Missing urban presences — Paris, Brussels, Bordeaux

Ria (l.) and Suzanne, two from my Brussels charmed circle

Ria suggested in an email that Paris, in tandem with her city, Brussels, are like my part-time lover. Maybe, she added, that’s why you’re so in love. Ria is one of a Brussels circle of long-time special friends whose welcome charmed the city for me. The part-time lover idea appealed; after all, part-time is known to keep feelings potent, n’est-ce pas?

Place Royale in handsome Brussels

My first Brussels belle, Nicole, took this photo of the Musée Magritte, irresistible lure of the Royal Art Museum complex in the Place Royale

When I thanked Ria for the insight, she replied in an even deeper vein: In life, she wrote, rather than keep on missing — one feels better sustained by desire.* The better I get to know my friends’ handsome city, the more Brussels complements ethereal Paris. Two capitals after my own heart. And city missing may attack with no warning. . . .

On New York’s extreme east side — genteel but remote turf well north of midtown Manhattan — on a day when I’d skipped lunch, where could I go to fend off late-afternoon starvation? Just one more block east, said an informant, at a place named something like Pinocchio’s –? The array of sweets at first had my full attention in Beanocchio’s, but then as I Continue reading

After a hideous coup : mourning the Charlie Hebdo victims

Ten journalists and cartoonists of the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, and three police officers, all died violent deaths on 7 January 2015. Some of the journos’ photos are here, in Le Point.  In this post, GallicFever offers some French and American tributes to the victims.

Drawing by Kanako, courtesy of MyLIttleParis

Drawing by Kanako, courtesy of MyLIttleParis

Descending on the Charlie Hebdo offices, a pair of religious radical terrorist gunmen murdered two policemen in and near the scene, and massacred veteran staffers assembled for their Wednesday morning editorial meeting. A hideous coup.

As “E.W. Count,” I was a longtime nonfiction and fiction writer about the New York Police Department and I remain an honorary member of the French-American police friendship association, 911/17. As they say in France these days, je suis Charlie, and, je suis flic. I identify with and deeply mourn the journalists and policemen who perished in the horror maelstrom at Charlie Hebdo.

Martin, a Princeton University French teacher honored murdered French police

1/10/15, in NYC solidarity, Martine, a Princeton University French teacher, honored French police

The officers assassinated inside the Charlie Hebdo office and on the street outside, are respectively, Franck Brinsolaro, and Ahmed Merabet. Montrouge officer Clarissa Jean- Philippe was gunned down, point blank, by a third terrorist whose murder spree later claimed the lives of four Jewish men doing pre-sabbath errands on Friday afternoon in a Vincennes kosher grocery. I mourn my fallen fellow Jews, Yohan Cohen, Yohav Hattab, Philippe Braham and François-Michel Saada. As they also say in France lately, je suis juif.

Tuesday, 13 January, saw the Jewish victims buried in Israel; François Hollande honored the three police officers (NY Times video link) in the Paris courtyard of the police prefecture. According to Le Parisien, President Hollande said, “[the unity] we have shown . . . [is] our most sturdy weapon . . . .The French people has rendered to the police . . . the most beautiful homage possible.”

Parisians honor murdered police

Parisians remember their three police officers, assassinated by three terrorists, January 2015

As successive shocks emanated from Paris, I was comforted by a statement of solidarity and condolences offered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police President, Richard Beary. “I am horrified,” Mr. Beary wrote, “and deeply troubled by the tragic events that have taken place in Paris. . . . [We] mourn the lives of those who have perished and applaud the bravery and dedication of the law enforcement officers who gave their lives in an effort to protect the innocent victims of this horrific attack.

911/17 Patch

Patch worn by members of 911/17 French-American police friendship association

“As the French National Police and other agencies in France continue their efforts to apprehend those responsible for this attack, I want them to know that they have the support of the global policing community. . . .

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and colleagues whose lives have been devastated by this tragic and senseless crime.”

Indeed, it remains no easy feat to think about anything else. Bon courage to all my French friends and colleagues.

Defining ‘francofolie’ – Sarah’s turn

Sarah, from francophile to francofolle

Sarah, from francophile to francofolle

You’ll soon read that Sarah, a Brit graduate of Columbia University, has a real feel for French language. But bear with me, first, for a (self-indulgent) diversion about my own folie.

An element of francofolie may indeed be an affinity for the language. Where did you learn French? I’m asked. Why do you speak well? When I speak well, which is far from always (a glass or so of wine really can boost my fluency), I explain it’s because I make an ongoing effort — je fais un effort. (But when I say, I learned on the pillow — sur l’oreiller — that gets a smile from Frenchies, too.)

