Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: France Page 1 of 2

With a best friend who taught French for years (and as someone who had 4 years of French, herself) Connie may parlez vous Francais occasionally or feature beautiful photographs taken by her college roommate Pam Rhodes.

“A Good Man” Is French LGBQT Film from Denver Film Festival and Cannes

“A Good Man” is a LGBTQ French film directed by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar. It is a Cannes Official Film Selection and the film had subtitles, but the trailer does not. (Dust off your French from high school or college.) Noemie Merlant, who was so powerful in last year’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” plays the lead of a trans-man. There is some controversy over the fact that the part of a trans man is not being played by a real trans man.

I thought a better title for the film might have been crafted based on the scene where a nurse, leaving the hospital room of the new mother after her shift, bids the patient good night with the farewell phrase, “Good night, Sir/Ma’am.”

Noemie Merlant

The farewell causes the new mother/father to smile, as he/she has just given birth to a baby boy, a sacrifice that Ben/Sarah made so that he/she could achieve his/her goal. That goal is stated in the film as, “I want to be me and have a normal life.”  Ben tells his older brother, Antoine, “I want the same as you. No more. No less.” The script also contains the advice, “The management of truth is the key to a rescue.”

THE GOOD

I’m all for people of any sex and/or ethnicity seeking “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Freddy McConnell, a trans man, gave birth to his own son, Jack, and the “Guardian” journalist made a film with Director Jeanie Finlay about it called “Seahorse,” so the topic of a trans man giving birth to his own child IRL has been done before. The performances of the two leads (Noemie Merlant and Soko) are excellent.

The opening ocean panorama of the main character looking out at the sea from the Cote d’Azur is gorgeous. There are many other beautiful cinematic shots within the film, including some spectacular sunsets. But most of us want a story, as well, and there is definitely a story here.

Ben, the central character, was born Sarah Adler on April 28, 1990. The conflict comes when Ben’s love, Aude (Soko, who played Samantha in “Little Fish”) —after his decision to bear their child because they cannot adopt and Aude is infertile— tells Ben, “Right now, I don’t exist.  You play every part.  You play them all. I need to find mine.”

And….Poof!….Aude’s gone.

Another conflict is between Sarah/Ben’s mother, who mourns the loss of daughter Sarah and has difficulty accepting that Sarah has become Ben. There is also conflict between Ben and his male friends, whom he has kept in the dark. Some of Ben’s friends are more accepting than others.

THE BAD

Director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar

It’s really difficult to follow who is whom and whether the apparently female girl at the bar (Sarah) does, in fact, turn out to become “Ben” later in the film. There is frequent jumping back and forth in time, between the present and the past. While audiences are savvy and will do their best to keep up, it can become difficult to figure out exactly who is whom, then and now.

The departure of Aude, Ben’s love, while understandable, seems very selfish. It reminded me of someone I know who—while his wife was delivering twins—-began an affair with a co-worker and left his wife, who had to go through childbirth alone. There is something about bringing new life into the world that mitigates for a united front to support that new life.

Poor Ben is forced to go through most of the pain, suffering, and confinement of delivery on his own, endure being viewed as a freak by some and suffering the loss of the support of the person closest to him, for whom he has sacrificed a great deal. The departure of Aude does set off a nicely done rapprochement with his estranged mother, however. Mom, watching the new-born baby attempting to suckle, says, “You think it’s a matter of instinct, but it’s not at all.”

The end of the film is slow, although cinematically beautiful. It reminded me of the famous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. We also get a quick glimpse of the reunited couple strolling through that scene with their baby.

I felt very sorry for Ben/Sarah, who had to give up the new life he had carved out for himself, reveal his previous identity to the world, and go through childbirth without the woman of his dreams by his side. While I understood Aude’s feelings of being “left out,”  Ben might wish to  re-consider their relationship in light of the loyalty he has shown, versus that demonstrated by Aude.

“A Perfect Enemy” Is a Film To Intrigue from Director Kike Maillo

The intriguing film “A Perfect Enemy” starring Tomasz Kot (Cold War), was directed by 45-year-old Spanish-born director Kike Maillo. Maillo helmed the 2012 film “Eva,” when 37, and it won him the Best New Director award from the Cinema Writers Circle Award in Spain and an award for Best Special Effects (2012). This time out, the basis for the complicated story is a novel by Amelie Nothomb, “Cosmetique de l’ennemi,” but the script was written by Maillo, aided by screenwriters Cristina Clemente and Fernando Navarro.

Architect Jeremiasz August has just concluded a lecture about architecture (“Perfection is when there is nothing left to take away.”) and is in a cab on his way to the airport.

