Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wuthering Heights - P. Kosminsky (1992)

Could it be that some novels just aren't meant for screen-adaptations at all?

Or was this just a particularly dull version of Brontë's gothic masterpiece?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Really Useful Guide to Kings and Queens of England

As attentive readers will have gathered by now, my affection for history does not encompass heavily detailed, amply researched biographies.
I am more into lighter, entertaining, richly illustrated stuff, like this book that I finished yesterday.

One of the sterotypes I abide by is that what Brits lack in aesthetics (there ARE exceptions) they make up for with a delightful sense of humour (are there exceptions?). As exemplified in this little booklet, where all sorts of convenient information is classified under headings such as 'Weird Claim to Fame', 'Poor Choice' or 'Should be Ashamed of'.
Highly stimulating, I tell you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gatsby is one of my all-time-favourites; I have read it a number of times and taken a university course on it, so I know it pretty much by heart.

Regardless of this, I took immense pleasure in re-reading it for the umpteenth time, this time in view of sharing it with one of my classes next year. (Can't wait!) 
Am also hoping to be able to bring the students to see the film (French release February 2013).

As a general rule, I tend to avoid adaptations of novels I admire (It's simple; Great Literature = Great text. Cinema = No text.) but the name Baz Luhrman augurs well - he might actually be capable of depicting both the heart-rending plot and Fitzgerald's just as heart-rending words.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pulp Fiction - Q. Tarantino (1994)

Today : Breaking in open doors.

Hadn't seen this for ages when fate (a.k.a French TV) threw it my way last night. Had almost forgotten what an accomplished picture it is!

Still, I shudder at onscreen violence. The one thing I dislike even more is onscreen violence designed for amusement. 'Pulp Fiction' thrives on that sort of violence.

Still : Tarantino's upbeat inventiveness is just overpowering! It takes a genius to base a whole movie on stereotypes and conventional scenes, and then make you feel you are seeing them for the first time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matisse, Paires et Séries at Centre Pompidou, Paris 3rd arrdt

Imposing exhibition at Centre Pompidou, focussing on paintings presented in twosomes. 
Intriguing to observe how Matisse would finish a painting only to start over again with the same motive, ultimately ending up with a second, similar yet altogether different, work of art! 

To me, that refusal to stagnate is the mark of a major artist, and that goes not only for Henri Matisse, but also for Picasso, Prince, David Bowie...
Le Peintre dans son atelier

Lorette sur fond noir, robe verte

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Comment Parler de Pablo Picasso aux enfants

Champion concept : Analyzing a series of major artworks one by one in simplistic terms, suitable for children.
Would very much like the same for adults, now, please!

                                             La Danse : 2,17m high!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

At our home, there is a general book & film-rule that I have imposed on my offspring (ever true to my despot self) : First Read, Then Watch.

After a rocky start (the first few chapters are pretty longish!) my 8-year-olds were caught up in the story, and we finished Harry Potter number 1 last night. (Must say, I hope whoever translated it into French is duly ashamed of him/herself. Crappy work!)

No wait being better than a long wait, we watched the film tonight! This kind of film - an eagerly awaited adaptation of a universally read & loved book - rarely offers any surprises, and indeed Chris Columbus remains particularly faithful to the (very visual) book.

Stating the obvious : I'm a Huge Harry Potter Fan! Have read the books several times. Adorably charming and inventive plotline! Love them all!

Euphoria - Loreen

I may be a little biased and hopelessly Swedish for even caring, but in my humble opinion, this song is wildly over-qualified for anything as arbitrary as a Eurovision Song Contest.

(No idea how to include the direct link, sorry... You will have to Youtube it for yourselves. It's well worth the effort, though!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Ghost Writer - R. Polanski (2010)

This old-fashioned thriller is a bit like a precious artifact : carefully drafted, purposefully designed by an extremely skilled and experienced professional. Polanski rules!
And beardless Ewan McGregor is irresistible and more Tintin-like than ever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Au Bonheur des Ogres - Daniel Pennac

I have only foggy memories of the title-reference novel - Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames - but am fairly sure it involved no exploding bombs in La Samaritaine (the department store Zola used as a model).
In this profuse detective story, bombs blast and a Hitchockian scapegoat is held responsible.
The style strangely echoes Romain Gary / Emile Ajar (La Vie Devant Soi), and indeed, there are worse paragons to be inspired by!