As for the effort, when not in France, I go for one French course per semester at FIAF (French Institute Alliance Francaise), where teachers assign riveting French reading, and students discuss. Also vital — a heavy dose of French movies — one almost every Tuesday — included, gratis, in your FIAF membership!

Jean Gabin in Le Jour se leve

And FIAF movies are just a start. At the Film Forum, in Greenwich Village, I can . . .you-can-she-can (etc.)  see the best of new French films — and classics. In the tatter category, Film Forum is about the only commercial venue where you could catch a classic like Le Jour se leve (1939). “Another Sunrise” (my title translation effort) with famed actor Jean Gabin. Alors, getting back, finally, to Sarah:

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Merci, former French cultural counselor Antonin Baudry, for Albertine bookstore

I empathize with your feeling, she emailed, of missing French culture (or, to put it in the French grammar form which I find more poetic, to have Paris ‘missing from you’); even though I am not French in the slightest and only lived in Paris for two months in the summer, during that time I became a helpless francophile and now feel something lacking in my New York experience. I find myself thinking back almost daily to the independent bookstores. . . in the Latin Quarter, the relaxed café culture and the patisseries which I would make regular pilgrimages to during my short time there.

Clearly, Sarah is well on her way from francophile to francofolie.  As for indie French bookstores, in New York, where for about 15 years there was a desert where French books should have been, a brilliant French Cultural Counselor genie arranged for an oasis:  beautiful and well-stocked. Called Albertine, the shop is housed on two levels of Continue reading

Le Roy “Retrospective” at MoMA PS 1 – Q&A with a dancer

Greg Grube, Guest Contributor

Dancer Greg Grube, Guest Contributor

Xavier Le Roy’s work gained recognition in contemporary, international dance circles after he finished a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology — which may explain the rigor and experimental focus of the work. His Retrospective, a three-month installation at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City (2014), emerged as a loop of discrete personal narratives textured by traces of his and each individual dancer’s past endeavors.  – G.G.

La Francofolle: You said about Retrospective that Le Roy “…pulled it off.” How do you mean? One dancer, in fact, pulled off a sweatshirt during his dance-talk, then wriggled back into it. Could that be a reference to ambivalence about his revelations?

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Using narration and movement, Sherwood Chen relates a dancer’s past.

Gregory Grube: Le Roy turned on its head the notion of a culminating look at an oeuvre, he turned it — upside down and inside out — as one of the performers sang to us. This allusion to Diana Ross demonstrates how many plot twists the provocative Retrospective can produce. Sherwood Chen, the dancer who sang a snippet of the disco hit, also spoke eloquently about his own work on Min Tanaka’s farm, studying with Anna Halprin on September 11, 2001, and about the breakup that caused his departure from the U.S. to study court dance in Java.

‪Chen also showed us contemporary Senegalese choreographers’ work, and the piece by Le Roy with the sweatshirt, Self-Unfinished, where the dancer’s body is transformed into something animal or alien by simply taking a garment and using it strangely. Through this interplay, form becomes about otherness, unfixing the sign to catalytically release some locked up energy. In the end, Chen’s monologue risks hardly being a retrospective at all, but a global performance collage that each viewer is invited to frame on their own.

Ff: In France, “le rétro” is in. But what’s French about this Le Roy dance direction?

Gregory Grube: In the US, the ballet tradition and modern dance traditions were the dominant poles that provided ground for a revolt in the post-modern era. In France, propensities for philosophical debate and political insurrection, combined with knowledge of our artistic coups in the 1960s, perhaps opened an avenue for making performances that manage to be both idiosyncratic and poignant conceptually, deconstructing how dance can Continue reading

M. & Mme. Sarkozy and — a penguin?! French politics Q&A

So, dear visitor, GallicFever preserves this look at past French politics in a Macron moment when the scene is vastly different. Can’t file this retrospective — must hold on for dear life to humorous touches from the past because, to my eye and ear, nothing is funny about the 2018 scene. President Macron and company inspire no penguin comparisons and themselves barely crack a smile, let alone laugh. Plummeting in the polls, attacked from many sides — well, no wonder  no public chuckles audible from the Matignon-Elysée halls of power. As to my personal fave pundit,Thibault Leroux, these days, he himself may be a bit grimmer. When politics can brutally reconfigure the top echelon of an independent journalist’s contacts index, income prospects can be seriously threatened. But when conditions turn more favorable, we’ll hear more in these columns from T. Leroux. Meantime, a sample, even historical, of the perennial Leroux wit is ever a pleasure to share.

