Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Yes and no

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Dance, Film, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on July 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

If writing is something like your first responder on the scene, resisting the urge takes some doing. Resisting the urge to identify. But aren’t you supposed to identify. Aren’t you supposed to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard the second the urge to do so shows up?

Answer: as the title says. Yes, for the small nugget you may find in the reams of repetitious bilge a body can produce over time. Or for a try at another angle on some obsession of yours. Some need to know that won’t go away, no matter how often you tell  yourself you’ll never get an answer other than: that’s life or who knows or some other pat formula designed to chase away the pesky fly.

Except the fly keeps on coming back.

Resisting the urge? Yes. Forever? No.


A phone call in all the din out on Place du Jourdain last night during pre-opening events to the annual street arts festival. A woman whose voice I can barely make out. Someone I know told her to call me. New family in town, maybe I can help. She’ll call back this morning.


Unanswerables. France won a soccer game against Germany last night. Honking cars streamed by with folks hanging out the windows waving flags, way past midnight. In the afternoon, an eleven-year old American boy by the name of Omar asked me – if I had a choice – what French name I would give my lodger from Mali. I’d never given the matter even the edge of a thought but the boy answered for me. “Hassan would be nice,” he said.


The gulf between the virtual and the real, the article says in The New York Times over one of the shootings in the States,   recorded live as-it-happened.

Unanswerables piling up like overdue bills. “Tenir debout dans le chaos” – the title to a piece published in a temporary paper put out during Aurillac’s street arts festival last year. A swirl of unanswerables, like so many pieces of confetti. Catching some of the patterns they make – is that the best a body can achieve?

The fine edge. Collective joy, collective grief, sadness, anger, rage, panic. Collective. Private. The edge where one emotional state tips over into another.


A total change in eating habits isn’t a full-time occupation? Yes and no, when you’re out in public places with food and drink provided by others.


Allez, I’ve used up this morning’s musing time.


“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…”

In Artists, coffee, Film, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, or juice, photography, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

Those are the first words I speak in Ed Maurer’s composition, Pérégrinations. Yesterday, I spoke them – and other bits used in the score – while the camera rolled. Others did the same. The shots will provide material for a clip. We laughed a lot – including after others helped me off the floor when a chair broke under me. Because of my weight? I doubt it, heavier bodies than mine occupied it first. No real harm done  but maybe I should take a refresher course in shoulder rolls and tumbles, as learned years ago in a judo class.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…” And then? A cat dashed across the path? A cop car appeared? A group of marchers? No one other than a buzzing fly? A squadron of stingers? Had it rained during the night? Were the fields and spider webs covered with dew? Or was this a path through a forest? What kind? A path well-trodden or a push through scrub and thorny bushes? A street? Industrial, residential…

Characters, take your pick.


Behavior modification. Basic observation: you can’t modify eating habits the same way you quit smoking because you can quit smoking altogether but you can’t quit eating. Obvious? Yes. Not so obvious: the how-to. A trip to the small downtown supermarket now involves a mental blanking out of some nine-tenth of the displayed food stuff. Some of those I ignored already, some I bought on occasion, some I considered staples. I won’t be counting grams of ingested protein or salt forever but I’m doing so now to get the notions straight – including when eating out with friends.

I’ve reactivated a long-time companion for this purpose: a notebook I’d bought in Montreal a month before leaving for Europe. Jottings, drawings, notions about food. Fancy meals, simple ones. One recent entry shows cartoon figures at a café table in Gruissan. Date: May 28 of this year when I went to the seashore with friends. Comment added yesterday: “I didn’t know it but I was eating my last hamburger with fries. Delicious, luckily.” Better to end something on a great memory than on a lousy one.

So. Re-training the taste buds. Including when the jollity of a morning photo shoot peaks over wine and pasta with home-made pesto.

Yes, stomach? What’s that you said? ’tis time, I agree. I’ll have breakfast now.