Furthermore, it is an airport that Jeremiasz actually designed, with a beautiful model of his work in the center of a spacious waiting area.

Amidst a deluge outside the lecture hall, a young blonde traveler asks if she can share a cab with the architect. Tessel Textor (Athena Straites)—a petite blonde—does clamber inside the cab in the downpour and begins a pretty much non-stop barrage of information about herself. The Good Samaritan act of allowing her to share the cab causes both the architect and the young blonde to miss their flights, so their conversation continues—more or less—-in the VIP lounge of the airport.

August appears to be growing very tired of the non-stop chatter. There is some symbolism overtly explained. When Tessel first enters the cab,she explains that her name can mean “weaver of words,” although she is not a writer. (August tells her it’s not too late to start.)

There is a third character—a beautiful woman named Isabelle, who was married to August but disappeared  twenty years earlier. We see Isabelle (Marta Nieto) primarily strolling about a charming cemetery and, later, in her apartment. Her relationship with August is confirmed further along in the film by photos of the couple that adorn her apartment.

Things begin to become very surreal and fantastical at the airport. There are clear signs that Tessel is “not right in the head” (if she is even there) and her annoying monologue is beginning to irritate the reserved architect. There are several trips to view a model of the airport. Each time,  airport model has small changes occurring involving splotches of blood, etc. (Take note). The exchanges in the rest room(s) are even more central to the plot and even weirder.

Ultimately, August is on his flight. We anticipate that violence will occur at any moment, especially since Tessel followed August into the men’s lavatory and spends a fair amount of time playing with a knife throughout the film.

Now, August is on his flight. Tessel says to August, “Lower your voice.”

“Why?” asks August.

“Because you’re still on the plane,” responds Tessel. That was not where we thought August was when he raised his voice, so settings are shifting and mysterious things are occurring; the endless stories that Tessel tells are beginning to form a mosaic of sorts, coming together to form one tapestry.

The best comparison, for the viewer, to capture what may be going on in this film is to mention “Fight Club” and how it dealt with reality.

I enjoyed the film. First of all, it was well acted, (although Tessel would have been more convincing if she hadn’t been wearing 10 pounds of colored eye make-up in every scene plus what looked like camouflage pajamas).

Aside from that faux pas on the costuming, the principals carry out the somewhat confusing exchanges of dialogue proficiently, the music is good (Alex Baranowski), the sets are great, the cinematography is above average (Rita Noriega)  and the ultimate resolution of the plot is clear.

Another plus: the actors are all speaking English. I finally gave up on the subtitles of an Iranian film that was supposed to feature a burning theater. Did not make it through to the end of that one. Gave it my best shot; that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

 Enjoyed this one all the way through to its thought-provoking conclusion.

Fourth-graders Ava & Elise Wilson Report on the Eiffel Tower from Paris

My twin granddaughters, Ava (the brunette) and Elise (the blonde) were with Mom and Dad in England and France this past week. True, they missed one week of fourth grade in Austin, Texas, but who among you would say they would have learned more during the last week of school at Baranoff Elementary than they did visiting Europe? (I actually said that the last week of any school should be avoided at all costs by everyone, if possible.)

My son’s job headquarters (steel company PSI) are in Berlin, Germany, so their engineer father (Scott) decided that his chemical engineer wife (Jessica) and the girls, age 10, should fly across the pond and visit the sights. Because Scott previously worked for a British steel firm, he has colleagues who are British and one generously offered them lodging for a week in England.

I asked the girls on the phone what their biggest impression of England was and the answer was, “They talk funny.”

I’d like to be able to tell you of ALL the places they’ve visited, but I can’t remember them all. Not to worry: Nanna Connie has requested comparison/contrast essays on England versus France and the girls are keeping journals.

It is worth mentioning that, during their time in England and France, Teresa May resigned and, last I heard, Macron of France was losing to LePen. (Do you think they know this? No? Oh, OK.)

View From Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Pre-Fire

Paris: the view from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

Gargoyles and pillars atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

The view from above: Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

The world has reacted as you would have expected to the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. There was shock, sadness and, ultimately, a desire to help rebuild.

I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged $139 million dollars to the reconstruction efforts. Observers on the ground commented on the steeples that fell, which were wooden, carved from a now-long-gone forest. One can anticipate that the steeple of the future may be made of some form of metal.

