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Posts Tagged ‘French media’

Capturing a life as colourful as Coco Chanel’s in 1 hour and 50 minutes was never going to be easy. The revolutionary designer who cut up corsets to allow women the freedom of more masculine clothes was a bag of contradiction. As The Independent points out, “despite her vaunted pride and independence, she was not so proud or independent to refrain from sponging off men.”

So it was perhaps inevitable that Anne Fontaine’s Coco Before Chanel would receive mixed reviews. When the film came out in France in April, critics attacked Fontaine for getting too bogged down in biographical detail and failing to fully explore Chanel’s complex character.

Libération’s critic complained:

[Le film] manque l’essentiel : le (sale ?) caractère d’une femme qui réussit à monter sa propre marque… à une époque où  les femmes qui voulaient s’affranchir de leur foyer avaient le choix entre bonne ou prostitué.” [The film missed out on the most important aspect: the (dirty) character of a women who launched her own fashion label in an era when women wanting to escape home life had two options: to be a servant or a prostitute.]

Le Nouvel Observateur derisively summed up Coco Before Chanel’s plot as follows:

Quand Coco s’amuse, et ce n’est pas souvent, Coco contente. Quand Coco s’ennuie, la plupart du temps, Coco pas contente.” [When Coco has fun – which isn’t often – she’s happy. When Coco is bored –most of the time – Coco isn’t happy.]

But most of the French critics reserved praise for Audrey Tautou, who, playing the title character, brought  depth which the film otherwise lacked.

Le Monde said:

Chanel aura pour première utilité de reléguer Amélie au musée. L’actrice n’élude aucun des travers: l’ambition forcenée, la mythomanie, l’absence de scrupules.” [Chanel has above all served to relegate Amelie [Poulain] to the dustbin. The actress doesn’t avoid any of her bad points: her crazed ambition, her pathological lying, her lack of scruples.]

British critics, who finally got a chance to see Coco Before Chanel when it was released in the UK this week, thought much the same. Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail, branded the film a “stodgy biopic”, while Wendy Ide in The Times said: “Rather staid in its approach, this film is nowhere near as fascinating and unpredictable as its subject.”

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, not overly excited by this “tastefully furnished drama that rolls out pretty conservatively”, saw Coco Before Chanel as memorable for Tautou’s performance: “She can carry off a big role in a big movie, and portray a complex, creative personality. This is a world away from Amélie’s simpering ingenue.”

Next year, another Chanel film comes out. This time the focus is on Chanel’s relationship with the revolutionary composer, Igor Stravinsky. Will Chanel & Stravinsky better illuminate Chanel’s character? Will Anna Mouglalis, who plays mademoiselle do as well as Tautou?

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Cannes Film Festival 2009     

Cannes Film Festival 2009

We’re half way through that stellar event on any film buff’s calendar – the Festival de Cannes – and you might be, like me, disappointed about the minimal coverage it gets in the English-speaking press. So here’s five French language blogs on the festival I’d like to share with you:

Don’t be fooled by the English sounding titles, Because We Cannes Cannes Cannes and In The Mood For Cannes are two great blogs en français. The first, from the Film de Culte webzine team (who you can also follow on Twitter), mixes up longer features, focusing for example on the president of this year’s film jury Isabelle Huppert,with picture posts and overview lists. The second is written by screenwriter and film critic Sandra Mézière, who takes us on a more personal journey through the festival.  

If the côté “people” (as the French like to call celebrities) is more your thing, try the AlloCiné Cannes blog for photos and Le Buzz and Pure People for gossip, videos and more.

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When I was in Paris last week my cousin introduced me to Books, a new literary magazine which comes out once a month in France. 

I was at first sceptical about a French magazine with an English title. Like many other English francophiles, I am a hypocrite: I delight in using French but find it a little irritating when the French use English words because they think it makes them look branchés.   

But I was won over by the editorial column on the first page, which declared:

Le magazine que vous avez entre les mains se propose d’éclairer les sujets du jour et la condition humaine en utilisant la lumière des livres.

And Books does just that. The magazine is not simply a collection of reviews and essays (although it does do these very well). Each month as well as covering regular topics such as politics, religion and the sciences, it also takes a different issue and examines it in depth. Last month it was “Inde: la démocratie miraculeuse”.

Books purposefully steps back and takes a long term view of things through the telescope of literature. Think Prospect crossed with a literary review in French.