Round and round and round and round we go

In Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Music, proto drafts, Synopsis on June 6, 2016 at 7:59 am

As usual, the unlikely combos and the chance associations keep me interested. In this case, a group of papier mâché puppet heads on sticks (the sticks upright in empty bottles of fruit juice or cheap vermouth), and a book dropped off in the same premises by someone. The book, Dans le secret des princes, published in nineteen eighty-six, has a professional journalist asking questions of the man who headed France’s counter-espionage from nineteen seventy to nineteen eighty-one. To say le comte Alexandre de Marenches had a surfeit of self-assurance is a vast understatement. To say his world view rested on sharp distinctions,  ditto.When boiled down to their essence, said sharp distinctions amount to the usual: what I do is right and permissible because I do it for the Right Cause. What the other guy does is wrong because…etc.

Of course, the man grew up and lived within circles of like-minded people. Whatever episodes of self-doubt he ever experienced don’t find their way into the official narrative. I read some of his pronouncements and my eyes switch to high-beam in amazement. For instance, you must never, ever hire a professional hit man for an assassination. Mark that down at the top of your list of DO NOTs. Why? First of all because most of them aren’t all that good and Lord knows a botched assassination is one hell of a mess. And second, if they are any good, these people have no moral fibre and will keep coming back for more money with threats of spilling the beans about the assassination. This will not do, of course, because then you’re stuck finding a strong, loyal and honorable member of your staff tasked with killing the assassin. Which is a bloody waste of everyone’s time.

Fascinating stuff, all about the Free World in its noble fight against…you know, the bad guys who want to grab Africa’s germanium, titanium, magnesium, mercury, molybdenum, cobalt, columbium and what have you for their military industry. Us good guys can’t allow that to happen. Our bombs are right,since they defend our right to Africa’s germanium, titanium, magnesium, etc.

The title to this post: part of the lyrics from the song Oh Lucky Man, from Lindsay Anderson’s film by the same name. Sung by Alan Price. On youTube, if you’re interested.

(Writing? Some. Synopsis? Slow.)

The puppet heads? Here:


On being reasonable

In Artists, Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects on April 13, 2016 at 8:49 am

I know – and Léa Pool’s film La Passion d’Augustine can’t fail to drive home the point: in that time and place i.e. Québec society in the sixties, a woman’s choices were limited to reproduction or celibacy. If she chose celibacy, she could belong to a religious order or do service as a teacher, a nurse, someone’s secretary or as housekeeper for her aged parents. Of course, a few women of the fallen variety provided occasion for gossip and morality tales.

In those times, the ruling caste decreed: if, in childbirth (be it the twelfth or the fifteenth of the brood) both the mother and the child’s life were at stake, the attendants should sacrifice the mother (she was baptized) and save the baby (at least, until the Sacrament had redeemed his/her soul).

The action in the film takes place on the cusp of what were my teenaged years and what Québec historians call La Révolution Tranquille – the Quiet Revolution. When I left school, the nuns hadn’t switched over to their ugly civvies yet. They still wore the full get-up: cloth cap over cropped hair, plus veil, black or grey clothing that covered the entire body down to the feet and religious symbols appropriate to their order. Léa insists on the finer specimens of womanhood trapped under the garb with only two displaying some of the darker  aspects of enforced anything.

Watching the film in a French cinema, years after leaving Québec, I was more attuned to those details that rang true, and those that didn’t. Never in a thousand years of Sundays, for instance, would boarders in such a convent walk around in naked feet or appear in the refectory in their…their night gown. Never would the nuns chose a good-looking boy to shovel snow off the stoop and never would a boarder frolic with this boy in full view of Mother Superior.

I let all that pass in favor of the bottles of Colle Lepage on the classroom desks, a nun’s admonishment to the students against sitting on heated radiators (an inducement to lustful excesses through the heating of bottoms and privates, yes?), and the scenes filmed close to the village by riverside I once called home. I haven’t found the right word yet to describe the sensation at the sight of a familiar scene of windswept icy fields or of ice floes drifting down the Richelieu river.

