Saturday, June 22, 2013

Les Grandes Vacances (Summer vacation)

"I see London, I see France..."

Vive les grandes vacances!

Like E.T., this French Girl is going home. 

Family. Friends. Stolen moments.

Sightseeing. Picture taking. People watching.

Café terraces. Public gardens. Old buildings.

Outdoor markets. 

Plane trees lining beautiful roads.

Pâtisseries. Warm baguettes. Petit pichet de rosé. Grand pichet?

Small cars. Small apartments. Small beds.

Slower pace. 

Time to observe; to regroup; to reflect; to plan.

History at every street corner. 

Place de la République. Rue du Général de Gaulle. Avenue de la Libération

Charles Trénet songs.

Stereotypes? Pourquoi pas, if they are based on truth...

Childhood memories.

Familiar sights. A sense of belonging. 

Old Europe. La Belle France


-- French Girl in Seattle, June 2013 --

Charles Trénet understood...


Do you want to travel with French Girl in Seattle this summer?
C'est facile!

I will be posting photos daily on Facebook as I travel in France, England and Spain...  To come along, simply "Like" the French Girl in Seattle Facebook page here and join me and my posse (over 400 francophiles and counting,) for a rollicking good time across Europe...

You have heard Google Reader will be bowing out in a few days. Not to worry. You can keep following French Girl in Seattle on other readers. Popular choices include Bloglovin' here or here. You can also click on the Bloglovin' and Feedly icons (look for the Eiffel Tower!) in my side bar... 

Merci et a bientôt.

-- Véronique

Paris, 2006

Friday, June 14, 2013

"You like me, you really like me!" (*)

Katharine Hepburn's four Academy Awards
(National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC)

For the last three weeks, I have been reviewing French movies for the Seattle International Film Festival: Thank you for following this budding movie critic and for encouraging me along the way. 

I was ready to move on and start writing about another fun topic, namely my summer travel plans, but then I heard the news: I had been nominated for two Liebster Blog Awards by fellow bloggers, Michel, of Our House in Provence and Michael, of Je Parle Américain.

Liebster Award: It's all about paying it forward!

Michel and Michael. Two bloggers, both American. The first one owns a house in the charming provençal village of Sablet, where he lives part of the year with his wife Shirley. You will enjoy reading his colorful posts about the small towns and villages he visits along the way; the second one, a 40-something guy who relocated to France several years ago, married a Frenchman, and now chronicles his Parisian adventures. Pay them a visit when you get a chance!

I have received a Liebster Award before, and while I feel honored to see my blog recognized by this community, I am also aware of the steps involved in accepting a nomination: Revealing 11 facts about yourself (not 5 or 24, mind you... 11!) then answering 11 questions by the blogger who nominated you; finally, nominating 5 deserving blogs (preferably with fewer than 200 Followers,) linking to their blogs in your acceptance post, and posing 11 questions, etc. 

Phew. You get the picture:  Nobody in Hollywood - and I mean NOBODY - has to work this hard to receive an Academy Award or an Emmy. That, mes amis, is a fact.

I realize this post may include more personal information about this French Girl you will ever care to hear. I am proud of my little blog, and what we have accomplished so far, mostly thanks to my faithful readers. But I have decided to add a little twist, to make this visit worth your while. So while I go through the steps of accepting my nomination, I will also share the limelight with favorite ladies of mine, all award-winning actresses. They are the shining stars. Love them all.

Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. Backstage,
Academy Awards ceremony (1956)

But the Liebster Award is patiently waiting for me. I, too, need to step into the light and claim it. 

Part 1: Eleven facts about French Girl in Seattle.

1. Once upon a time... French Girl in Seattle was born in December 2010 during our annual visit to Paris. Two and a half years later, we have reached close to 400,000 pageviews. Over 700 readers (mostly American and French,) have signed up to become French Girl in Seattle's "Most Faithful Followers," here, or on the blog's Facebook page. Merci à tous! 

2. Discovering my creative self...I have never considered myself a creative person (I am not crafty at all; can't carry a tune or play an instrument; and can't hold a drawing pencil) Still, French Girl in Seattle has taught me I could be creative in so many other ways. I value the learning experience involved in researching my stories; the hours spent writing; the connections and friendships developed along the way. The blog - and the community around it - have become trusted friends in difficult times. I am grateful for that.

