The Well-Digger’s Daughter – a story of tenderness, sorrow and forgiveness

Cet article a été publié dans FR2DAY en 2011 (this article was published in FR2DAY in 2011)

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No writer has managed to capture in words the beauty of Provence and the manners of its people as well as novelist and film-maker Marcel Pagnol did, which is why his books have often been adapted into movies. Film-maker Claude Berri for instance released to critical acclaim an updated version of Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources in the 1980s while Pagnol’s affectionate reminiscences of his childhood, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère were filmed successfully by Yves Robert in 1990.

Now, it is the turn of Daniel Auteuil (pictured above) to direct a new version of La Fille du Puisatier (The Well-Digger’s Daughter), originally filmed by Pagnol in 1940 and starringRaimu and Fernandel. The actor from Avignon who rose to international success playing the love-struck Ugolin in Berri’s adaptations has chosen for his directorial debut a beautiful story of love, tenderness, sorrow and forgiveness that still entertains and moves audiences more than 70 years later.

Shot between the Bouches-du-Rhône (St. Remy de Provence, Boulbon, Graveson, Maillane, Le Paradou and les Baux de Provence), the Var (Brignoles) and the Vaucluse (Cavaillon and L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue), the movie centers on 18-year Patricia, the eldest of well-digger Pascal Amoretti’s six daughters.

One day as she brings her lunch to her father, she meets the handsome fighter pilot, Jacques Mazel. The two young people soon become lovers but their happiness is short-lived as World War II breaks out in Europe and Jacques is sent to the front. When Patricia finds out she is pregnant, she is accused of blackmail by Jacques’ rich parents and sent away by her father to live with an aunt in order to hide her pregnancy and avoid any scandal. However, after Jacques goes missing in action and is feared dead, the three grand-parents decide it is time to find a way to reconcile with the “disgraced girl“.

Besides Auteuil as the well-digger, the cast also includes Kad MeradSabine AzémaJean-Pierre DarroussinNicolas Duvauchelle and newcomer Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Patricia.

Launched on 513 screens by Pathé Films just a week ago, there is no doubt that the film is going to be a success in France and probably abroad. It already marks the beginning of a new adventure for Auteuil as Pathé has recently announced that he will also direct three more Pagnol remakes in 2012: The Marseille trilogy – Marius, Fanny and César.

Café Marché in Nice – the perfect spot for Sunday brunch

Cet article a été publié dans FR2DAY en 2011 (this article was published in FR2DAY in 2011)

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Brunch is all about waking up late on weekends and lingering for hours in a relaxed atmosphere over dishes that can at the same time satisfy food cravings and heal hangovers from the previous night. This not-quite-breakfast, not-quite-lunch concept is catching on fast in France, especially among the thirtysomething crowd, but if Nice has not climbed on the bandwagon just yet, the city now counts among its newest restaurants a place that truly does brunch the right way…the Café Marché.

Tucked away in the backstreets of Old Nice, just a few blocks away from the bustling Cours Saleya, this little, nicely decorated restaurant offers every Sunday, from 9am to 5pm, a nice balance between savoury and sweet, with a choice of breakfast as well as lunch items, always made with the best quality ingredients.

For instance, for just 9,90 Euros you can have the sweet brunch which includes a hot drink – Café Marché has a very good selection of teas – a freshly squeezed juice, some slices of bread and jam or honey, some pancakes, brioches or gingerbreads and a plate of eggs.

For the same price, you can also have a savoury brunch which includes a hot drink, a fresh squeezed juice, a club sandwich, a salad or a soup and a plate of eggs. And for just 5 Euros more, you can have a combination of the two!

The friendly staff makes you feel at home and relaxed enough to enjoy a nice conversation with your friends or finish another section of the Sunday paper while nibbling on your food. A real paradise for brunch lovers! Be sure however to make a reservation beforehand as the place gets crowded very fast. Reservations may be made by either emailing Café Marché or by phoning 09.81.84.92.49

Photograph courtesy Café Marché

February is just around the corner – time for some Crêpes!

Article publié dans FR2DAY en février 2011 (article published in FR2DAY in February 2011)

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February is now just around the corner and, as often in France, with each new month come new festivities to look forward to, as well as some particular culinary traditions! If in January it is customary to share some “galettes des rois” with family, friends and colleagues, February is the month when the French make crêpes, particularly on the 2nd of February to celebrate the Catholic holiday of La Chandeleur (Candlemas).

