The Great Fall of French Cinema

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

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It has been a great fall for French cinema. Of course everybody is talking about ‘The Artist’ which is being released in the US this month right on time for the Oscar race but three other films inspired by real-life stories have also created quite a buzz in recent months. It all started in September with the release of Valérie Donzelli’s ‘La guerre est declarée’ (Declaration of war), a moving story about a couple’s battle against their baby’s brain tumour.

The subject may sound heavy but the movie is never melodramatic and even provides a lot of funny moments. It follows the couple as they set up an organization and mobilize the troops to fight the enemy. From the beginning we know they will succeed and because it is based on the own real-life experiences of the two stars, Donzelli and ex-boyfriend Jérémie Elkaïm, the movie has an intensity that we usually do not find in a fictional story. The film will be France’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the84th Academy Awards 2012.

The next movie, Polisse‘, is about the daily life of a police brigade dealing with the protection of young children. Shot in a documentary style, the winner of the Jury’s prize at this yearCannes Festival offers a realistic look at the terrible crimes a group of officers has to deal with and the impact they have ontheir personal lives.

Between fathers molesting their children and a motherdropping her baby on the pavement, there is no shortage of tragic scenes. Yet, somehow, director Maïwenn Le Besco, manages to make a film that is touching and emotional but also very entertaining and even hilarious at times. Not a small feat by any means!

Finally, the last movie, ‘Intouchables‘ is the surprise French box office hit of the year. Based on a true story, this caustic comedy centers on the relationship between a quadriplegic aristocrat and the young black man from Paris’ poor ghettoes he hires to take care of him. Avoiding all the clichés you might expect from this type of film, ‘Intouchables’ is a real feel good movie that is being hailed by many critics as the new ‘Amélie‘ or ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis‘.

 

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Menton Celebrates Multi-Talented Artist, Jean Cocteau, with Brand-New Museum

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

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It has been a long and rich love story between the city of Menton and poet, painter, film-maker and dramatist Jean Cocteau; a story that dates back to the 1950s when the artist was commissioned by the city to create a number of artworks, including the Salle des Mariages in the city hall. In recognition, the city adopted Cocteau as an honorary citizen. A few years later, the multi-talented artist designed his own museum in a small and abandoned fort, the “Bastion”, which he restored and decorated with mosaics and tapestries to house some of his own artworks. On the 6th of November, a new museum dedicated to the artist, the Jean Cocteau Museum – Séverin Wunderman Collection will open its doors in Menton’s old town.

Located in a striking building which evokes a labyrinth, the collection is made up of over 2,000 works, including 1,190 drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts by Cocteau himself. It also includes 172 photographs relating to Cocteau and 278 works by fellow artists such as PicassoModigliani and Di Chirico. Most of the collection was gathered by art lover, Séverin Wunderman, former owner of Swiss luxury watch brand Corum.

The goal of the museum is to present the different aspects ofJean Cocteau’s genius but also to show the man behind the myth. The works are therefore arranged based on seven specific themes that each corresponds to an important stage in the artist’s career: the topic “Blood of the Poet” for instance is connected with Cocteau’s most renowned literary works, such as “Les Enfants Terribles” and “La Machine Infernale“, while another one “Mysteries” features the poetry and films Cocteau created post-WWII, such as “La Belle et la Bête“.

Moreover, since Cocteau is considered to be one of the fathers of contemporary art, temporary exhibitions will highlight current contemporary artists. The first one to be honoured isBordeaux based artistJean Sabrier, who gives new perspectives to paintings through art history. This exhibition runs until 7th May 2012.

The space also includes an educational workshop areaintended for school groups, an appointment-only print roomfeaturing additional works from the collection, a documentation center, an indoor and outdoor café, and a gift shop.

This new museum, which is the largest collection in the world of works by Cocteau, is expected to draw 100,000 visitors a year. That should definitely be enough to put Menton on the cultural map, in a region that already is home to many great modern art museums.