3. I was born... in the lovely city of Toulouse, in southern France. Even though I have not returned in years, I am planning on getting re-acquainted with my Gascon roots in the coming year. There could be worse things in life than hailing from the same region as Cyrano de Bergerac or D'Artagnan!

Audrey Hepburn, Best Actress, Roman Holiday, 1953

4. As I was growing up, I lived in several French cities with my family. From Toulouse to Lille, via Montpellier, Lyon, and finally, Paris. This traveling life showed me the benefits of being adaptable, curious and outgoing. I was lucky to always make new friends along the way. This came in handy because...

5. Eighteen years of my life have been spent in the United States so far.  One year in Atlanta, as a foreign exchange student in the mid 1980's. Seventeen in Seattle, WA. I don't spend nearly enough time on the East Coast, which I explored for years during my summer vacation in my 20's. I miss it.

6. Even though I have lived in [American] suburbia for the last 13 years, I am still a city girl at heart. People watching from a café terrace on a busy street is one of my favorite pastimes. 

Grace Kelly, best actress, Country Girl, 1954

7. I love movies. My life would not have been the same without movies (if my best friends are tired of hearing me quote favorite characters, they have been kind enough not to tell me... yet.) 

8. Three reasons why I am a lousy French woman: I don't like to cook. I don't know much about wine. I don't own a single skirt or a pair of high heel pumps (sorry, Christian Louboutin!)

9. Three reasons why I am a real French woman: I love and use accessories. I understand the concept of doing things in moderation. I am frank and forthcoming.

Simone Signoret, Best Actress, A Woman at the Top, 1959

10. I have developed an unhealthy obsession with: Nutella; caramel-flavored desserts; les Fraises Tagadala Deuche (the 2cv;) Coco Chanel.

11. You can take the French Girl out of France, but you can't take France out of the French Girl. Whoever said "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," was absolutely right.

Vivien Leigh, Best Actress, Gone with the Wind, 1939

Part 2: 

French Girl in Seattle answers 11 questions by fellow bloggers Michel and Michael

1. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

Coco Chanel (I'd be certain to stay very quiet and listen the whole time...) Do I REALLY have to say why?

If Coco was not available, then I vote for Monsieur Gustave Eiffel

2. Name your favorite restaurant. 

I once had a memorable meal "al fresco" at Château Eza, in Eze Village, on the French Riviera. I don't get impressed easily, but Château Eza blew me away. It was not just about the food (delicious,) service (French waiters at their knowledgeable, professional best,) but also about le cadre (the environment.) Oh, la, la!

Sophia Lauren, Best Actress, Two Women, 1962

3. What makes you smile more quickly than anything else?

My black cat, Felix, a.k.a. "The Puma." Cats are funny, whether they intend to be or not.

4. The best quality in a human being?


5. What infuriates you more than anything else?

Selfishness. People who think of themselves first; act without thinking, and do not consider the consequences of their actions, and their impact on the people around them, (relatives, friends or total strangers.)

Elizabeth Taylor, Best Actress, Butterfield 8, 1960

6. If you had to live during any other period of history, which one would it be, and why?

I guess I am a little bit like the character played by Marion Cotillard in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris: I would have loved living in Paris during la Belle Epoque. I could have attended the 1889 World Fair; would have been one of the first visitors to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower. I would have splurged on a decadent meal at the Ritz Paris, prepared by the great Auguste Escoffier!

7. What would be your dream job?

I have always dreamed of running a big hotel. I would also love making a living as a travel writer. Or as a writer.

8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

My friends could answer this question for me: Nissa la Bella. Nice, of course. This Southern belle has it all: the Mediterranean. Proximity to Provence, and Italy. Exceptional weather. City life. Not too big, not too small. Nice, definitely.

Julia Roberts, Best Actress, Erin Brockovich, 2000

 9. What movie or TV show do you hate that everyone loves? 

Any reality TV show. They are too painful to watch. I'd rather spend time with a good book or a favorite movie. 

10. Who is your favorite author?

It's a tie between John Steinbeck and John Irving. And I would choose Fitzgerald over his friend Hemingway.

11. Favorite quote?

Any quote by Coco Chanel. I can relate to so many of them...

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud." 
Coco Chanel

Helen Mirren, Best Actress, the Queen, 2006

And finally...

