film noir

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There’s a flu virus circulating around Paris and many people from my office – including me – are at home in bed because of it.  So between naps, mugs of hot tea-honey-lemon and aspirin-paracetamol tablets every 6 hours, I’m snuggled up in bed – just me and my laptop – watching one of my favourite movie genres, “film noir”.  (below are links to three of them plus recommendations.)  And quite frankly, I can’t think of anything nicer to do on a gray, cold, dismal January day.

big-sleep

Where did the term “film noir” come from?

In general, the genre’s hallmarks are a cynical private detective as the protagonist, a femme fatale, multiple flashbacks with voiceover narration, dramatically shadowed photography, and a fatalistic mood leavened with provocative banter.

The term film noir, French for “dark film” is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classical film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Film noir of this era is associated with a low-key black and white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography

Many of the stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.

In the opening scenes there’s often a car careening down a city street (or a desert road) and it’s usually raining and at night.

Yesterday I watched Crime of Passion (1957) featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr.

And Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) with Shelley Winters, Bette Davis and Gary Merrill.  Winters was superb.

Today I watched Gilda (1946).  Wow.  The sexual tension between bombshell Rita Hayworth and pretty boy Glenn Ford is so thick you could cut it with a knife. “I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute.  She was in the air I breathed, in the food I ate.”

I also recommend Mildred Pierce (1945) with Joan Crawford

Laura (1944) with Gene Tierney

Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck

In a Lonely Place (1950) with Humphrey Bogart

Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum

The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogart and Bacall

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews

Fox “News”

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Do people really take Fox “News” seriously?  When I first saw it I thought it was a parody show that ridiculed the ultra-conservative views of the Republican Party.  And then to my horror I realized it wasn’t.  Fox “News” is the home of the Republican Party’s most conservative members.  People like Rush Limbaugh.  Karl Rove.  Dick Cheney.  Ugh.

Oh yes, Fox has an agenda and it’s as unsavory as Sarah Palin.  Last week when “experts” reported that no-go zones exist in the suburbs of Paris – areas where non-Muslims are allegedly not allowed and police supposedly won’t go; where Sharia law is practiced and some streets look like Baghdad – I looked closely at their map with the pink markings on it and burst out laughing.  One of the zones is my old neighbourhood in central Paris!  Other zones are where friends of mine live, also in central Paris.  Gee, I don’t recall being the only non-Muslim living there.  Nor of seeing streets that looked like Baghdad circa 2003.

Prime Minister David Cameron nearly choked on his breakfast porridge after hearing U.S. terror “expert” Steve Emerson claim that Birmingham is also a no-go zone for non-Muslims.

Emerson is a regular contributor to Fox “News”.

Upon reflection, I see that my initial judgment of Fox was correct:  it is a parody.  Of itself.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is taking legal action primarily out of concern for the impact of Fox’s comments on the tourist industry here (yes, sadly there are many Fox viewers in North America who actually believe the right-wing propaganda that is spewed out.)  Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world (84.7 million foreign tourists in 2013). Tourism accounts for 7.3% of France’s GDP

This week a leading French magazine published a guide of trendy restaurants and boutiques entitled “Our best addresses in the “no-go zones” of Fox News”.

Guide Pratique

Nos meilleures adresses dans les “no-go-zones” de Fox News

 

Voltaire

Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire. 

I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it.

I AM THE ORIGINAL CHARLIE !

I AM THE ORIGINAL CHARLIE !

François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the separation of church and state.

He was an outspoken advocate, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.

brand new Charlie cartoons from around the world

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This is satire at its best ! (link below)

Egypt, Iran, Tunisia, the U.S.A., France….scroll down.  Some are in English.  The French ones might be hard to understand if you don’t speak French.  But they’re funny !

My favourites are from Mazen Kerbaj – “I think. Therefore I am no longer.”

One from James where a jihadist holding a machine gun says to his killer-friends “Guys! Guys! I’m being threatened by a pencil! What do I do?”

Gilles Rochier – “Will you lend me a pencil?” “Yeah, but be careful. It’s loaded.”

Tine – At the morgue. “What do I put for cause of death…human stupidity? Or caricature?”

And lastly, a very sad one from Julien Sarraute. A postcard with From Paris with Love written on it and addressed to Al Queda in Yemen and elsewhere. “Hey Al, Today we were with all our friends in Paris. It was super.” signed the Charlie Hebdo victims that were savagely gunned down.

Charlie Hebdo will continue to print.  A “survivor” issue comes out next Wednesday.

http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/09/ca-crayonne-dur-pour-charlie_1176825

bonne année !

And the paradox is that despite their reputation for being oftentimes rude or standoffish, the French are actually quite festive and sentimental. Nowhere has this been more apparent than during these past five days – it’s almost as if they’ve been waiting for January 1st to roll around so they can uncharacteristically smile and cry out “Bonne Année!” to one and all.

I’ve just spent these last few days exchanging New Year’s greetings with every living person that has crossed my path. If dogs could speak, we would’ve bid one another a happy and healthy New Year.

“Bonne Année!”

“Meilleurs voeux!”

“Je vous souhaite tous mes meilleurs voeux pour l’année!”

“Bonne Année, Bonne Santé….surtout la Santé!”

It’s nice. Very nice. But I’m exhausted. I’m not used to all this Parisian jollity. It started with neighbours in my building followed by the postman and then the concièrge and then the café owner and his wife on the corner and then the streetsweepers as they stood on the corner knocking back espressos from the café and having a smoke. Even our local homeless person had something salutary to say. And that was just on my way to work. Once at the office, things really heated up.

