Monday, April 30, 2012

The Good Wife

I very much enjoyed the second season when I discovered it last year, and so happily indulged in a few episodes from season one yesterday (my regular Sunday TV-show, 'Boardwalk Empire' having been scandalously cancelled for an election debate I never even considered watching).

As per usual, the first season appears to have been yet better than the second.
The courtroom drama / detective plots were here allowed more space than the characters' private lives. A common enough phenomenon; with time, scriptwriters and audience alike tend to become increasingly attached to the characters as they evolve, and they take precedence on the stories.

This is good TV!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How To Recognize Recession

There are MEN working as supermarket cashiers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Modigliani, Soutine & Monparnasse d'après-guerre at the Pinacothèque, Paris

The Pinacothèque de Paris currently exhibits a private art collection, comprising a plethora of landscapes, nudes and still-lifes of irregular calibre, but way too few Modiglianis (although Elvira with her white lace collar is there; see picture for conclusive evidence!).

The real point of interest lay with the private collection of the Pinacothèque, displaying minor works by major artists.
I made a new acquaintance! Allow me to introduce Golden Age Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst, clearly evoking another of my persona very grata, Caravaggio.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Twixt - F. F. Coppola (2011)

The trailer + Coppola's filmmaking history = Made absolutely no sense to me.
I am not familiar with his early films, to which 'Twixt' is allegedly a form of return. Nor did reading reviews help, since people seem to have the most conflicting viewpoints on this opus.

My very own viewpoint, now that I have seen it : I liked it a lot! Not sure why, though..!
It sort of blended elements from 'Twin Peaks', Edgar Allan Poe, horror films, poetry and Coppola himself, with a hint of 'The Shining'.
I realise it sounds unorthodox, and it was. I do appreciate that in a film! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Supersize Me - M. Spurlock (2004)

Entertaining and instructive enough to put you off fast food for life! (Or, well, at least for a few weeks..!)

La Nuit de Valognes - Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

Reading a play is always rather a hazardous enterprise, although it often works out surprisingly well.
This is a modern rewriting of the Don Juan-myth, broaching subjects of love, freedom and their opposites. Much to my amazement, I kind of liked it!

For something like the first 15 years after my moving to France, I regularly tried reading French classics and invariably found them tedious and pretentious.
I blamed my skills in language and culture. They may well have been responsible - it may even have been a lack in maturity? - because as of a few years back, I both read and appreciate French classics.
Learning old dogs to sit, then, is not as impossible as you might think! (Of course, I am pretty intelligent, for an old dog!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The King's Speech - T. Hooper (2010)

I never saw this at its release, because I tend to react like a stubborn child when faced with general agreement on something. Everyone seemed to love this film, and so I figured I was bound to be disappointed if I went.

In hindsight, I can say I was probably right. It is a good film - I especially liked the gorgeous settings and the very witty dialogues - but it has no genius, no originality; there is nothing in this film you haven't seen in a certain number of films already. (On the other hand, can you ever get enough of Colin Firth?)

It would have been a pity, then, to be disappointed in what is, ultimately, a good film, just because it didn't live up to expectations.
Oh, the joys of film on dvd!  

Svensk Maffia, fortsättningen - Wierup, Larsson

Thoroughly researched, well-written, interesting document about organised crime in Sweden.
Possibly not the happiest of subject matters, but then I guess I only have myself to blame for that, since I bought the book myself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Elle UK

None of the foreign 'Elle'-editions are as good as the French original, at least not as far as I am aware of. They are all monthlies and therefore contain longer and fewer articles & interviews, contrary to French 'Elle', which is a weekly.
French 'Elle' is closely connected to everyday life, often refers to political events and various news stories.
French 'Elle' often publishes clearly political editorials.
French 'Elle' had an Afghan woman in niquab on the cover just after the Taliban take-over!

I have never managed to find any of the above in any of the foreign issues I have read.
Generally, though, they include well-penned, deep-going articles and interviews and a clear stand on most feminist questions.

