smoke to come out of its mouth.
I looked around at the statues lining the area.
The celling was completely covered in stalactites.
The center piece was my absolute favorite. Two creepy statues guarding a scene from The Garden of Eden a la Philippe Leclerc: the snake descended from a very high ceiling holding Eve in its clutches, while Adam, portrayed as Jesus, was safe in the rafters. Philippe told me that he was going to put an apple in Eve's hand, and that it all meant that the serpent was taking away Eve and the apple before she could get a chance to tempt Adam.
Eve, sans la main et la pomme.
An altogether lovely time was had and I thank Monsieur Philippe Leclerc for having taken the time to show me his beloved works of art. Truly amazing. He was very kind to us. His wine is sitting in my cave at home and I am certain to think of him whenever I open a bottle.