Candlemas is a Christian feast commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Like in English, the name comes from the word «chandelle» (candle), as people used to bring back the lighted candles from church to assure good crops for the year to come and to chase the evil.

The reason why crêpes are eaten in France on that particular day is unfortunately quite vague. According to some versions, the tradition dates back to the time of Pope Gélase I, who was famous for feeding crêpes to the pilgrims coming to Rome. For other sources however, the form and colour of the crepes evoke the Sun, which is just about to reappear after a long, dark, and cold winter.

One thing is sure though, crêpes still symbolize today good crops, wealth and health for the year to come. Just as goes the popular saying, “Eating crêpes on Candlemas Day will bring a year of happiness”, it remains traditional to hold a coin in one hand and a crêpe pan in the other before tossing the crêpe into the air. Whoever manages to catch the crêpe in the pan without dropping it on the floor, will be prosperous for the rest of the year.

Galette des Rois – the Christmas Feast continues!

Article publié dans FR2DAY en février 2011 (article published in FR2DAY in february 2011)

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If you thought the holiday season was nearing to an end, think again! Over the last few days, in every bakery and food shop across France, “the Galette Des Rois”, literally the Kings’ cake, has been making its appearance to the delight of little kids eagerly awaiting the ceremony that goes with it. This special cake which is eaten throughout the month of January is made to celebrate the Epiphany and the arrival, 12 days after Christmas, of the Three Kings, bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. It is a culinary tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Depending on the region of France, the cake comes in different forms: In Provence, the classic galette is essentially a brioche shaped like a crown with fruit confits either incorporated into the cake or used as a garnish. Meanwhile, the most common variety, the so-called Parisian Galette, is a puff pastry stuffed with almond paste (frangipane).

However, no matter the form of the cake, what really sets thegalette des rois apart from other delicacies is the fève hidden inside, or even two, which can be a real fava bean or a figurine.

The cake is usually cut so that there is a piece for everyone present as well as an extra piece called la part des pauvres for loved ones who are no longer here and for those who are less fortunate. Nowadays however, the slice is also designated for the unexpected visitor.

Traditionally, the youngest family member crawls beneath the table and calls out each person’s name, randomly, indicating how the slices must be distributed to avoid any cheating. The person who discovers the charm is then crowned king or queen for the day and can choose a royal partner.

La Fête des Rois is a wonderful ending to the Christmas season and a good way to celebrate the New Year at home but also at school or at work.

 

Escape to Lyon and Discover the new City of Light

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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Every year, in early December, millions of people descend on the streets of Lyon in east-central France for the city’s annual light festival, held in honor of the Virgin Mary. The event was initially organized on the 8th of December only but due to its popularity was extended into a four day spectacle of light and sound. In addition to being a time for celebration, the festival also acts as a forum to discuss the issue of light in urban planning and design with other cities in France and elsewhere in the world.

The origins of this visually spectacular festival date back over 150 years to 1852 when a statue of the Virgin Mary was expected to be inaugurated in the hilltop Fourvière basilica. The event had already been postponed several times because of a river flood, and almost did not happen as, on the day of the inauguration, a violent storm broke over the city and another flood was feared. It however quickly passed and come nightfall, the people of Lyon spontaneously lit candles as a sign of appreciation and joy before coming out into the streets to celebrate.

The Festival of Lights was born and the city’s inhabitants have continued the tradition to this day. However, if they still place candles on their windowsills, contemporary light installationsnow also illuminate the city. For fours days, visitors can admire the nearly eighty installations created by the most prestigious designers and conceptual artists from around the world that are scattered throughout Lyon’s streets and squares. The only requirement is that the works must have light and color as sole elements.

The festival is definitively an exceptional opportunity to visit the city, which is just a four to five hour drive away from the Riviera, and discover its main monuments for free and in a new light!

Le Goncourt – The Most Coveted Literary Prize in France

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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Like every year, it has been a pretty frantic fall in bookstores all over France but with the last literary prizes being handed out right now, the “rentrée littéraire” (the start of the new publishing season) is finally coming to an end. Nearly 2,000 literary prizes exist in France, but only a handful of them really provide for a boost in sales: The Goncourt, Renaudot, Femina, Interallié and Médicis. The others mainly bring recognition for the author, such as the Grand Prix awarded by the Académie Française, the almost four-century-old watchdog of the French language, or honor a particular genre: poetry, humor…

However, among all those prizes, the one all French writers really covet is the Goncourt, a prize that dates back to 1903 and counts among its recipients Marcel ProustAndré Malraux,Romain Gary and Marguerite Duras. Not for the check that goes with the award, a mere 10 Euros, but for the celebrity status and royalties it brings to the winner. Indeed, as soon as a novel wins the prize, it starts selling – the winner can expect to sell at least some 500,000 copies of his novel.