Part 3: French Girl in Seattle's 5 nominations

This is why the Liebster Award was created: to showcase excellent blogs with fewer than 200 Followers. Pay them a visit and help them grow! 

Dear Blogger friends: To claim your Award, follow the steps detailed at the beginning of this post, and answer the 11 questions above, or just improvise... To quote Katharine Hepburn: "If you follow all the rules, you miss all the fun!" :-) 

1. My friend Sandy, of Southwest Chards, lives in a beautiful part of the country. She delivers some of the most colorful and sunny posts out there in Blogland... They have often cheered my up through the long, wet, Pacific Northwest winters.

2. Craig, of Boris in Ayshire, has lived around the world, including in France. But now, he and his partner, and their cute dog Boris, are back in Scotland. Everyone who reads Craig knows who the true star of the blog is... (Note to Craig: We need more photos of Boris, please :-) 

3. Alison, of Flartopia, "French teacher by calling and training, a cubicle rat by default," chronicles her life in North Carolina... NC has never looked so good...

Marion Cotillard, Best Actress, La Vie en Rose, 2007

4. You like to travel? Follow Sandy, of You may be wandering. Oh, the places you'll go!

5. Finally, Pam, of Views from My Kitchen Sink... except Pam's kitchen sink overlooks the Eiffel Tower... well, not really, but she still lives in a beautiful Parisian neighborhood. Pam chronicles her family's life in the City of Light; takes beautiful photos; and keeps an open mind about these crazy French people...

Voilà, les amis. Mission accomplished. I have accepted my two Liebster Blog Awards. 

Thanks again for nominating me, Michel and Michael.

Good luck to the blogs I have nominated today. Pay it forward!

A bientôt.

(*) "You love me, you really love me!" -- Sally Field, upon receiving the Best Actress Academy Award for Norma Rae in 1979.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One last movie review... and an interview (Seattle International Film Festival, part 4)

The Seattle International Film Festival has been a fun ride, but it is time to wrap up... until next year.

Before I hang up my movie critic hat, I would like to tell you about one last film. 

What a delightful, heart-warming movie Low Profile is. The director is Cécilia Rouaud.

A modern romantic comedy, a "Rom-Com" as they say. But one that works. 

"Low Profile"

First, a stellar cast, who clearly enjoyed themselves. Great chemistry between the lead actors, the beautiful and irresistible Vanessa Paradis, (award-winning actress, singer, model, French icon,) and the ruggedly handsome Denis Ménochet (you may remember Ménochet as the French farmer facing an impossible choice in the introductory scene of Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.) Excellent supporting roles, Léa Drucker, Laurent Capelluto, and the adorable David Carvalho-Jorge, a little boy you won't soon forget. 

Emmanuelle (Vanessa Paradis) meets Yvan (Denis Ménochet)
Leo (David Carvalho-Jorge,) the young boy who will teach Yvan how to become a father.

Second, the touching, believable story of a modern family. A divorce. A broken heart. Challenging teenagers. A young child who will change the family's lives forever. A complicated, surly, immature leading man who will learn to trust and love again. The adorable, klutzy, luminous young woman who enters his life at the worst possible time. A neurotic but loving sister and her supportive husband. Paris. The breathtaking Brittany coast.

"Non smokers" Arianne (Léa Drucker,) and Emmanuelle (Vanessa Paradis) meet...

Finally, a great story, written and directed by talented Cécilia Rouaud. This was her first movie, but she is no beginner. Cécilia has worked in the film industry for over ten years with more established directors, as second or first assistant. She learned her trade in the field. 

Cécilia Rouaud (left) with her lead actors, 2012

Even though the movie came out in France last summer (with excellent reviews but a disappointing box office due to a limited distribution,) she came to Seattle last weekend to present Low Profile, because, she says: "That is why we make films; to meet and touch people."

I was lucky enough to meet her privately after the projection and she answered a few questions for this budding movie critic. The conversation was en français, but I will try and do it justice. 

Cécilia Rouaud -
Interview - by French Girl in Seattle
Sunday, June 9, Seattle, WA.

French Girl in Seattle: 
Cécilia, bonjour. A central theme in your movie seems to be family; but a modern version of the family. People splitting up; starting new lives; children being torn apart; families brought together. This could have been a pretty depressing story. 

