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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

This was perhaps the most beautiful weekend yet during my stay here in Paris. Despite the distant rumblings of the evil Icelandic volcano Ejafajallajökull — not really — the weather was absolutely perfect all weekend, with blue skies, warm breezes and high but comfortable temperatures. Just like at UNC, the population of the city seemed to triple as everyone remembered how it nice it feels to just walk around and be content in the warmth.

I did some of that, too, but mostly, I sat in my kitchen, with our cat, working on articles, papers and reading assignments that are due before I leave for break on Thursday. Of course, SciencesPo waited until just now to give me actual work to do. Lovely.

Friday, the day of my long-awaited exposé, was beautiful and wonderful and all the above, and I had a lovely run in the morning before heading over to school to prepare for my group’s presentation on opera in the 19th century.

When we got together, it quickly became clear that some of us — one of us, really, and it wasn’t me — had not the done the work the others had done, making our conclusion rushed and kind of worthless. But it didn’t matter, because the professor didn’t seem to care. He listened attentively as we spoke, taking very few notes but nodding appreciatively as we spoke.

But, immediately after I had finished my portion, he rose one of his crazy, expressive hands — this guy is really lanky and very very French — and asked if he might add something just now, because he had nothing else planned that day and if he spoke just then, it would make a lot of sense thematically.

He then proceeded to speak, at great length, about the wonders of the Opéra-Comique and the works presented there, taking time to play considerably long pieces of music as examples and occupying the better part of a half-hour.

(A note: a traditional SciencesPo exposé is supposed to last 10 minutes, max, plus question time from the prof and class. Meaning that, in a group setting, each person speaking 10 minutes means a half hour total of presentation time. Our exposé, with the professor’s additions, lasted the majority of one entire hour.)

Having satisfied his urge to speak, the professor then let the last member of our group speak, making sure that me and the other member of the group had a chair to sit on, since we had stood for a very, very long time. It was all very strange, but I’m pretty sure we got a good grade because the professor seemed to enjoy himself, and he smiled a lot during our talk. I think.

Friday night saw me at a dinner party with some friends, where we all ate much bread and onion soup and drank much wine and had a rather unusual literary reading, of sorts. You see, these friends live in the apartment of an American ex-pat writer, who specializes in, well, erotic fiction. Apparently it’s some good stuff — award-winning it would seem — but it’s still erotica. My friends found a trunk full of erotica collections featuring her work, and we all took turns reading selections out loud.

It was a peculiar, uncomfortable and rather eye-opening experience, but we all left feeling rather giggly and much closer as friends.

Saturday, I spent the entire day in my kitchen, working on one of two papers due in the coming weeks before the end of term. With my trusty sidekick Flocon the Cat, I managed to finish one and start another, also finding time to send in some of my French cultural reporting assignments, too.

After a brisk run along the canal and up to Pére-Lachaisse, I joined some friends for a showing of “Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec,” a French period action-comedy-adventure film.

This was the first time I’ve seen a full-length French movie without subtitles, so I was very proud that I understood almost all of the movie. However, I think the plot is worth mentioning for its absolute absurdity.

The movie, directed by French film giant Luc Besson — I know he’s big because he was mentioned in one of my high school French text books a while back — is based on a series of comic books about a feisty, early 20th century journalist/author/adventure seeker named Adéle Blanc-Sec. She goes on epic quests and solves mysteries and stuff — kind of like a French, female version of Indiana Jones.

And like the most recent incarnation of Indiana Jones, the Adéle Blanc-Sec movie was really ridiculous. Adéle’s sister is brain dead from a tennis-related hat pin accident — she fell on a hat pin and it pierced her skull from back to front — so Adéle goes to Egypt to try and find the mummy of  a famous doctor so she can bring it back to life and make it save her sister.

You see, there’s a scientist in Paris who has discovered the secret of life after death — mainly, bringing dead things back to life. But unfortunately for Adéle, the scientist first tests this power by bringing to life a pterodactyl — or rather, making a pterodactyl egg in a museum hatch and release the sleeping dinosaur inside — which then proceeds to terrorize Paris, killing government ministers and causing panic throughout. For this, the scientist is sentenced to death, meaning Adéle has her work cut for her if she wants to use the scientist’s magic abilities to revive the mummified doctor — who actually is an engineer…but that doesn’t matter because everything works out in the end (well, the professor and his pterodactyl die, but no one really seems too concerned by that). And there’s also the slight problem that Adéle’s enemies somehow get her to take a vacation on a little cruise ship called the H.M.S. Titantic…and the screen fades to black.