The commentary that follows was translated by moi. Oh, of course,Thibault can write English, too, but it’s a labor of affection for me to translate observations I value. Not trying too hard to conceal my motive, I had forwarded a New York edition of the online journal, French Morning, with their roundup of U.S. media coverage of French politics. “What’s your take?” I nudged my former Paris neighbor. . . .

My French pundit pal, Thibault Leroux, notes that recent French polls show more citizens intend to vote for Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé than for former president Nicolas Sarkozy

My French pundit pal, Thibault Leroux, helps me decode French politics.

Thibault Leroux: Not too much new in this summary — unless it’s the U.S. media’s orgy of French bashing. Let’s say, your media have an embarrassment of riches at the moment. Each week, we give them some page one news! And we’re far from finished, since the Big Chief, the Savior, Raymond de Carla, is climbing back down into the political arena.

La francofolle: Wait a minute – (baffled, I had to follow up by phone) ‘de Carla’ means [former president] Nicolas Sarkozy is the husband of chanteuse Carla Bruni, but why ‘Raymond’?

Thibault Leroux: Carla has a song about ‘mon Raymond,’ who’s a stand-in for Nicolas. And there’s a penguin in the song — a subliminal reference to Francois Hollande.

 Ff: How so? Something about how (now ex-president) Hollande dresses

Thibault Leroux: I think the penguin image is supposed to remind us of how he walks.

So much for Monsieur Hollande!  When France won two 2014 Nobel Prizes, Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, gleefully stood up (again) against international and internal French bashing. The big prizes, Valls tweeted, were a sucker punch to French bashers.  What’s the French French bashing tract you told me is an influence on public opinion at home?

penguin12Thibault Leroux:  That would be the current best-selling polemic on the “decline” of France, “Le Suicide Français”. Notorius author Eric Zemmour, tries to defend the WWII pro-nazi Vichy regime and its leader Pétain, as “saviors of the Jews.” Depressing!

You called the author ‘sinistre’ — which I translated as ‘notorious.’ To me, Zemmour is indeed a sinister character. I read that he’s Jewish. Talk about depressing! For some comic relief, at least relatively, let’s go back to Sarko. . . .

Thibault Leroux: Sarkozy could be our very own Berlusconi [the corrupt Italian former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who’s forever trying to sidle back to power]. The problem is, ‘Raymond’ hadn’t foreseen a comeback this fast. He foresaw it more towards the end of 2015, and he certainly didn’t plan on taking over the direction of his party. These things are decided somewhere behind the scenes. Bottom line, he’s a long way from becoming president of the republic once again, inasmuch as a good number of his “friends” are about to be his best enemies. We’ll have the right to two and a half years of Sarko Show and presidential campaign. French Morning  will have lots of fodder for their articles.

So, why did Sarkozy jump the gun? Explain a bit more about this surprise timing in relation to the sequence of French elections. And did the friends cum enemies give him a push?

Thibault Leroux: Primary elections are in 2016. But he came back in time for party elections this November, to try to take over his party – the UMP. It’s so theatrical, but it’s a dangerous game: if he doesn’t get 80 percent of the UMP vote, that Continue reading

Your musical invitation to travel in France

 

Please listen to my Masters Recital performance of “L’invitation au voyage” (2013) with Lucy Arner at the piano. 

Lydia Dahling, Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor Lydia Dahling, soprano

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté, /Luxe, calme et volupté. There all is order and beauty,/ Luxury, peace, and pleasure. These words are a recurring theme in Charles Baudelaire’s “L’invitation au voyage,” set to music by Henri Duparc.  In the poem, Baudelaire describes  Amsterdam, but his description could apply to any place the reader wishes.

I was born a francophile, the kid who read an adaptation of Les Misérables at the age of seven (granted, this version omitted topics such as prostitution, political unrest, disease, extreme poverty, suicide, and child abuse), who’s always loved cheese and good bread, always has had a voracious appetite for French art and history, and maybe still wants to just pack it up, move to France and buy a lavender farm. I could make soaps and teach music.

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Our own corner of the Périgord region

I studied Duparc’s  “L’invitation au voyage” during my participation in “L’art du chant Français” — a music and language program situated in the Périgord (aka truffles) region of France. Glenn Morton, one of my vocal coaches at Mannes College,  runs the three-week programHoused in a Périgord gite, eight of us singers studied French musical style and poetry with tenor Michel Sénéchal, a friend and colleague of musicians such as Francis Poulenc Régine CrespinNadia Boulanger. During his more than 60 years’ singing and teaching career, Michel also has directed the young artist studio of the Paris National Opera.