This year’s Goncourt was awarded last Monday to Michel Houellebecq, “l’enfant terrible” of French literature for “La Carte et le Territoire” (The Map and the Territory), probably one of the author’s less controversial books.

Set largely in Paris, the novel tells the story of a solitary, misanthropic artist, Jed Martin, who gains global fame first for his photographs of old Michelin maps of regions of France and then for his realistic paintings of business moguls.

The book has garnered enthusiastic reviews from critics and was already a best-seller before winning the Goncourt with more than 150,000 copies sold so far.

Many of Houellbeck’s previous works were fuelled with explicit sex scenes and disparaging and shocking comments about womenminorities and Islam, which explains why the author counts nearly as many detractors as fans. However, few people would disagree that the author, who is without contest France’s best-known living writer, was long over due for the honour. Twice before, he has seen the prize slip through his fingers, in 1998 and 2005, respectively for “Les Particules Elémentaires” (Atomised) and “La possibilité d’une île” (the Possibility of an Island).

Seven of the committee members voted for Houellebecq to receive the prize, with the remaining two supporting Viriginie Despentes and her book “Apocalypse Bébé”, a detective novel about the search for a missing teenage girl. She was awarded the Renaudot Prize, which traditionally goes to the runner-up for the Goncourt.

 

Les Petits Mouchoirs set to break all records

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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It is the movie event of the fall in France … With more than 1.3  tickets sold in just a week, French actor and film director Guillaume Canet’s new offering «Les Petits Mouchoirs» (Little White Lies) is on its way to set the box office record for 2010. It has already broken the box-office record for best opening week by a French film this year. Not really a surprise considering the popularity of Canet, the subject-matter of the movie and its all-star cast.

Guillaume Canet’s  film as director, “Ne le Dis à Personne” (Tell No One), an adaptation of Harlan Coben’s novel of the same name, was the ninth top grossing French film of 2006 and went on to win four César awards (The French equivalent to the Academy Awards) including a César for Best Director for Canet. It also became a foreign-language hit in most European countries as well as at the U.S. box office.

While ‘Tell No One‘ was a tight thriller, this new movie is an emotional multiple-story work about friendship, with all thecowardiceuncontrollable laughter and emotional woundsthat go with it. The film follows a group of longtime friends in their thirties and forties who, like every year, plan to travel from Paris to the seaside peninsula Cap Ferrat to spend their summer vacation. However, this year, as they get ready to leave the capital, their friend Ludo is hurt in a serious accident; an event that will set off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses. As each character struggles with the news, he or she will have to “lift the veil” on all the secrets and things that have been left unsaid.

It is Canet’s most personal and intimate film, one he has been working on for more than two years, and to add even more authenticity to it, he has chosen his real-life friends to play the protagonists, starting with his girlfriend, Academy award winner Marion Cotillard, who plays a bisexual documentarian, François Cluzet, Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lelouche, Benoît Magimel and Anne Marivin. He even gave supporting roles to his musician friends Matthieu Chedid (aka M) and Maxim Nucci (aka Yodélice) who play two of Cotillard’s love interests.

The movie may not be a masterpiece but it strikes the perfect balance between great comical situations and emotional scenes to embark the audience on a real and entertaining rollercoaster of emotions.

 

Of Gods and Men – A Plea for Tolerance and Understanding

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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Released just a week ago and winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Xavier Beauvois’s latest movie “Des hommes et des dieux” (Of Gods and Men”) is a beautiful hymn to peace and fraternity, as well as a compassionate plea for tolerance and understanding between religions.

The movie, which is set in a Cistercian monastery in Algeria, is based on the true story of seven French monks who were killed by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. Nearly 15 years have passed since the tragedy but the identity of those responsible remains unclear. The massacre was initially attributed to the GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé) but according to documents from French secret services, the monks may have been killed instead by the Algerian army during a failed rescue attempt.

Beauvois does not try to solve the mystery but instead focuses on the last few months of the monks, their quiet existence in the monastery in cordial harmony with the local Muslim population, and their doubts as the country is increasingly falling into the grips of fundamentalists. His film may be about men of God but it goes beyond religion to become a movie about men.

Should we stay or should we leave? That’s the question the brothers are musing on for the most part of the movie. ‘Dying for my faith shouldn’t keep me up at nights,’ says at one point one of the Cistercian monks to the others but as days go by and violence escalates outside their walls, none of them manages to present any real argument for leaving or for staying.