It is heart-warming to learn how beloved this symbol of Catholicism is not just to Paris but to the world. Almost universally, mourners around the world expressed their grief at the loss of such a beloved iconic structure. Democratic candidate Pete Buttegieg expressed his sorrow in flawless French (he speaks 7 languages and was a Rhodes Scholar). And then there were Presidents Obama and Trump. You can imagine which expressed his sentiments the most eloquently.

One firefighter was injured and we learn that the 400 valiant firefighters were fortunate enough to salvage some important things that were inside the beloved church. The famous Rose Window has supposedly been saved, and I heard that the world famous organ had, as well. I had heard, prior to these more recent updates, that, because the structure was undergoing some reconstruction, various copper statues had been removed before the flames broke out. That would be good news for the world and for France. Supposedly the crown of thorns perhaps worn by Jesus was also saved.

The world will watch as the resourceful French pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Notre Dame Cathedral: View from the Top As You’ll Never Be Able to See It Again

Notre Dame Cathedral

From the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the top of Notre Dame.

View of Paris from the top of Notre Dame.

Gargoyles atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Thedestruction of Notre Dame Cathedral by fire has gripped the nation and the world in its grasp.

It is an iconic symbol of so many things to so many people. And now, with the destruction of much of it, you’ll never be able to climb to the top and take the pictures I am going to share with you today, and in the next few days: 16 in all.

Mydaughter just visited Paris in the past few months and she said that Notre Dame was her favorite tourist visit. I actually attended church there, many moons ago, and the Rose Window—which may or may not have been saved—-captivated me during the service.

In order to get these pictures, you had to travel up to the top in a very small elevator that only accommodated about 7 people at a time. My college roommate. Pam Rhodes (a Des Moines area French teacher did that), and took these photos.

I’m sharing them with you, because this is a view from the top that will never be the same again.

French Film About Love & Its Effects Gives Viewers Much to Think About

The lead-up to the Chicago International Film Festival’s 53rd year is underway. Critics are getting the chance to screen films from over 95 countries, including 1,044 feature films, 3,500 shorts and 646 documentaries. Twenty-five of the films will enjoy their North American Premiere here and 29 others will have their U.S. Premiere in Chicago when the festival begins on October 12th.

Many films are embargoed, meaning that a complete review cannot be written until the film is actually released. Let me give you a peek at onr of these new films.

The black-and-white French film “L’Amant d’un Jour” (“A Lover for a Day”) directed by French director Philippe Garrel (“Regular Lovers”) was quite charming and a Cannes favorite. This one had much food for thought. Here are a few lines of dialogue and a brief synopsis:

“A Lover for a Day” is the provocative tale of modern love and family ties. When Jeanne’s (Esther Garrel) boyfriend Mateo breaks up with her, she is forced to move back home with her father, charismatic college professor Gilles (Eric Caravace) and discovers that he is now living with a girl her age, Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), his philosophy student.

Let me first disagree that Gilles is “charismatic” He’s dumpy looking and he is not young, but, in a classic case of transference, Ariane (Louise Chevillotte) has decided Gilles is the one for her. She pursues him until he catches her. Maybe she has a thing for older men (father fixation) or maybe it is the fact that Gilles was her Professor of Philosophy. Who knows? His appeal is not immediately apparent, but “the heart wants what it wants.”

When Jeanne comes calling at her father’s flat, Ariane is in residence; the two young women become friends.

Jeanne is extremely distraught over her break-up with fiancé Mateo, but Ariane, who is roughly Jeanne’s age, reassures her that, “You’ll get over it. We always do.”

Jeanne: “He kept telling me he loved me. I held off, at first. He came chasing after me. Now, there’s nothing there. I was totally played by love…and it all ends like this.”

The relationship between Gilles and his young lover continues, but there is a discussion of them having an “open” relationship where Arianne can take younger lovers, as long as Gilles doesn’t know. (“Not only do I not want to know, I’d rather have no idea.”)

Ariane counsels the heartbroken Jeanne with lines like, ”Sure, he (Mateo) was selfish. It happens to us all. I know it hurts, but it’ll pass.” She tells her new friend Jeanne that her father has been married and divorced three times and that she “thinks he enjoys divorcing.” This should give Gilles pause, if nothing else about Ariane does.

There’s a discussion of the Algerian War, in which one million Frenchmen were drafted to fight against Algeria. During the dinner-table discussions, the beautiful Arianne is ogled by another cute young Frenchman and Gilles seems upset. Ariane says, “It’s what you want. For me to flirt with others but sleep with you.” She also says, “You know me so well. I can’t hide a thing. It’s crazy to even try.”

Gilles responds, “I know you because I love you, perhaps.”

Voice-over: “Eternity never stopped. Happiness reigned over their home.”