Meilleurs voeux!” exclaimed my boss, leaping from her chair when I walked in on Monday morning. I stood in the doorway of her office. Was she going to shake my hand or kiss me?  There’s always that awkward moment when you don’t know whether to stick out your hand or proffer your cheek. The best action to take is to just stand there and let them take charge. Thank goodness Parisians only kiss twice, as opposed to three or four like they do in the nether regions of France.

And so it went on for the next two days: email greetings from the CEO and other self-important people, colleagues stopping by my office to declare, somewhat solemnly “Bonjour Juliet. Je te présente tous mes meilleurs vœux de bonheur et de santé pour l’année.“ I was touched. Truly! Chocolates were passed around and much kissing and laughing went on in corridors. A champagne cocktail party for the entire staff has been organized.

It’s funny, this kissing thing. (As I said, in Paris it’s twice, once on each cheek.) Being Anglo-Saxon, as we’re called here, I’ve never been a fan; I prefer a swift, no-nonsense handshake. I’ve just had a thought … maybe it’s me who’s standoffish??

Anyway, the next festivity will be the Galette des Rois or the Cake of Kings, the delicious flaky pie filled with almond paste baked for Epiphany on 6 January. (Epiphany:  the 12th day after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child.) 

2 gals out on the town – New Year’s Eve

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We’re both originally from Canada and we’re both bloggers. Caitlin, the gal on the left, was visiting from New York.

The plan was to meet for cocktails at The Lone Palm, a vintage hideaway in the 11th arrondissement purporting to be “Where Paris meets Palm Springs.”  It was closed.  So with lots of time to spare, we ambled over to the restaurant where I had booked us two seats at the bar for 7:30 pm.  It was a beautiful clear, cold night.  And this is where it turns costly.  Had The Lone Palm been open, we wouldn’t have been sauntering up the rue Paul Bert looking for a bar in which to enjoy a pre-dinner drink and I wouldn’t have spied a small vintage shop called Anna Colore Industriale.  We went in.  An hour and 10 minutes later, I had splashed a lot of cash (260 euros) on three items…but what a find and what a deal!  The shop specializes in clothes and accessories from the 1950s to the early 90s, vintage deco furniture and upcycling. 

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I saw an Yves Saint Laurent shift dress from his Mondrian collection in merino wool. It was my size. I saw a pair of Italian Pollini boots made from leather so soft and luxuriant I wanted to weep. They were my size. And I saw a mint condition leather handbag that smelled of attic, but it was a nice grandmotherly atticky smell. All circa late 1970s, early 1980s. After purchasing the items, the generous Esther didn’t put them into an ordinary paper sac. As a New Year’s gift to me, she placed them in a gorgeous ruche-fabric tote bag from Florence. Wow.  Merci, Esther! 

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There is also furniture, including this stunning vintage Danish sideboard in perfect condition for only 890 euros.

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So we said our goodbyes and headed over to the sister restaurant of Paul Bert which is called Paul Bert 6. Whereas Paul Bert is traditional and cozy, Paul Bert 6 is edgy and innovative. It was my first time there and I will definitely go back. The chef, we were told, is from Québec.

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The menu, specially concocted for New Year’s, was a tasting menu. To be honest, I’m not a fan of small multiple dishes, but prix-fixe menus are the norm in France on New Year’s Eve. I do, however, like sitting up at the bar. 

IMG_4095IMG_4098This wine from the Côtes-du-Rhône region was stellar.  So was the price at 55 euros a bottle.IMG_4116

And so the evening proceeded with one startling dish following the next, each one inventive and bursting with flavor. Yes, the portions were small, but the friendly ambience of the place, the smiling waitstaff, the superlative wine and the interesting conversation with my dining companion all conspired to make it an extremely pleasant evening. Until, that is, the arrival of the maple syrup pecan tart.

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Now I mentioned that both Caitlin and myself are Canadian, as was the chef which is probably why he served something with maple syrup in it. It should be known that Canadians LOVE maple syrup. (I’ve been known to shamelessly drink it straight from the bottle.) And when I go to Montreal, I buy those sugary maple candies in the shape of a maple leaf. So one lone tart was placed before us on a plate at the end of the meal. We stared at it. What were we supposed to do with it?  Share it, evidently.

Oh, come on! For a menu costing 80 euros per person? I don’t think so. I wanted my own maple syrup tart. We protested mildly and in good humor. Our waiter had a word with the chef, but word came back that there weren’t enough to go around, so share we did. Funnily enough, after two small bites I was stuffed and could barely finish my portion.

The Paris metro was free all night. At around 11:20 pm, Caitlin and I split up at Concorde and I changed lines to the central number 1 line. 300,000 revellers, it was reported, were converging on the Champs-Elysees to ring in the New Year at midnight.  And I swear there were 300,000 passengers waiting for the train on the platform at Concorde, all of them eager to get off at Franklin-Roosevelt, George V or Etoile which are the Champs-Elysees stops. I was going further than that. I thought that the RATP, the Paris metro system, provided an exemplary service. Every 4 minutes a train arrived and I finally stuffed myself onto one. Each carriage was full to bursting. At each stop I was spat out onto the platform, caught in a maelstorm of shrieking drunken revellers – all languages, all nationalities. All shapes and sizes. The entire world was in Paris last night and they were all on my subway line. As the crowd surged towards the exits, I had to claw and push my way in the opposite direction to get back onto the train. I felt like a spawning salmon swimming upriver. This repeated itself three times. It was awful. Finally the train emptied at Etoile and I rode the rest of the way in peace, grateful to head back to my quiet flat and call it a night. Or rather, a year.

I wish you a peaceful and prosperous 2015.