As for a view of the tree-lined drive up to a convent once called Villa-Maria: I used to walk to my parents’ home down that drive, after crossing over from another convent called Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys.  From which I was expelled. For smoking cigs? Chasing after boys? No, for drumming with my fingers on the desk to annoy the teacher, and for refusing to turn in an essay I felt was too good to submit to her. Unreasonable. So were my imaginary conversations on the bus ride to the convent that accepted a delinquent of my stature. I was reading Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine at the time. Unbeknownst to all, Honoré’s ghost sat next to me, somewhat befuddled by the changes time had wrought on the world. I served as his Virgil to Dante. I was fifteen and not on my way to becoming reasonable.



In and other spirits, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, news coverage, Theater on March 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

I’ll spare myself the nonsense over at TNYT for now. On one news source here in France, I learn that the Pope “flays” Europe’s anesthetized social conscience. The same verb (fustiger, in French) appears in another headline. Please, spare Europa the whip, folks. In my experience, beatings never improved anyone’s disposition.

I also watched a brief video in which a sociologist talked of the perils of falling into the sloughs of coupledom – the places where the home fan, best buddy and loyal supporter turns into the provider of subtle and/or brutal attacks on the other’s weak spots and self-confidence. This last because of a moment in the draft where one (or both) of the characters in a relationship must wonder if they can help each other over the next pile of insurmountable odds or if they’d best go at them solo. Always a loaded question, in fiction as in real life.

No rehearsal this morning and the possibility to break away from the town for the day. No one needs to flay my social conscience. Plus, when no solutions show up for lingering problems, a break is better than an endless re-hashing of the issues. Shuffling papers into a different configuration on the desk may provide unexpected results, at times. If not, a change is as good as a holiday.

Yesterday, getting away from it all involved reading breaks. They’ve carried me to page seventy-nine of a hundred and seventeen pages of learned introduction to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this instance, I use the word learned with delight because of the weaving of old and new insights  the introduction provides (I’m reading the Oxford University Press  Oxford World’s Classics edition, edited by Peter Holland). Of special note for me: dreams and their range from the mundane to the visionary or prophetic.

So. Away on a sunny day. Whether I’ll take in the whole selection of free films offered at Albi’s Scène nationale today, I don’t know. Today is partly about getting away from any set agenda other than catching the bus out of town, and back.

gods in disguise

In Absurdlandia, and other spirits, Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on March 18, 2016 at 8:24 am

Something about Euripides. Something about nostalgia for that creaking old device called a deus ex machina (although that’s Latin, and Euripides was a Greek). Ingmar Bergman used the deus ex machina in his film version of Mozart’s Magic Flute. In his case, he didn’t have a god lowered on stage by a machine; instead, three boy angels landed in the basket of a hot air balloon.

Whatever. The nostalgia lingers of an outside, occult, mysterious (and benevolent) entity that appears when all seems lost and – as the image goes – snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.

The Anonymous, for instance. At least, the Anonymous who consider themselves a contemporary version of Robin Hood. They have the knowledge and they use it to disrupt, put down or otherwise disorganize a hateful opponent’s online presence.

Do all small children have a longing for the magical, miraculous intervention that saves the day when all seems lost? Probably. Does the longing survive the transition into adulthood? In one form or another, I’d say yes.

What to do with the magical/miraculous when it insists in showing up in every draft, no matter how unlikely the intervention may be. The stranger who sets things right, then disappears. The geek who wipes out one identity and replaces it with another. The knight in shining armor who rescues the damsel in distress. Etc.

How to make use of one, the other (or all of them) in some way. They won’t go away, that much is clear.