Please also note the cover illustration by brilliant Tardi, father of comic book heroine Adèle Blanc-Sec, among others!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Empire Magazine UK

Once upon a time, not that long ago (at least not for a lady of my age), Empire was a film magazine, and a good one at that.

For some obscure reason - most likely related to sales - it has now evolved (or regressed?) into a boys' film magazine, recognizable by the male action figures on the cover, the unconditional disdain of all so-called 'chick-flicks' and the numerous pages dedicated to game-reviews.

The articles remain exhaustive and knowledgeable, but I find this view of hormones governing taste in film somewhat simplistic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Musée Grevin

Parisian waxmuseum; a quite impressive number of fairly life-like waxdolls, of mostly French men & women, in ritzy belle-époque settings. Exorbitant entrance fees, however.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Henri IV, Le Roi Bienveillant

Henri IV was born of a Calvinist mother, but later converted to Catholicism in order to become king of France (late 16th c), hence the famous quote "Paris vaut bien une messe" (see Oréal's "Je le vaux bien" for comprehension). He was an broad-minded and magnanimous ruler, author of the Edict of Nantes which authorised freedom of religion (and the revocation of which, in 1685, is said to have contributed to the British industrial revolution) (No way could the English have accomplished that on their own!) (Joking! Joking!).

This was an OK biography; light reading and lots of illustrations.

I now realise I may have beaten my own record of parentheses per paragraph today. What a way to begin a Sunday!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Souvenirs retrouvés - Kiki de Montparnasse

From a miserable childhood in rural Bourgogne, Kiki went on to be elected Queen of Montparnasse and partied flapper-like at La Coupole and La Rotonde in the company of great artists such as André Derain, Amedeo Modigliani, Soutine, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray and the rest of the 1920s clique.

Her mémoirs present rather an ingénue charm and naive clear-sightedness that is in no way inherent to first-person, self-written mémoirs (for evidence, read Lemmy Kilmister's 'White Line Fever' and ascertain for yourself what a die-hard retrograde he reveals himself to be).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rumeurs et Tremblements - Option théâtre, lycée MP

The school where I teach offers an optional theatre course, so every spring there is the annual show to attend.

The course totals around 50 students, so for everyone to get to enter the stage, they act out a selection of dialogues from various plays around a common theme.

As this is a French high school, and not exactly 'Glee' or 'Fame' (or even anything remotely less factitious) the extracts yesterday were chosen from Beaumarchais, Strindberg, Giraudoux, Ionesco and the likes. Not always very gay!

What is gay, however, is to watch the students perform! Always a pleasure!

(Picture from a performance a few years back, couldn't find anything from this year.)

(You mean some bloggers actually take their own pictures??)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Joyful Noise - Gossip

None of my ears had even budged yesterday when my ungrateful kids began whining about how they were fed up with Adam Lambert.
Ever the dutiful mother, always prepared to yield to my children, I assented to mixing up Lambert with the latest opus by Beth Ditto & friends.

This, too, is Good Music, albeit different : a bit more presumptuous, a bit more high-brow. Love her voice, though! Love that she is fat and outgoing! Love their well-wrought lyrics!
(No offence, Adam, but you need to work on yours!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trespassing - Adam Lambert

Lo and behold! Adam Lambert's long-awaited (well, by me anyway) album is finally, finally here!

Before all else, let me state that disappointment was a foregone conclusion in this case, I was well aware of that. To follow up a huge success (well, in my book anyway) is a practical impossibility. (Cannot tell you how I pity poor Adele, for instance; no matter what she does, there is no way she will ever be able to match '21'.)

That being said, Lambert seems to be walking down a very common road, but in reverse. Indeed, where 'For Your Entertainment' was a bombastic, personalized pop/rock album, this is more streamlined, conventional popmusic.
But whatever! It still counts as Good Music, and I intend to listen to it til my ears fall off.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett

Quite unwittingly, I deviated from my habitual ways with this play : As a rule, I like to read books in the language they were written in, when I can. Not until this afternoon did I learn that Irishman Beckett actually penned this drama in French before translating it himself into English.