Silence is Golden in Black and White Movie ‘The Artist’

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

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It is not often that a French movie creates a buzz in Oscar circles in Hollywood, but you can trust film producer Harvey Weinstein to recognize a worthy contender when he sees it and to turn it into a multiple nominee. His company bought the rights to ‘The Artist’ for the American market before it even premiered in Cannes this year to critical acclaim, and will release it in November right on time for the Oscar race. It probably helps that ‘The Artist’, which pays tribute to the Hollywood movies from the late 1920s, has been filmed as a silent movie! Liberated from the language barrier, the film has already proven to be a crowd pleaser in Toronto and San Sebastian, and one has to recognize that indeed it is a wonderful piece of work on every level.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and staring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, the film follows the downfall of a Douglas Fairbanks’ look-alike George Valentin, a Hollywood superstarwhose popularity begins to wane with the arrival of talking cinema in the late 1920s, just as that of young ingenue, Peppy Miller rises.

Audacious, touching, witty, visually stunning and beautiful crafted, ‘The Artist‘ is also wonderfully acted. Dujardin, who took this year’s Best Actor honours at Cannes, may still be unknown in the US but he is already a huge star in Francewhere he is famous, notably for his part over many years in a daily TV sketch comedy show as well as in Hazanavicius’ series of spy spoofs OSS 117.

The supporting cast includes several English-speaking actors such as John GoodmanJames CromwellPenelope Ann Miller and Malcolm McDowell, as well as an amazing canine performer named Uggy.

Modern day audiences are somehow reluctant to watch black-and-white silent movies but with this love letter to a forgotten art, Hazanavicius is showing the world that you sometimes do not need spoken dialogues to carry emotions or visual effects to entertain moviegoers. It is still too early to know what chance ‘The Artist’ has of winning an Academy Award, but there is little doubt in my mind that it will capture the heart of people all around the globe.

 

 

10 Reasons to Fall in Love with San Francisco

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

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One can fall in love with a city. It happened to me some 14 years ago. I came to San Francisco as a law student to do a 9-month internship and ended up staying there nearly 10 years. And if today the girl from St.Tropez in me is glad to be back on the French Riviera, with its beautiful landscape and glorious weather, I have, like millions of other people before me, left a piece of my heart in San Francisco.

People keep asking me why I like the city so much but I don’t have a simple and clear answer. I like the city as a whole. However if I had to give ten good reasons to visit San Francisco, they would be the following:

1 – A beautiful city

This one is a given. Located at the tip of the peninsula between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean and built on 43 hills, San Francisco offers some of the most breathtaking views you will ever see. The city hasn’t been ruined by ugly high-rises and wherever you go, you will find beautiful Victorian houses, cute little cable-cars and impressive architectural prowesses such as the striking Golden Gate Bridge or the highly recognizableTransAmerica pyramid (pictured below).

2 – A walkable city

San Francisco is a relatively small city of only about seven square miles which can easily be explored in a few days and on foot. Yes, the streets are sometimes steepvery steep even, but you will be rewarded every step of the way by beautiful views of the city and little discoveries here and there, such ashidden stairwaysoriginal murals and perched gardens.

3 – Diverse neigbourhoods

There are over 30 neighbourhoods in San Francisco, each one with a unique personality, feel and charm. The Mission with itsMexican Taquerias is very different from Castro, the gay district, which in turn has little in common with Haight Ashburywhere the Summer of Love started or the Marina where the young and fit 20- and 30-somethings live. Yet all the neigbourhoods coexist peacefully. It is impossible to determine where exactly North Beach with all its Italian restaurantsends and where Chinatown starts, and if you walk alongFillmore Street you will pass by Japan Town to go from one of the city’s richest neigbourhood, Pacific Heights, with all its superb mansions, to one of the poorest, Western Addition.

4 – A multicultural and ethnically diverse city

San Francisco is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the US. From the gold rush era to the present, the city has welcomed waves of immigrants from around the world. Everybody can feel at home in San Francisco: It is probably the most European of US cities but it also has a hugeMexican population and boasts the biggest Chinatown in the world.