However, problems arise, which, indirectly, are Jeanne’s fault. The denouement was interesting, to me, as I wondered, “How is this going to end?”

More thoughts that the movie gives us about love, in general: “When you’re so young and fragile, it can mark you for life.” (A reference to Jeanne’s heartsick behavior).

Ariane tells Jeanne: “You must know how to choose lovers. When you fall in love, you fall in love with everything; you become stupid.”

Jeanne responds, “But it’s sad to never fall in love, isn’t it?”

Of being in love: “I love it and, at the same time, it pisses me off. It’s great, but, then again, it’s super crazy. You just feel great, like you’re wrapped in a great coat/”

Gilles’ goal is this: “I want to age in a loving relationship.” He also admits this about himself: “I hurt women who did nothing to deserve it.” (*Note: the script was written by Philippe Garrel, Jean-Claude Carriere, Caroline Derues-Garrel, and Arlette Langmann).

Will Gilles and Arianne go the distance? Is Jeanne’s engagement to her fiancé, Mateo, really over? You’ll have to see the movie to find out when the it is released in the United States. (It played Cannes and also was featured October 10th at the New York Film Festival before it shows on October 13th in Chicago.)

Palma, Majorca, Spain: Last Mediterranean Stop

Our last day on the one-week birthday cruise to Spain, Italy and France was a stop at Palma, Majorca. (*Note: I’ve seen it spelled as Mallorca, as well.)

Majorca

Majorca

I had always heard the British talk about vacationing there. When I was a People-to-People student at homestays in England (Chislehurst in Kent, Weston-Super-Mare and Birmingham), the locals raved on about how lovely it was on the island of Majorca.

2005 train that traverses the island.

2005 train that traverses the island.

I knew that Michael Douglas and his wife had a place there and asked our guide about it. He said that the place was far away from the only large city on the island (Palma, population 400,000) and that Douglas’ first wife, Deandra, was the one who really liked the vacation home.  His current wife, the Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, does not like the place as well. According to our guide, the couple (Michael and Deandra) split usage of the home in half and, usually, Michael ends up in hotels, rather than the home he purchased with and for his first wife.

Heart of Palma, Majorca.

Heart of Palma, Majorca.

In order to tour Majorca we had to walk quite a ways to the center of town. It is not possible to drive the tour bus into the heart of the city because the streets are too narrow. In fact, the sidewalks were little more than a foot or two wide, yet cars zoomed down the narrow street putting all of us in peril as we walked to the heart of the city, where a small Cathedral greeted us. 2015-07-24 20.48.52

There is a train that was built in 2005 that you can take around the island. It is the most popular tourist attraction, we were told, and goes through several tunnels that have been built on the island, cutting through the mountains.  2015-07-24 22.39.46

We stopped at a cafe in the heart of the city, right in front of the Cathedral and where the train goes through, and had a Coca Cola and a beer.  The couple seated next to us began chatting with us. He was an I.T. guy from Sweden and she was an elementary school teacher. They used to vacation in Fort Lauderdale, but now have actually bought a place in Majorca, instead.

View from the train en route around the island.

View from the train en route around the island.

Craig said that Majorca was his favorite spot on the tour. That means he preferred it to Rome, Pisa, Naples, Florence, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Barcelona, Munich and Pompeii. 2015-07-24 21.24.18

Majorca was not ungodly hot. There was a lovely breeze blowing and it was, indeed, a rustic vacation spot, although it seemed rather sleepy to me, in the same way that Hawaii seems sleepy after  you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the beaches and the beautiful vistas.2015-07-21 01.21.31

Three Films from the 48th Chicago Film Festival

Three films I’ve seen since Opening Night: “Benji,” the story of the tragic death of Benjamin Wilson, a young black Chicago basketball player senselessly shot and killed. Very good documentary, which I will speak about at greater legngth later.

“The Sapphires:” An Australian film with a Killer Soundtrack and featuring Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) as the manager of a Supremes-like group of Aborigine girls who tour Vietnam during the Vietnam War and battle racism at home. Great performers. Great music. Great film.

“Holy Motors:” a joint French and German film (with subtitles) that represents all that is bad and pretentious about art. Incoherent. Boring. OVerlong.

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

The Notre Dame cathedral in Strasbourg. France is so closely bordered by shops, hotels and restaurants that it was impossible for me to get a photo showing the church in its entirety.   This magnificent structure completely dominates its surroundings.  Strasbourg is a lovely city, the ninth largest in France. 

The Rhine River, Strasbourg, France

The Rhine River flowing through Strasbourg, France

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