As you can guess, the script for this movie was inspired by several different comic books, all crammed into one unnecessary but still wonderfully amusing movie. The best parts of this movie for me were being able to understand almost all of the dialogue and being able to identify the Parisian locations used during filming.

Sunday was an epic brunch at Breakfast in America — a satisfying yet not total substitute for Sundays at Weaver Street in Carrboro, North Carolina — and an afternoon in the Parc des Buttes Chaumonts. I now find myself in my kitchen again, eating grapefruit and trying to force myself to write this paper.

It’ll happen. I’m extraordinary like that.

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So, I really am a student of la belle France. For this semester, I have dutifully paid my fees, bought my carte d’etudiant and filled out all the requisite visa forms in triplicate — exactly like they asked me to do, even if when presented with said forms, the consul office in Atlanta seemed not to care about my hours of work.

That means, of course, that I am un vrai etudiant français — and as such, thus subject to all the perks and benefits, including FREE ADMISSION at the vast majority of the vast collection of vast museums here in Paris.

I had kind of suspected this — the websites for some of the bigger museums kind of indicate if you try hard enough, even as a foreign exchange student you get the same thing — but I wasn’t sure until I went to the Musée D’Orsay with Jean-Baptiste, a French friend.

But, as you might well know, two of the things I love most in this world include things which are free and things which are French. Et, voila, I am there. So, to start, today was a pretty good day.

I ran early in the cold — I wasn’t going to get up and do it, as the rain on my skylight over my shower/plant nursery/bathroom/general living space indicated the ugly weather outside — but I’m really glad I did. It felt really refreshing and made me wake up. Runs do that sometime.

I then made the not so long trek — do I really need a metro pass? (YES) — down to Sciences Po to purchase my course pack — with enough money today! HOORAY! — and then spent the rest of the day there, reading in various buildings and pretending to be studious until the time to meet Jean-Baptiste arrived. Classes start Monday, by the way. They do. I’m sure of it.

Then it was off to the Musée d’Orsay, for a lovely afternoon of impressionism, art nouveau and other such wonderful things. It was a lot of fun to walk around the museum with a French friend, speaking in French and talking about art. When I spend time with the French gang I’ve randomly assembled, my French improves a lot, but it still hard to fully express myself. It’s a process, I know, but I really love to talk — you are reading my blog, after all, so you know this — and not being able to fully use all the right words is incredibly frustrating.

Additionally, I tried to explain a complicated argument presented in a recent article in “The Believer” that concerned the democratization of art museums and the ensuing commodification of high culture into easily digested, smaller culture pieces. This was not a good idea, and not easily explained in a foreign language in which I am not yet completely fluent. At times, we all make poor choices.

We got coffee, talked a little more, and then I left for home to meet Victoria, my American friend from high school, for dinner and a movie.

We have agreed to only speak French with each other, which is a fun time for all, including the passersby. Tonight, a man at a grocery store looked at us very strangely. We know we aren’t French. We know our accent is not great. But we are trying. And that’s enough.

We made some yummy omelettes — I need to start cooking other things soon, I think — and then walked down to a big movie house nearby to catch “La Princesse et la Grenouille” — “The Princess and the Frog”, which I’ve already seen in America, but Victoria has not — thinking it would be doubled in French. I’ve seen the bandes annonces — trailers — and they are clearly in French.

Unfortunately, we must have found the wrong theatre, because was the same sassy and sweet movie I saw at the venerable Milford Cinema One Screen in Milford, Michigan last month with my parents, only with silly French subtitles below. Really. Victoria and I laughed at some of the malapropisms displayed there more than we did at actually intended humor in the movie.

We decided the next movie or cultural outing we take will be a truly French one.

But it was a truly lovely day, and tomorrow I have more to read and run and a French party to go to — NOT in the suburbs, thanks be to the Metro — and more fun things to do. Life is improving, peu en peu.

And I’m slowly starting to love Paris.

But don’t tell Paris. I think it’s seeing other people right now.

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