Cécilia Rouaud
I came from a stable family background. I always took it for granted. But one day, I had a child, and his father left me. A few years later, I met another man, who was already a father. We fell in love. Today, we are a family, and I love his child like my own. The message in the movie is that we can choose whom we love. We can choose our family. At first, when a family splits up, there is pain, and it appears to be a disaster. But down the road, it is also an opportunity, if you work at it. It can make your life richer. And that is what you see in the movie. Some good things can come out of difficult, painful situations. In that sense, the message is optimistic, I think. 

The movie is also a romantic comedy, but not a traditional one. Many "Rom-Coms" fail. Yours does not. Why?

Cécilia Rouaud:
Merci. I tried to stay away from clichés. The story had to ring true. It had to be believable. My characters are messed up, but they are credible, I think. Vanessa, Denis, or Léa are established actors, yet they immediately came on board when I contacted them. They were very enthusiastic about the project, and loved working together. It shows on the screen. They were my characters, right from the start, and they were able to express the characters' humanity and make us relate to them.

This was your first movie. You wrote and directed it. But you have been in the business for years. How challenging was it to direct those established actors?

Cécilia Rouaud: 
Directing is finding a way to talk to different people. My actors all work differently. Vanessa [Paradis] occasionally asked me to demonstrate a scene for her. Then she gave it a try... and ended up being much better at it than I
[ed: she laughs.] Denis [Ménochet] always wanted to know every single detail about the character; what he thought; how he liked his coffee... Léa [Drucker] is a technician. All she needs is a word, ("slowly...") and she gets it. For the child, because he was so young, I mostly wanted to avoid the mechanical recitation of the lines. So I gave no explanations to him; just brief directions: "Look to the right." "Say these words..." - His face is so expressive. He was a natural. 

Low Profile came out a year ago. How does it feel to be here and still talk about the movie? I assume you are already working on your next project? Can you talk about it or is it still confidential?

Cécilia Rouaud: 
Low Profile is like my grown up child, who has moved out of the house already, but the movie was very important to me, obviously, as my first big project. I hope we find a distributor in the United States. I am not sure we have yet. 

I am currently working on my next film. We have a cast lined up, and would like to start shooting at the beginning of next year. The producer still has to find the financing. It's always about the money. "Le nerf de la guerre." The lifeblood of movies.

The new movie is about families too. I think of it as a comedy, but people have told me they find the plot rather depressing [ed: She laughs.] A grandmother is about to die and asks her grandchildren (who do not get along) to take her to her final resting place. Vanessa Paradis and Denis Ménochet will return. [ed: established actor and director] Jean-Pierre Bacri, and Cécile Sallette will also join the cast.

The movie shows how family can destroy you or ultimately, save you. And how one must always remember where one came from.

I wish you the best of luck, Cécilia, and hope you find the financing for your project quickly. Maybe we will meet again here next year, or the following, to celebrate your new movie. Have you enjoyed your visit to Seattle?

Merci. I hope so too. This has been a short, but fun visit. Great city. I was amazed at how enthusiastic American audiences are, compared to the French public. They are not afraid to laugh (or cry,) while they are watching the movie... It is a great feeling for a director to see her audience so wrapped up in the story. 

Merci, Cécilia. 
Merci, Seattle International Film Festival for showcasing American and international talent, once again.
Merci, Ryan E. for your encouragement and support.

A bientôt.

A bientôt, Cécilia. Bonne chance!

Je me suis fait tout petit 
(Low Profile) 
French trailer 


Seattle readers of French Girl in Seattle:

Populaire, reviewed here a few days ago, will be playing once again on Friday June 14 at 7:00pm at the SIFF Cinema Uptown. Don't miss it! 
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

French Girl in Seattle reviews "Thérèse Desqueyroux" (Seattle International Film Festival - Part III)

How ironic. This week, I had to drive to "the city," to watch a movie about a woman who led a boring [French] provincial life...

You may not realize this, but it takes at least 45 minutes to reach downtown Seattle from my neck of the [suburban] woods.

On Thursday evening, I programmed my car's GPS so I would find the old-fashioned movie theater where the Seattle International Film Festival was showing Thérèse Desqueyroux.

When I arrived, I did not recognize the neighborhood; or the old-fashioned Harvard Exit theater where the show was playing. I can tell you no theaters in my neighborhood look this cool: Built in 1925 as a clubhouse, the Harvard Exit still boasts a cozy lobby, complete with a grand piano, a fireplace and a big chandelier. 