That is why the May-issue of 'Elle' UK was such a disappointment! This is all fashion, 100% fashion, nothing but fashion so help me God. If this is what you want, buy 'Vogue'... Not even the Emily Blunt-interview held any particular interest.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Pirates (Aardman studios)

Repeatedly, I tried to explain to my 8-year-olds that they had grown a bit too old for this film, but as they would not pay me any heed, and as it had been pouring down all morning, we went anyway.

I love all 'Wallace & Gromits' and 'Chicken Run' and technically speaking (Is 'technical' still the term to use about stop-motion clay animation?) these Pirates are just as accomplished.
Sadly, the script is just not quite as witty and clever as the previous films. 
Arguably, this film is chiefly destined for a younger audience and I, too, am too old for it by now.

Be that as it may, it took us through two hours of a wet school-holiday afternoon without any bloodspill or even throwing of fits. A feat in itself.

August Strindberg

This is the Great Swedish Writer, late 19th century.
A number of Swedish writers, to my mind, are considered Great largely due to a certain lack of competition, Sweden being sort of a tiny little country. (Very sorry, all fellow Swedes, but there it is.)

Strindberg, however, I believe is rightly considered Great also from a larger perspective, provided you can deal with his misogyny issues and inimical personality.
He was also a (very mediocre) painter and a photographer, which is notable since that was such a recent medium. To me, his enthusiasm for photography vouches for an open-mindedness which is not always conspicuous in his writings.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Shakespeare Globe

My all-time favourite place in London! Even when horrifically over-crowded as today (Open doors-day, whereas normally, you can only enter in small groups accompanied by a guide, which makes for a subdued, church-like atmosphere.) there is something magic about the Globe theatre.

And the gift-shop is awesome!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nighthawks - Edward Hopper (1942)

Painting a window and making it 100% see-through!

Presenting people and rendering them so robot-like they seem dead!

Selecting an urban setting and then removing all its inhabitants, save the four robots!

Picturing four persons less than a meter from each other and yet having them appear totally isolated from each other!

= Brilliant artistry!

PS. Going to London for a few days. You must all try to get by without me for a while!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rois de France - Charlemagne

Pros : Effortless learning, easy to read, lavishly illustrated.

Cons : So basic you hardly learn anything you didn't already know...
Unless of course you are not yet acquainted with Charlemagne (a. k. a Charles the Great, King of Franks and Roman Emperor from 800 and a dozen years on). Should that be the case, this is indeed as good a book as any to initiate your studies in that field!   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Titanic - J. Cameron (1997)

My son has been badgering me for weeks about seeing this film, and since he is considerably more passionate about shipwrecks (and other major disasters - where on earth did I go wrong educating him??) than about love-stories ("Gross!!") I was convinced he wouldn't last beyond the first half-hour.

By now, however, Jack and Rose are already inextricably tied together, and 100% of my offspring is utterly mesmerized in front of the TV set. Wholly unexpected!

As for me, I find James Cameron crudely manipulative and rather exasperating.

Nevertheless! Isn't it fascinating how the major concerns of movie posters have apparently altered in the last 15 years?! Is it the financial crisis that is to blame for this conversion from amour to catastrophe?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jag är en varulvsunge - Gunnel Linde

This is a Swedish youth literature classic from the 1970s, which I never read when I was an active member of the target group. I disliked the cover by talented illustrator Hans Arnold, contrary to my children who love the drawings and loved the story, as well.

It's all in the title; the young narrator is bitten by an eccentric and then persuades himself he has turned into a werewolf, as he is suddenly subject to violent fits of aggressive behaviour.

The book was a lot more agreeable than I  had reckoned, which of course confirms what you all well know : Do not judge a book by its cover, unless you are prepared to miss out on a good read.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Macbeth - W. Shakespeare

Strangely, I can't recollect ever having read this before (strange, what with me being such a well-read and educated lady, n'est-ce pas?!) but then, everyone is already familiar with the plot, so it's hard to say.
At any rate, this is choice Shakespeare, and as such there is no growing weary of it.