Unrelated? Nothing is. On my way home in the pounding rain yesterday, a woman’s voice hailed me a few steps from my place. The woman wanted to show me her new living quarters. I followed her up a winding set of stairs to a space overlooking the local church. Didn’t gape (except inwardly) at the bare essentials and the collection of plaster statues of saints. Turned my head toward the far end of the room and almost gaped at the sight of an old prie-dieu – covered in faded and padded red plush for the kneeling part, and same for the arm rest – at the foot of a framed illustration of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus. The woman is in her forties. Born in a Muslim family, she’s converted to Catholicism. That much I knew. The extent of her devotion, I didn’t suspect.


gods, in disguise. What to make of them in story.


Irrelevant and a shade off-key*

In Artists, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Visual artists on March 12, 2016 at 8:59 am

This will be a day for a dual purpose notebook. Up-ended: personal notes in longhand. Reversed to the standard side: notes from a work session on the latest concerning legal rights and hurdles for asylum seekers. With a choice of an early bus or a late one, I opt for the early. A morning of Albi bookshops and library on my own. Afternoon and evening with opinionated others. Someone has offered to drive me home since, if you don’t own a car, you don’t stay in Albi past five o’clock on a Saturday – unless you plan to sleep over until Monday.

Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay. Chapters XII, XIII and XIV, read last night after an obligatory passage at the local cinema for an exhibition and the showing of three short animation films. Followed by the slow walk home with a fictional character or two, searching for the crumbs of experience on which to feed. Would this character accept to go down without protest? Would he or she fold and disappear just before winning the prize? How would he or she limp on when all possible roads had been explored, and the garden maze kept leading back to the same spot?

Voilà, more or less, where the proto draft stands at the moment. Plus one bit in Chapter XIII of the book mentioned above. “Irrelevant, irreverent, out of key with all that has gone before. But man’s greatest strength lies in his capacity for irrelevance.”

True? False? I don’t know what my characters have to say about it. I guess I’ll find out.

* if applied to the upstairs neighbor’s singing, this should read: astonishing consistency in flat-off wrong key to the same, very same song at least three times of day. (I must acquire a pair of headphones.)

In real life

In Artists, Circus, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Theater on February 22, 2016 at 8:46 am

Why the boy saw fit to discard the battery on his phone, we may never find out. Not all phones use the same kind of battery, apparently. Finding another that fit took a while. Mission accomplished by the remarkable people giving him shelter. For the first time since leaving home, he spoke with his sister on Saturday night. Who will convey the news to his mother that her son’s body hasn’t fed the fishes in the sea. From what I gather, direct contact between mother and son may need to wait – or may never happen again.

Today’s never-dreamed-of experience for him: a local musician heard him speak at a community event yesterday. Asked him to record words in his native tongue for his work in progress (a different musician and a different WIP from my next door neighbor’s).


Perhaps the understanding between the landlady and the ironmongers went through further negotiation. Perhaps this explains why all the metallic content is gone from the pile of rubbish on my street, but not the cushions, mattresses and other such refuse still occupying the same space as it did yesterday. On my way home from the film “Chocolat” last night, the garbage in the space where once a castle stood gleamed in a greenish, murky light. Even the moon cast a murky glow. Atmospheric? Even the black cats roamed – all others safely curled up on someone’s lap, no doubt.


“Chocolat” being a twenty-first century film director’s take on the life and times of Footit et Chocolat, a circus duo that rose to fame and fortune in the first years of the twentieth century. Footit was pale-skinned, and Chocolat – you guessed it – was of the darkest ebony. They did acrobatics, and fast-paced reversals involving lots of slapping and kicking of Chocolat by Footit. The crowds roared with delight. Then World War One began and the crowds grew sentimental. Exit Footit et Chocolat.


Voilà for yesterday, outside my own fictional writing which most resembles a balancing act – sometimes from one character or scene to the next, at other times from word to word to word.


Sanford Meisner, and other books on acting and clowning? Close by.


Staying human-sized

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts on February 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

An American humorist raised a valid point the other day on the subject of parody: given some of the current political and business leaders in our midst, how do you parody those who have already pushed beyond a society’s unspeakable, undoable or even unthinkable?

