Sunday 29 July 2018

La Grand Boucle/Tour de Force

I don't really remember when I bought Tour de Force, but I came across the DVD recently (in a stack in my house) and of course July seemed the perfect time to watch it, and so I put the disc in the player on Day 4 of the 2018 Tour. I wasn't planning to watch the whole thing but I enjoyed it so much that I missed the start of the Stage that night!

The start of the movie is a bit hokey, with a bit of trouble setting up amateur cyclist Francois' motivation to take on cycling the Tour -doing each stage the day before the actual cyclists. I believe lots of people do that, at least a stage or two for mere mortals, and certainly lots of amateur cyclists will take on the more famous tour climbs like the Col de Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux and Alpe d'huez. And in an amazing life imitates art there's an amazing group of amateur women cyclists (Donnons des elles au vélo) doing the full tour to push for a Women's Tour. They do it tough, the roads aren't closed for them.
We respect the traffic signs. We stop at red lights. We respect the rules,” Kalachova says.
Actually they're pushing for the return of the Tour de France Feminin which ran alongside the men's event from 1984-89, it has a fascinating history. I have enjoyed La Course (a women's race on the final day) the last few years, but it's a hard nights viewing. The Australian telecast of the iconic final day of the Tour starts tonight at 2330 and goes til 0400. A hard gig when you're working this evening, doing the school run in the morning, and working tomorrow evening. But I'll be on the couch for part of it and will wistfully think back on 2013 when I stood on the Rue du Rivoli for the final stage. 

Oh wait I'm supposed to be talking about La Grand Boucle... If I hadn't put in the hard yards on the couch over many cold July nights then I don't think I could have enjoyed it like I did. I understand the brigades of mad fans, the rituals and rhythms of the Tour, even the camera angles, classic shots. The Dutch jokes. I can't imagine being able to enjoy it quite so much if you weren't a cycling fan, or at least a Tour fan. There's a lot of in jokes. But it's a nice feel good movie. I'll certainly watch it again, next July, or perhaps even once more this July if I can sneak it in. 

Donnons des elles au vélo link to website in French
Donnons des elles au vélo link to news article in English

Paris in July 2018

Tuesday 10 July 2018

The Red Balloon

I only really learnt something of this book in 2016 when I made my list of Children's Books Set in Paris. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and bought it online that day.

The Red Balloon was the first book that I read for my first Dewey's 24 hour readathon back in October 2016. And I found it really disappointing.

The Red Balloon is actually still photos from a film of the same name and is surely one of the earliest movie tie-ins. The production quality of the book is really quite poor and the translation is terrible. 

Now usually when you let a balloon go, it flies away. But Pascal's balloon stayed outside the window, and the two of them looked at each other through the glass. Pascal was surprised that his balloon hadn't flown away, but not really as surprised as all that. Friends will do all kinds of things for you. If the friend happens to be a balloon, it doesn't fly away. 
Still the concept is delightful even if the execution falls somewhat short of the mark.  What child wouldn't love a balloon friend who will wait for him or her while they're at school and not fly away when your mother throws it out?

Then even more recently I discovered the 1956 film was available on SBS On Demand (this post has been languishing half-formed for quite some time, and sadly it's not On Demand any more, but it is on Youtube).  A mere 34 minutes long it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and many other prestigious prizes including the Palme D'Or for Best Short Film at Cannes. It remains the only short film to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay!

This is one of those rare situations where the movie is so, so much better than the book.

The Red Balloon movie is a fascinating glimpse into a 1950s Paris which seems a far grimier Paris than the one we enjoy today. Wiki tells us that it was filmed in a part of Belleville that has since been largely demolished. It is an almost a silent movie with very little dialogue.

And now I see that there is a modern homage to The Red Balloon - The Flight of the Red Balloon/Le Voyage de Ballon Rouge (2008), the first French film by Taiwanese director  Hou Hsaio-Hsien.

I suspect that I'll be watching this sometime soon. It's currently on SBS On Demand for those in Australia. 

Balloons are still a big deal in Paris. Australian Anna Dawson moved to Paris and started walking around with a pink balloon, now she is an Instagram star with more than 135, 000 followers.