The edition, however, leaves much to be desired. The notes are OK (Do not read Shakespeare without notes! You'll be missing all the puns, metaphors, double-entendres and allusions to subjects that are no longer commonplace enough.) but the introduction is mere paraphrase, where it could / should be an initiation to the main themes and motifs.
Oxford World classics is what I would generally recommend.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan van Eyck (1434)

I first heard it from a guide at the National Gallery, which should vouch for its veracity : Look closely and you will notice not only van Eyck himself present in the mirror behind the couple, but also that Giovanni Arnolfini, despite his Italian origins, Dutch nationality and far-off existence indubitably shares DNA with Vladimir Putin.

"Mankind is a great, an immense family" quote Pope John XXIII.
(Another surprising fact : Who would ever have thought I would share views with a pope?!)
(No one who knows me, that's for sure!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Une Douce Flamme - Philip Kerr

Traditions are dear to my heart, so I stick to them scrupulously and embrace new ones whenever I can. From Norway I have picked up on the concept of 'påskekrim', i.e. to read a detective story during the Easter weekend.

'Une Douce Flamme' (A quiet Flame) was recommended to me by my lawfully wedded husband, who is fascinated by history. It is easy to see what appealed to him in this book. The historical background is depicted in such minute detail as to make it virtually unescapable. The action is set in Argentina, in 1950, with frequent flashbacks to Berlin, 1932 = malevolent Nazis galore!
The genre is noirest noir - for all intents and purposes, the main character IS Humphrey Bogart! - and the plot is fittingly convoluted, but well-composed. 

The one little hitch is that this is more of a story about a detective, than a detective story. And it does not comply with my one demand on a detective story, which is to be a page-turner.
This book is good, but not unputdownable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Stereotypes in TV are used to make you 'take in' a character in very little time. A TV-show without any stereotypes therfore obviously takes longer to penetrate. Throughout the first three episodes of 'Treme' there just seemed to be a lot of weird people wandering around doing practically nothing, in a devastated New Orleans (it is set three months after Katrina).

Once I got the drift of it, though, it was definitely worth the wait!

The actors resemble real people, as opposed to Hollywood actors, and their acting is downplayed and well-nuanced. (Who knew Steve Zahn was so skilled?) The settings all look genuine, and not like a TV-studio somewhere. The use of modern jazz to such a high extent is a daring choice, and not one that sets well with me, but despite the ubiquitous music, this is a brilliant TV-show, differing from everything that at least I had seen before on TV!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

La Cuisine française

French cooking is so refined! Such delicacy in how every nuance in taste is finely tuned to accomodate our sensible palates! The creativity among French cooks, but also the handing down of traditional plates, bearing the marks of our forebears! It is moving, isn't it?

This was Easter dinner yesterday : potatoes, cod, butter, cream. An old recipe from Normandie. (True!)

(This is the downside to not cooking yourself; you can't really complain about the food. That can be exceedingly frustrating.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sur la Piste du Marsupilami (Alain Chabat) 2012

This was real fun! Huge fun! Intelligent fun! Bend-over-laughing-fun! Kids-and-adult fun!

True, I laughed harder than any of my children did, but they still came out wildly pleased and wishing for a pet marsupilami-baby to keep at home. Alain Chabat is a comic genius and should be awarded some sort of prize for this. Although the feeling you get from watching his films is that making them is gratification enough. Possibly, that is what makes them so pleasurable.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Young Adult (Jason Breitman)

High expectations are a bitch. Nothing like them to ruin a film for you. If I had never seen 'Juno' and had not read so many positive reviews of 'Young Adult' I would most likely have been a lot less disappointed.

Yet, there is much to like! An unusual and intelligent plot, an atypical female leading role (so embarrassing it hurts), great acting, a realistic setting, an unexpected and clever ending...