Try as I may, I am having a hard time assessing this opus. It is unmistakably a major work in the sense that it was groundbreaking. To form a proper opinion, I would have to do some literary analysis first, and I just can't be bothered right now. Nor do I really have the time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lunar Park - Bret Easton Ellis

Until my twenties, I regularly re-read my favourite books (I think I knew most of the Laura Ingalls Wilder-series by heart). Then I decided life was too short, and the books were just too many. By now, however, I believe I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is no way I am going to be able to go through even half of them, since I actually have a life to live, as well. Possibly, that is why I now take pleasure in re-reading certain books.

'Lunar Park', for instance, was well worth the trouble. I found it brilliant at its release in 2005, and it is still brilliant! And I mean Brilliant!!! Ellis is so talented it hurts! (Hurts even more when you consider he wrote 'American Psycho' at merely 24.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tate Britain

When you are a teacher visiting a museum with a class of students, you truly appreciate it when the museum is open.
Admittedly, when we got to Tate Britain last Thursday, it was open, but undergoing such extensive renovation that a relatively small part of their artworks were exhibited to the public.
As a consequence, the students finished their worksheets in much less time than we had anticipated and also, I was hugely disappointed about missing out on their collection of William Blake paintings and engravings (not currently displayed).

Nevertheless, the renovated rooms containing an impressive collection of William Turners were rather breathtaking, and so that compensated at least to some extent.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A voté.

You may argue that François Hollande has kept such a low profile that he is more blandness than anything else.
I, however, believe that this insipidness has been a valuable asset, since everyone - not only in leftist Paris - seem so incredibly fed up with Sarkozy's high-profile, bling, omnipresident, loud and rather tawdry personality that the main issue for most voters I have spoken to, even traditional right-wing people, appears to be Sarkozy's vacating of the premises, ASAP.

I have just contributed to this in my modest way, and so can now leave Paris for London for the forthcoming week.

Hastalavista, see you next Sunday.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Haunted House... - Virginia Woolf

Third-year-students in séctions Economique & Sociale and Littéraire in French lycées (high schools) have the possibility to choose optional English. In this class, we study a work of literature, chosen from a list provided by the Board of Education.

The choice of Virginia Woolf was not an obvious one : Although I personally consider her a genius, her narrative style is rather convoluted and sometimes difficult to approach.
All the more of a challenge!

I must confess, at first, my students were not overwhelmingly delighted with her short stories. Admittedly, some of them are pure experimental writing (no plot, no characters...) and certainly not an easy read.
In the course of the year, however, many students have come to appreciate the stories better and the analyses they provide are sometimes very impressive! 

I am particularly happy about having studied this book in this class this year, as the curriculum is changing in September, and there will be no more of these one-book-one-year-classes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

William Blake

I am much too impatient a reader to properly appreciate poetry. I tend to read on and then turn the page when I'm done. Not one for reflexion or introspection.

One of the very few poets I do like is William Blake; pre-Romantic, late-18th-century Englishman.
Flamboyant, dramatic, complex and highly self-willed. Not one for modesty or discretion!

I also delight in his paintings and engravings but that is in fact most likely because they are so closely linked to the poems.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Whatever Works - W. Allen (2009)

I was a bit sour about missing this film at its release, as both Woody Allen and Larry David make me laugh. Was pleased to come across it on TV last night, therefore!

As expected, it was diverting, Larry David mostly playing himself (at least as he showed himself in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and the G. Costanza-character in 'Seinfeld' which was based on him) and as such, being a grumpier and less whining version of Woody Allen's routine main character. Of similar age, though, so there was no escaping the age difference in the leading couple. And I'm sorry, but I have a hard time with that kind of age difference when it so obvioulsy mirrors a power balance.

Apart from that, the film basically followed the pattern of a Shakespeare-comedy; complete with multiple marriages in the end, subplots, soliloquies and addresses to the audience.
This said, and however much I enjoy both, I draw no other parallels between Woody Allen and Shakespeare.