No giant parking lot? No neon lights? Are you sure this is a theatre?

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Even though I was wearing [proudly] my Festival Press pass, I stood in line with the rest of the small crowd. Nobody can say fame has gone to this French Girl's head!

I am glad I did. I had an interesting conversation with some locals. It's easy to do in the U.S. where people are friendly, and within minutes, smile; engage you; and tell you their life' stories (whether you want to hear them or not...) 

It went something like this:

Stranger 1 to me: 
- Cool Pass. (reading the pass:) French Girl in Seattle. You know, you do not have to line up with us. You can go straight in.

French Girl in Seattle (looking around admiringly:) 
- This is a très cool neighborhood, and building. I don't recognize it. Where are we exactly?

Stranger 1 (a little surprised,) to me:
- This is Capitol Hill, of course. (Ed: a well-known, edgy Seattle neighborhood.) 

French Girl in Seattle (genuinely shocked:) 
- Really? I would not have guessed. I don't cross the bridge very often. I live on the Eastside (Ed: Seattle's high tech and "posh" neighbor, across Lake Washington.) 

Stranger 1 (smiling sadly:)
- Sorry. Really

Stranger 2 (jumping into the conversation:)
- We call the Eastside "the Dark Side." 

Ouch. But I remembered les Parisiens do the same thing when they describe the rest of France as "la Province...

I bid my new friends Au revoir and, passing the line (I am French, after all,) I went in and flashed my Press pass. (I do this all the time; Cannes; Sundance; the Academy Awards...) 

Shhhhh... The Show is about to start...

But I digress. I am here to tell you about the Claude Miller movie, Thérèse Desqueyroux.

By the way, that is pronounced day-ss-kay-roo

You're welcome.

Thérèse Desqueyroux was the last movie of the prolific French director. He died in 2012 a few weeks before his actors walked the prestigious Cannes red carpet on the Festival's closing night.

Thérèse Desqueyroux is a pretty faithful adaptation of a French literature classic, written by François Mauriac in 1927. The story takes place in the beautiful Landes region, outside of Bordeaux, an area well known for its vast pine forests.

Monsieur et Madame Desqueyroux...

The movie tells the story of a modern, free-spirited woman, unhappily married to a catholic landowner, heir to a large pine forest. He is a dull and serious man; attached to tradition and his bourgeois lifestyle, who never understands Thérèse or her aspirations.

Thérèse's ennui, her dutiful life in a marriage of convenience, are masterfully captured by Miller who succeeds at depicting her claustrophobic existence in the dark, cold provincial family mansion. This is not a cheerful movie. 

Thérèse: Poster child for the bored, dissatisfied housewives...

No ladies, not all French provincial homes are bright and romantic
and decorated in the Shabby Chic style...

An emotional prisoner, Thérèse will be led to extreme measures to try and escape social pressures and a life of frustration and compromises. She will pay a high price, imposed by her family, before she can ultimately escape her dreary life in jazz age Paris.

Thérèse, scheming...

The movie is sombre and gloomy, like the Desqueyroux' mansion, but in the movie's title role, Audrey Tautou, of Amélie fame, shines. Tautou has mostly stuck to comedic roles in recent years, and this is her chance to show some range as an actress. She says little, but her dark, soulful eyes (often filmed at close range by Claude Miller,) successfully express her inner torment. 

We feel for Thérèse, who yearns for another life, but she is a complex character, who does not always come across as likeable. There is no happy ending in this story, and the last shot is, at the very least, ambiguous.

Writing a review for Thérèse Desqueyroux is tricky. I know this one won't be as much of a *sure thing* as the other two films I reviewed. So, I thought I would do the following. Then you can decide if Claude Miller's movie is for you.

Thérèse Desqueyroux: See it if...
  • You obsess over old country French estates. 
  • You love Audrey Tautou and want to see if she has the chops for more dramatic roles.
  • You have seen enough fast-paced, loud, action movies recently, merci beaucoup.

Thérèse Desqueyroux: Skip it if...
  • You have always hated the isolation of the countryside.
  • You think all French movies are either too chatty, or too slow.
  • You have been feeling low lately... 

C'est tout, les amis. A bientôt.

Thérèse Desqueyroux
Claude Miller, 2012
Limited national release date:
August 23, 2013

Movie trailer:

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