So why did we feel a bit let down? Perhaps because the dialogues were not as witty and bright as we had hoped. It felt as if this film could potentially have been funnier and therefore even better. Bummer.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Lincoln Lawyer (Brad Furman)

I don't read many detective novels anymore, but I did read 'The Lincoln Lawyer' when it was published (in 2005). I enjoy Michael Connelly's noir style, and the film was a respectable adaptation of the novel. Mc Conaghey is actually decent, for a change, and Ryan Philippe is even quite good, totally cast against type. Entertaining.

For tomorrow, I promise I'll watch less TV.


Home alone a whole Saturday afternoon = I've watched a lot of TV today!
Eventually, I grew tired of 'Friends' (turn on your TV at any given time in France, and you are bound to find 'Friends' on at least one of the channels) and so decided to give 'Glee' another shot.

Unfortunately, no matter how much my students (15-18) try to sell this to me, I just don't buy it.
It is superficial, artificial (it's escapism; I get it! doesn't make it any less silly) and irritating. The songs are OK, but the performaces are shallow and lack personality, which makes them sound like something out of 'High School Musical'.
Nonetheless, there are at least two positive aspects : fat & disabled actors, and also a very relaxed attitude to homosexuality. Kudos for that!

Globally, I fully understand why so many of my students love this TV-show so much. Heck, I watched 'Fame'! The TV-show I mean. And it was definitely no better than 'Glee'.
My only problem is I've already been there, done that, got the t-shirt. There is no going back.


« There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover. »

Metropolitan Police spokesperson

Please note how all the genius of brilliant street artist Banksy is compounded into this one sentence, to be found, of course, on the back cover of his book. This is subversion at its best!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adam Lambert, where are you??

For months and months none of my favourite artists have released anything new. (Not counting an excellent single from Maroon 5 with Gym Class Heroes.)
Spring has arrived nonetheless, and so I am now in desperate need of New Music to stuff my iPod with and listen to while running! I run all year round, but crank it up a notch when it gets warm and bright, for obvious reasons. (I need to lose a little winter-weight, of course!) 

The lack of good music, though, is depressing!!! I have spent hours (I am not exaggerating! It really has been hours!) on iTunes and youtube, listening for something runnable, but to no avail. Everything sounds like Usher. Can't take it.

And so, Adam. Let's speak seriously. This cannot go on. You promised us a new album for spring 2012. It IS spring 2012! Bring it on!! Out with it!! Give it to us!!

Also valid for Scissor Sisters, Linkin Park, Justice, Maroon 5, My Chemical Romance and anyone else feeling capable of miracles, even minor ones.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

I was at JFK airport two years ago, with a few US dollars left I didn't want to take home. Nothing seemed particularly inspiring at the bookstore, plus my husband had recently seen & liked 'The Road' and strongly recommended it. So I bought it, despite the fact that I have never liked stories of misery, have never appreciated the occasional 'good cry'.

It only took me a few pages to realize that the book cover illustrates the story to absolute perfection. Life's a bitch from the very beginning, and then he dies. "Depressing post-apocalyptic vision" only begins to describe it.

Normally, I would have chucked this book as far as possible before finishing it.
Couldn't, though! It turned out to be Real Literature! By that I mean a text of such beauty and poetry that it doubtlessly qualifies as a work of art. A pleasure to read, despite the dismal subject matter. 

However; should you be suicidal, you might want to choose something a bit more frivolous..!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Boardwalk Empire

I'm not sure whether it has to do with ageing increased life experience or what, but I'm starting to think my life (what's left of it!) is now too short to sit around watching TV-shows or films I feel I have seen a hundred times before. Tried out 'Blue Bloods' the other night, but realised there is nothing in this show I haven't seen already in at least half a dozen other shows.

That's why I am so fond of 'Boardwalk Empire'!
Apart from the gorgeous settings, authentic dialogues and brilliant acting, I love the fact that events are prepared several episodes ahead. The script-writers quite daringly assume that the viewers a) have brains and b) are not afraid to use them. Not a given in TV today!

Plus, it IS a relief to not have to put up with the breasts-but-no-dicks sex-scenes, which have apparently become mandatory after 'Sex And the City', regardless of their ir-/relevance to the plot.