Sunday, February 15, 2009

Full Moon in Paris

Les Nuits de la Pleine Lune (Full Moon in Paris) turns on the following proverb: "He who has two women loses his mind. He who has two houses loses his soul".

Not surprisingly for Eric Rohmer, the 'he' is in fact a 'she'. Louise (the late Pascale Ogier) lives with her boyfriend Remi (Tcheky Karyo) in a drab dormitory suburb. When the film begins she is already working on restoring her Paris apartment, her pied-a-terre, where she can, if she likes, spend occasional nights staying over in town. 

As one might. 

This is not going down well with Remi, whom Louise deftly out-maneuvers with some typically rapid fire joustings. "Surely you want me to be happy? This will make me happy, therefore you ought to be happy that I am doing this." 

Louise is a young (and quite beautiful) design graduate. She has a friend, Octave (Fabrice Luchini), a writer whose self-obsession and self-importance is a comic counterpoint to Louise, who merely wants her own way in most things. Louise is one of those beautiful, capricious women that one goes to university in order to meet. Indeed how she came to be with the rather stolid Remi is a bit of a mystery. Their relationship is prickly, unfulfilling, unhappy. In wanting both worlds, her own life in Paris and the stable but rather boring suburbs, Louise is walking a tight-rope. She is tempted by others but wants to hold firm to her ideals, however muddled they might be.

Full Moon in Paris shares some of the concerns of Love in the Afternoon, though the characters arrive at a different destination. In the earlier film Frederic, married and living in the suburbs, is attracted to Chloe, an old friend who re-enters his life at a point where he is contemplating the attraction of others. This attraction culminates in one the most exquisite scenes in all Rohmer's films, where Frederic, rather unwisely goes to Chloe's apartment, pursuing his dreams. Louise, likewise, wants to fulfill some half-expressed desire for independence. But in getting what she wishes for it might seem that she is being punished for it. But this would be wring. After all, Louise might be unwise, even a little misled, but in the end it is not that she is forced to choose but that her choices have been made for her.

This film might not have all the surface sparkle of others like My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, Pauline a la Plage or A Summer's Tale. Despite the title, the film is something of an anti-romantic film. The comedy is disguised by the apparently indulgent, self-absorbed actions of Louise and Octave. On the other hand, my wife was agog at the early 1980s fashion, which included extravagant cowl-necks, a black faux-punk zipper shouldered dress, Louise's flamboyant beehive hair-style and period precise elbows-in dancing. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Honk if you 4QATED today

SA4QE, as I mentioned in an earlier post, celebrates the work of writer Russell Hoban.

Today, 4 February, is Hoban's 84th birthday. He is still writing and his books for children, teenagers and adults, are still published, read and enjoyed.

Here's my 4qation, left in the State Library's La Trobe Reading Room. I chose this piece because of the way it plays with ideas about language, creativity and time. 

“Burning to say something! shouted the night watchman. “It is in me, something to say!”
“You simply don’t know how it is with literary people like me,” the crocodile went on. “The waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect time!”
The night watchman had burned more incense than usual that evening. He was giddy with the fragrance and the heat of it, words danced in his head. In all the words of his own language he found nothing to say, but as the hours passed his mind became full of the sounds of the language the crocodile spoke so flowingly. Unknown words danced in his head. Eleven o’clock came, half-past eleven. Then it was midnight, and there was that tiny buzzing pause while his clock gathered itself to strike twelve times.
“NOW IS THE ONLY TIME THERE IS!” shouted the night watchman. He shouted in the crocodile’s language, in words he did not know the meaning of.
“What’s that?” said the startled crocodile as the clock finished its twelve strokes.

From La Corona and the Tin Frog by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Nicola Bayley
London, 1979

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bravo, Babar!

Recently I was talking with my colleague and we agreed that Babar, the elephant character of French picture books, is a curious beast. There is something a bit antiquated about these books that doesn't quite leap easily into the modern idiom. I suppose that is part of the charm. 

As a parent, I never found that my young reader nor myself particularly enjoyed the world of Babar. As we did say, the poems of AA Milne and the stories of Winnie the Pooh, to take another antique animal character at random. Bof!

Recently I have been following the blog for Babar, Harry Potter and Compagnie, an exhibition at the BNF in Paris. The exhibition highlights the picture book collection of the Bibliotheque National de France. It's quite a traditional looking show going by the video documentary you can see there. Charming, beautifully curated and designed...but perhaps a little dry for the intended audience. 

Anyway, digging a little further into the website (yes, blog and website, they are full-service library) I discovered this charming page-turn with audio. Taking the Babar book, ABC de Babar, the clever BNF'ers have digitised the pages to create a game of lexical hide and seek. Roll the mouse across the page. Explore the illustrations and discover the words. Click and you can hear the words in French. It's a kind of Gallic Animalia, only with lots of elephants. There is an English version too, but as the French would say, pour quoi?