5 – A tolerant city

Probably because of its multiculturalismSan Francisco has the reputation of being the most liberal and open-minded city in the USA. Terribly rebellious, the city has nurtured the Beat Generation, started the Flower Power revolution, saw the start of the Black Panther’s movement and designed the Rainbow flag as a symbol of gay and lesbian community pride. No matter in which era you are, there is always a revolution going on!

6 – A paradise for food lovers

San Franciscans love to eat and Californian cuisine is known for cooking fresh local ingredients in simple ways and for mixing the culinary traditions of many different countries. The quality and quantity of restaurants in the city make San Francisco a real food heaven. You will find wonderful Farmer’s Markets and very diverse restaurants from Mexican delis to Japanese restaurants and from Italian trattorias to Ethiopian places. And of course, the wine country is only just a short drive away from the city.

7 – An artsy city

The city has a great art scene with many museums andgalleries, internationally recognized symphonyopera andballet companies, and avant garde theatre and dance companies. The nightlife is vibrant and diverse as indie rock, latin music, jazz, blues or swing can be found all over town.

8 – A tech capital

Arguably the tech capital of the worldSan Francisco’s Bay Area is home to an extraordinary array of breakthrough companies such as GoogleAppleeBayPixar and LucasFilm. It also boasts some of the nation’ s top universities such asStanford and UC Berkeley.

9 – A Mediterranean climate

This point may not be obvious to everyone. Mark Twain once said “The coldest winter I have ever spent was a summer in San Francisco“, and it is true that July and August are particularly foggy. However, for the most part, San Francisco’s weather is temperate. The temperatures seldom dip below 40°F, or reach90°F all year long. And anyway, because the city has its ownmicro climate, you just need to drive a few miles away to find temperatures that can be 20°F higher.

10 – Surroundings

Finally, if you like nature, San Francisco has it all. North and south you have wonderful beaches such as Santa Cruz andStinson, while Ocean Beach in the city is a perfect place to go surfing. If you like skiing, the beautiful mountains of Lake Tahoe are just a few hours away. Napa Valley is always a great destination to go sample wines while Muir Woods and its giant redwoods and Yosemite National Park are amazing places to visit.

Munich – much more than just the land of beer

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

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Munich, the capital of the State of Bavaria is renowned worldwide for its Oktoberfest, but the city has a lot more to offer to the traveler than just beer, regardless of the time of year. And since it is barely an hour and a half away from the French Riviera by plane, it makes for a perfect destination for a weekend gateway.

Situated on the River IsarMunich is one of the bigger tourism hubs in Germany and one of the major cultural centers in the nation. It features many old buildings, churches and palaces that highlights fine examples of GothicRenaissanceBaroque andneo-classical architecture. In the center, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the New Town Hall is notably famous for its beautiful carillon that is over 100 years old. Twice a day, at 11am and noon, people like to gather in front of it to watch the32 life-sized figures reenact historical Bavarian events.

Not far from it is the site of the Victuals Market, a popular open market which offers fresh products, a wide range of winesand many nice cafés.

Further away from the center, the Nymphenburg Palace, the former summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs, boasts beautiful gardens and a lavishly decorated interior. Munich is also home to many museums, well-known all throughout Europe, and modern buildings such as the BMW Welt Munich, constructed in the shape of a double-cone, located near theOlympic Park.

Of course, no visit to Munich, or München as it is called in German, would be complete without a stop in the world-famous beer hall, HofBräuhaus or to one of the city’s many beer gardens where locals like to meet to share a pint or two.

If you have more than two days, you should definitively head to the nearby Bavarian Alps to visit the three of King Ludwig II’s castles: The stocky Hohenschwangau where “the Mad King” spent his childhood, the breathtakingly beautifulNeuschwanstein (pictured above), which served as a model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, and the small and exquisite Linderhof.