Paris in July

Friday 6 July 2018

Claris The Chicest Mouse in Paris

Somehow I had missed the pre publicity for Claris, and so recently I was walking out of my local bookshop (having already bought four books) when I was stopped in my tracks by Claris in the window display. I hadn't noticed her on the way in, despite stopping to look at the Paris themed window. I gasped, turned around, walked straight back in and bought it. I love Paris, obviously. I love kids books. I love Megan Hess's illustrations. And now she's written a picture book. Such a no-brainer that I would buy it, I would read it immediately and that I would love it. All of those things happened.

Claris is the story of a small French mouse. She lives in the mountains of France but is no country bumpkin. Claris fashions haute couture creations from garbage bags. But her friends and relatives just don't care. She dreams of Paris and of finding the stylish people.

Claris gets a lift in a hot air balloon with two frogs, one in a beret. Claris arrives in Paris and sets off to find somewhere to live. There are some hazards along the way of course, like a grumpy cat, and a nasty girl who is a sneering snitch.

From the very outset (with the totally gorgeous endpapers) Claris is utterly delightful. I just love the contrast between Claris' designer outfits and her hairy, mousey little legs.

The story is told in rhyming couplets and is charmant. 

So while the mice feasted on crumbs of éclair,
 she read about handbags in Vanity Fair. 

My copy came with a delightful little Claris pin.

I'm generally too old to have Instagram envy, but oh, Megan Hess's life on Instagram! Can anyone really be that glamorous?

Paris in July 

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Big Little Lies

I've fallen under the thrall of all things Big Little Lies recently. I binge watched the miniseries a few weeks ago. I inhaled it, and just loved it. I'd borrowed a copy from my library as I couldn't get it on my streaming services, and I was a bit worried about the move to an American location. Big Little Lies, the book, is Australian and firmly set in Sydney. Big Little Lies, the series, has moved to Monterey in California. But I loved it so much that I then went out and bought the DVD, so I could watch it again whenever I wanted to (after pressing it onto all of my friends first). I'm very excited that a second series is in production and will be released next year. 

The series has an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Perhaps my favourite discovery is Ituana's breathy, lovely version of You Can't Always Get What You Want. I loved that so much that I took out a trial subscription to Spotify! Which I am enjoying very much. 

Very soon I found myself downloading the audiobook on my new love (Borrowbox). 15 hours 55 minutes! In just two weeks (I'm sure I won't be able to renew it as it's really popular, I had to wait for it)- that's quite an ask for me. But it was pretty easy I guess. Even though I didn't really love Caroline Lee's voice work- I found her rather overwrought Aussie accent a bit much actually. Her narration is fine, but I found her character voices grating for some reason.  But I did love the story and was sucked right in yet again. 

Just in case anyone else has been hiding under a rock Big Little Lies tells the stories of three kindergarten mums. Their friendship, their relationships and families. Madeleine is the feisty one, she's on her second marriage, and is the old hand of the school yard, an expert in the politics and cliques (yes of the parents). Celeste and Jane are both first time kindergarten mums, Celeste is married with twin boys, Jane is the youngest, a single mother with one son, Ziggy. All are juggling busy lives and finding their own way with work life balance, and each has made quite different decisions and compromises in her life. 

From the start of the book and the movie we know that someone has died. But not who. Big Little Lies is a Who Was It? more so than a Whodunnit? There are a number of smaller mysteries along the way and I did guess those whilst watching the show and I kept wondering if I would have guessed them if I read the book first. 

Given that the series was so fresh in my mind, I was very interested in the differences between the book and screen versions- and there are quite a few really. But they tend to be minor - some of the characters have an extra kid in the book (it tends to be the brothers that are left out), Mrs Ponder who lives next to the school didn't make the cut to the small screen. I can't remember Jane's parents being in the series. There are a few story lines that are in the show but not in the book. And of course everyone is richer and everything is grander in Monterey than they were back on the Pirriwee Peninsula. 

Speaking of which the whole Pirriwee setting really annoyed me. The rest of the Sydney suburbs mentioned are real. Jane's parents live in Granville, she lived in Newtown before moving to the peninsula. Why then make up the fictional Pirriwee? Are you really protecting the innocent when it's clearly a Northern Beaches location? Why bother?

Structurally, I really loved the little snippets from parents at the school that began or finished each chapter. Police interviews are not really like this at all I suspect. I'm sure everyone would be much better behaved, but I love all the catty little snippets given in these sections, and the differing insights and information. 

Liane Moriarty is a phenomenally successful Australian author. Rather remarkably two of her sisters are authors too, successful, but not quite in the stratospheric leagues that Liane inhabits. Big Little Lies was my first Liane Moriarty read, I know that there'll be more.