Without any artifices or unnecessary melodrama, Beauvois put the audience in the monks’ sandals and lets the story tell itself. The brothers are endearing characters and are portrayed by a terrific ensemble cast led by Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. In the dinner sequence near the end, the camera shows each protagonist one by one and it is hard not to be mesmerized by those faces.

Xavier Beauvois has made a name for himself with movies such as N’oublie pas que tu vas mourir (Don’t Forget You’re Going To Die) in 1995 and the police story Le Petit Lieutenant (2005) but with this powerful drama, he is really showing that he is mastering his art.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio – an author for all seasons

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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Now that the summer is here, there are a few essentials that you need at the beach: the towels, the sun block and the parasol of course but also…good books. Some will opt for frivolous or light novels but for those of you looking for something more substantial, this summer may offer a good occasion to discover – or rediscover – the work of local author and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio which is now, for the most part, available in English.

Hailed by the Nobel Prize committee as “an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”, Le Clézio was born in Nice in 1940. He began writing at the age of seven en route to Nigeria where his father was a medical doctor in the British army. The family returned to Nice in 1950, where Le Clézio completed his secondary education before attending the Bristol University, the University of London, the University of Aix-en-Provence and the University of Perpignan.

As a writer, Le Clézio made his breakthrough in 1963 with his first novel, Le Procès-verbal (The Interrogation), which was awarded the prestigious Renaudot Prize. Since then, he has published more than 30 books and has lived and taught all over the world – including at a Buddhist university in Thailand.

The author has dual French and Mauritian citizenship and today he and his Moroccan wife, Jemia, share their time between Albuquerque in New Mexico, the island of Mauritius and Nice. Considered by many critics as an avant-garde writer, his work has been inspired by his constant travels. The clash of cultures, man’s struggle against globalization, exile, memory and the endurance of the human spirit are some of the recurrent themes in his books.

Désert (1980), for instance, is an epic novel that spans the twentieth century and ranges across two continents; North Africa and Europe. It tells the story of a young nomad woman, Lalla, from the Sahara who became a successful photo model in France before returning to Tangiers to give birth to her child. A parallel story tells of the crushing of the Tuaregs at the beginning of the 20th century by the French colonizers.

In Étoile Errante (Wandering Star), Le Clézio wrote about a Jewish woman who in 1943, found safety in Saint-Martin-Vésubie. The refugees are eyed with some suspicion by the local population and soon have to flee again and the heroine will spend the following forty years searching for safety and inner peace. Meanwhile, the author’s latest novel,Ritournelle de la Faim explores French guilt over its wartime past.

Grimaud – One of France’s Most Beautiful Detours

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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The medieval village of Grimaud, in Le Var, may not have made the list of the “most beautiful French villages”, it is nonetheless considered one of France’s “plus beaux détours”, an honour bestowed on little towns with a population of at least 2,000 but no more than 20,000.

Located just a few miles away from the world-famous and glamorous St. Tropez, this charming perched-village has managed to remain unspoiled and offers a relaxed and calm alternative to tourists wary of the crowded summers on the Riviera.

Just take any of the cobbled streets and start wondering among the terracotta tiled houses and the bougainvillier flowered façades. You will relive a long history that began with the Gallo-Roman age. Your steps will lead you to the ruins of the 11th Century castle that offers an amazing panoramic view of the Gulf of Saint Tropez, which, until the end of the 19th century was called “Gulf of Grimaud“. For a long time – until the 17th century to be precise – the castle controlled the access to the gulf from the North and from the Maures mountains.

During your stroll, you will pass by the St. Michel’s Church, built during the Roman era, the Penitents’ Chapel (15th Century), St. Roch’s Chapel (18th Century), St. Roch’s Windmill, built in the 17th Century but restored recently by the “Compagnons du Tour de France“, as well as many cute squares and beautiful provencal houses.

Further down the hill, the remains of the 16th century Pont des Fées (“fairy bridge”) shows how the village’s water supply was guaranteed.

Today, however, Grimaud is much more than just a medieval village and its most famous feature is probablyPort-Grimaud, which cannot be more different from the village itself. Conceived in 1966 by the architect François Spoerry, this marina or “lake-dwelling” city has more than 2,400 properties and more than 2,000 boat moorings. It also has 7km of canals, spread over 90 hectares and is one of the most frequented places in France. However, despite its modernity, it has been declared a registered monument of the 20th century by the Ministry of Culture.