The question doesn’t only matter when applied to parody. Pushing beyond self-imposed or socially-prescribed limits makes a work of fiction worth pursuing, if only to find out how the characters will solve (or fail to solve) the basic moral conundrum facing every social animal: when, how and why to overstep boundaries. When to be part of the crowd, when to be your own person. In both cases, how to live with the consequences of compliance and rebellion.

In some cases, the consequences are immediate:you read about an industrial lobby forcing a university to accept guns in the classroom, for instance. You visualize it, don’t you?  the ensuing carnage when panic sets in and several firearms go off in shaky hands. (No fear: there will be at least one instance of a cool hand Luke the lobbyists will hold up as a national hero. Media frenzy will follow, along with a made-for-big-screen biopic).

Now add politicians indentured to industrial groups.  Bayer taking on the European Union  because of legislation that might limit the industry’s profits. Lobbyists financing political campaigns. The ho-hum practice of bribes, pay-backs and other means of control over legislators. Etc. Etc. The public grows sated and tunes out, or demands bigger and glitzier excess.

Voilà for this morning’s not-so profound mind blips. In real life: an accountant in the morning, an appellate court hearing in the afternoon. The first for a documentary film association the size of a runt pea, the second for young people in search of a legal status and the right to wade through the paper maze like the rest of us.

With nods to Kafka and any number of writers whose books on my shelves comfort me in the belief writers have taken on crazy reality before and wrung out some basic truths from all the lies and evasions – not to mention flat-out fabrications and hysterical frenzies.

Human-sized. As in: drop the megaphone, turn down the volume. There’s a bird singing out there. Or a pile of papers to shove aside to make room for another pile.

Paroles, paroles, paroles*

In Absurdlandia, Circus, En français dans le texte, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, Poetry, proto drafts on January 28, 2016 at 8:30 am

The song was a huge hit in the seventies. Most people still remember the tune and the words, such as:“encore des mots, toujours des mots, les mêmes mots, rien que des mots…” the woman sings, while the man blathers on about how beautiful, unforgettable, unique she is, how his love, eternal, etc.

A typical male-female standoff, and applicable either way – women blather as much as men do. However, the song came to mind because of words, words, words flowing at us from the politicians. Someone in Britain referred to Cameron’s jibe about the “bunch of migrants” as “trickle-down hatred”. There again, the trickle seems to work both up and down, with the politicians only too happy to mouth whatever seems to raise their rating in opinion polls.

Since politics are mostly a matter of symbols, I won’t waste too much time on analyzing the background to Christiane Taubira’s decision to quit the French government now, nor in her choice to leave office on a bicycle instead of in a limousine. Symbols. Words. Simply put: some words ring truer than others. I’d rather disagree with someone who can quote poetry at the National Assembly in support for a piece of legislation I happen to approve than watch words being devalued as they fall from the lips of people who don’t deserve the noble name of clown.

Voilà for this morning’s news commentary.

Meanwhile, a proto draft struggles on in the chinks of time between phone calls and meetings. Sometimes, words are like keeping a kettle hot over a small fire – a different matter from brilliant displays in public places. But all that’s good stays good, especially warmth during cold times.

Just ordered something called zaï zaï zaï zaï because deadpan humor appeals to me.  I don’t know if this was the cartoonist’s intention or not, but zaï zaï zaï zaï happens to be a melodic trope from another song from the seventies – this one by Joe Dassin.  My upstairs neighbor loves Joe Dassin’s songs and massacres every one of them with a dedication so fierce the screeching sometimes stops me cold in whatever I’m doing. Her respect for melodic lines is such, she never even comes close to them. Think Catherine Frot in the film Marguerite. (Don’t know the actress nor the film? Check out on a search engine for a taste of the art of singing off-key.)

Allez? Allez.

*French for Words, words, words – not conditional release from a jail term. Although …