The magazine is delivered all over the world, so you can become a subscriber no matter where you live. Or, get your French literary fix from its website, which has blogs from writers such as digital books expert  Jean Louis de Montesquiou and interesting features such as bestsellers, where lists of bestsellers from countries around the world are given.  

Happy reading.

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 Originally uploaded by Don Gru

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the difference in the way the British and French press cover the European Union. I don’t want to harp on about the same subject but this week I came across an example of this which is too good not to share.

Last Sunday EU leaders held a meeting ahead of next month’s G20 summit with the hope of agreeing on a shared response to the economic downturn. If you read about it the next day in the British and French press you might think they were describing two different events.

A double page spread in The Times, under the heading “Suspicion and self interest behind European Union rift” painted a picture of great discord. As well as a graphic illustration of divided Europe, the article concentrated on the aspects which separated the leaders:

“The meeting was overshadowed by a cacophony of competing interests and the rejection of a cry for help from Eastern Europe, even though delegates agreed in a final statement to cooperate and fight protectionism.”

In complete contrast, many of the French newspapers chose to focus on the fact the EU leaders agreed to reject protectionism. To give just one example, A Libération blogger chose to end his post, “Union européenne: l’ouest réaffirme sa solidarité avec l’est face à la crise”, with the following quote:

“Les Vingt-sept ont fermement souligné que « le protectionnisme n’est pas la réponse à la crise actuelle.”

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Photo originally uploaded by jew_bokobz on Flickr

I recently came across a great article in Courrier International entitled “Obama inspiré par Sarkozy.”

Courrier International is a French weekly which takes articles from papers around the world, drawing from publications as eclectic as the Madagascar Tribune and the Yorkshire Post, and translates them into French. I wish we had an English version of this – does anybody know one?

This particular article on Sarkozy and Obama was a translation of a piece that originally appeared in Newsweek under the title “Big Government is Back – Big Time”. The author used a teasing lead-in, claiming Obama’s speeches were becoming more and more like Sarkozy’s but the rest of the article simply focused on Obama moving towards a more “European-style” paternalistic government.

Courrier International’s translation of the article was spot on (compare the Courrier verision and the original if you like) but the editor couldn’t resist sexing up the title. Use Obama in the headlines because Obama sells.

Such is Obama’s popularity in France, that in the last 12 months, Obama has been Googled by the French twice as much as they Google their own president, Sarkozy.

I found this out using Google insights. If you look at the bottom of this Google insights search, you’ll see that the most popular search terms for Sarkozy are actually for his wife, Carla Bruni.

Oh dear. It looks like Sarkozy is the one in need of inspiration.


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At a lecture at City University yesterday, media commentator Roy Greenslade blamed Britain’s press for the British public’s continuing negative attitude towards Europe.

He pointed out that the papers rarely covered the goings on of the EU and that when the EU did hit the headlines it was often portrayed in a negative light.

According to Greenslade there are two competing narratives advanced by Euroskeptic Fleet Street: Underlying most news stories is either the assumption that there is a Franco- German conspiracy to run the EU together or the assumption that the EU is a sham because individual nations are constantly at each other’s throats.

Certainly the big EU story of the moment is the Czech President’s call for an EU summit to prevent French “protectionist” measures. The move came after Sarkozy announced a €6.5bn rescue package for French carmakers and said that they should consider relocating their plants in the Czech Republic back to France.

The difference in the coverage of the events by the French and British media is really interesting and seems to offer a good example of Greenslade’s thesis. While the Brits tended to focus on Czech- French tensions (see this article in the BBC for one example), the French looked at how the European Commission was investigating the matter first, and Czech accusations only second (see this article in L’Express).

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this one event. What do you think? Is the British media’s EU coverage too negative? Is the French media’s coverage any better?

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As we begin to get over our initial excitement at yesterday’s snow and start to grumble about the disruption it caused, spare a thought for our neighbours over the channel.

Today it was announced that the storm which battered south-west France last week will cost insurers up to 1.4 billion. And that figure accounts for damages alone.  It does not take into account the money which Storm Klaus has cost businesses.

It’s been ten days since the storm hit France’s Atlantic coast. Life still hasn’t completely got back to normal in the nine départements (regions) which were affected.   

According to the freesheet 20minutes, 39,150 homes are still without electricity and rail services had not yet returned to normal.

When I was searching through Flickr for photos of Klaus, I came across an appeal for victims of the storm. See post below if you’re interested in donating.   

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