Finally, because one should never forget the horror of the holocaust, a visit to the concentration camp of Dachau, 10 miles northwest of Munich, is almost a requirement. The complex which was one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany, contains the original prisoner baths, barracks, courtyards, and the crematorium, as well as an extensive exhibition and various memorials.

Family Relations Turn Sour in new French Movie Set in Saint-Émilion

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

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Newly released movie Tu seras mon fils, (You Will Be My Son) is much more than just a story about the complexities of family relations, it also provides an interesting look at the issue of the transmission of knowledge and heritage and tradition in the world of wine.

Directed by Gilles Legrand (Malabar Princess, The Maiden and the Wolves) and starring Niels Arestrup (A Prophet), Lorànt Deutsch (Jean de La Fontaine), Anne MarivinPatrick Chesnais (The Reader), Nicolas Bridet and Valérie Mairesse, the film follows Paul de Marseul (Arestrup), the owner of a prestigious vineyard in Saint-Émilion as he gets ready for the harvest.

Extremely authoritarian and demanding, Marseul cannot stand the thought that his son (Deutsch), who works with him on the estate, will one day succeed him. He dreams of a more talentedmore charismatic son that would be more in line with his idea of the perfect heir. The return from California of Philippe (Bridet), the brilliant son of his dying estate-manager (Chesnay) will mark the start of a dangerous war between two fathers and two sons.

The fact that this caustic and cruel movie takes places in a world where tradition means everything, definitively adds depths to the central issue of the story: Does a father have the right to reject his own offspring in favour of a substitute?

Legrand had originally wanted to set its film in Burgundy but after meeting Stéphane Derenoncourt, the consultant of the Saint Emilion Premier Cru Château Clos Fourtet, he reworked the script to focus on the Bordeaux region. It features the actual staff of the estate and Clos Fourtet’s technical director,Daniel Allard, even has a couple of lines in the movie.

Tu Seras Mon Fils is distributed by Universal Films, and opened in French cinemas on 24th August. It has been sold internationally by Other Angle Pictures.

Commemorating Operation Dragoon, the D-Day of the South of France

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

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Less famous than Operation Overlord which took place ten weeks earlier in Normandy, the airborne and seaborne assault of the 15th of August, 1944 – Originally titled Operation Anvil before being code named Operation Dragoon – was the southern land invasion by the Allied Forces, led by one French (the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force) and three American divisions (the 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions) under the command of General Alexander Patch.

At the time leading up to the landing, Winston Churchill was vehemently opposed to the campaign on the grounds that it diverted military resources from the on-going Allied operations in Italy, while German forces, fed with deceitful information, feared a pending invasion in Genoa, a stronghold of the Nazi regime.

The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop of French commandos followed by an amphibious assault made up of 6 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 21 cruisers and 100 destroyers along with 500 transport ships.

The landing took place on three beaches at Cavalaire and Pampelonne BaysAgay and St. Maxime. Thanks to the help of the French Resistance which cut communication lines, the German army was caught by surprise and the allies encountered little opposition and suffered few casualties and setbacks. Within two weeks they simultaneously captured Toulon and Marseille, before swiftly heading North, up the Rhône Valley. They liberated Lyon on the 3rd of September, and linked up with Patton’s Third Army on the 11th of September.

Operation Dragoon was an outstanding success for the Allied forces. It enabled them to liberate most of France in only 4 weeks, two months ahead of their previously estimated time of completion, while inflicting heavy casualties to the German forces.

Today a few monuments commemorate this forgotten D-Day , on the 70 km of coastline between Cavalaire-sur-Mer and Saint Raphaël. At the Rhone American cemetery in Draguignan, for instance, above all the graves, a stone wall is inscribed: “We who lie here died that future generations might live in peace.”

Like every year, French officials all along the coast will pay homage this coming Monday to all the men who freed the country from Nazi occupation and maybe, like in 2010, we will have a chance to see a few American chars on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

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.