Le Château de Lanquais, where we performed our final concert, and I sang "L'invitation au voyage"

Le Château de Lanquais, where we performed our final concert, and I sang “L’invitation au voyage”

Professional accomplishments aside,  Michel Sénéchal is one of the kindest, most generous and funniest people I’ve ever met. One evening at dinner, as I got up to get a piece of cake, (we always enjoyed dessert), Michel, also visiting the dessert table, pointed to one of the cakes, and whispered a tip, “C’est le meilleur.Continue reading

Reflections from a Paris kitchen window: blue and white

Who? Moi. Toujours francofolle — forever France-crazy. For some of the reasons, read About . . .

The Parc Monceau colonnade looks much the same today as it does in the old post card I found at a street market stand on a rainy spring day.

The Parc Monceau colonnade looks much the same today as it does in the old post card I found at a street market stand on a rainy spring day.

Where? My apartment exchanger’s comfy digs in the chic and calm 17th arrondissement. My adopted neighborhood, not far from the Arc de Triomphe, and anchored by lush Parc Monceau.

What? Views from the kitchen window, fifth-floor, looking out across the courtyard. And perhaps looking slightly inward. And maybe a few dispatches from the living room window. . . .

When? June 2014 . . . finally! Not a moment too soon, either — considering I’ve been living here since early April. And, before long, my kitchen will be a different one. I’ll move at the end of June to a new exchanger’s apartment, from which the views, naturally, must be different. (My Paris apartment exchanges will continue till the end of August, and then I’ll travel outside France for ten days or so. Then back to my NYC kitchen where the “window” offers me less clarity.)

The kitchen window in my spring 2014 exchange apartment (rue Jouffroy D'abbans, 17e) showed me a quiet courtyard, and more. . ..

The kitchen window in my spring 2014 exchange apartment (rue Jouffroy D’abbans, 17ème) showed me a quiet courtyard, and more. . ..

Why? The slothful blogger suddenly is moved to type! Not that I haven’t been pressing my laptop keys this spring. I most certainly have been — but to more specific purposes. (Read about those in Arts + Commerce, for instance, and in Le French +). From my kitchen window, you can get my observations on the pleasures of quotidian Paris, more or less in the same time frame as I live them. When the Paris sun chooses to shine full strength (not that often, but I love Paris gray, don’t you?), the effect can be incredibly

Mediterranean. Yes, the sky is so intensely, deeply, uniformly blue, the sun can’t help but radiate as if on the Riviera. Or in the Greek Islands.

The courtyard walls of the seven-storey house (I think it’s seven Continue reading

Soirée art-and-commerce — Vincent Darré / Poltrona Frau / Le Bon Marché

Was Lascaux actually an art gallery where a prehistoric wealthy collector could, let’s say, order an original print of a cave painting to grace the wall of her own condo cavern? No? Well, that was definitely the last time we know of when art and commerce had no interest in common.

So, Art(s) and Commerce cohabit comfortably on GallicFever, and, in this case the collaboration between prolific French artist Vincent Darré, and the venerable (founded 1912) Italian furniture maker, Poltrona Frau, that now has in their sensuous and luxe materials, Darré’s sometimes mordant, invariably witty designs. 

Paris creatives celebrate with (far left) Vincent Darré. Arielle Dombasle, Francis D'Orleans, Marie Beltrami, Catherine Baba, Elie Top

Designer Vincent Darré (far left) celebrates with fellow Paris creatives Arielle Dombasle, Francis D’Orleans, Marie Beltrami, Catherine Baba, Elie Top

Poltrona is far from the first heavyweight firm to hook up to Darré’s talent in the interests of prestige and profit for both, and naturally there’s a luxury retail lynchpin, too — the Left Bank capital of chic, Le Bon Marché. (Five years after the store became part of the LVMH brand, in 1989, Au Bon Marché was rechristened Le Bon Marché and any relation whatsoever to the dictionary meaning of bon marché [er, cheap] ceased to apply.) The LBM windows on rue de Sèvres and much of the 2e étage, the Interiors floor, were devoted at this writing to displays of Darré furniture design and décor inspiration. Unapologetically priced in the thousands of euros per item.

Vincent Darré, educated in an Influential Paris fashion school, as well as in the eighties trend crucible that was the famed disco, Le Palace (think Studio 54 in New York), made the most not only of his considerable design ability but also of a talent for timing. His bio illustrates how he always could be found at the fashion focal point, at the peak fashionable moment, even when that meant being in several places at once.” Continue reading