Wednesday, March 08, 2006

At the Movies in Les Halles [ lay-AHL ]

At the bottom of my street is a sunken shopping mall known as the Forum des Halles which occupies the site of an old marketplace demolished 25 years ago. It's as ugly as sin, and the city has been taking advice on how to remodel it.

The central pit is kind of a terrarium for pigeons, teens and drug dealers, suffused by cigarette smoke or rain: a déclassé version of the street scene from Blade Runner (which was set in 2019). If you're just inside and seeing rain streaking the glass, then it's possible that you're just seeing wee-wee from one of the homeless people permanently camped around the surface-level ugliness.

Sidebar: While I'm being revolted by this place, I'm reminded of a homework exercise we had to present today. We had to pick a set of verbs from 5 groups, and write a very short story using them in the Passé composé (common past tense). For some reason half the class chose the group of verbs that included vomir (to vomit)... Great way to start the day!

When I go there it is either to access the Metro/RER, get coffee, see a movie or visit FNAC. There are two UGC cinemaplexes: the larger has a few VO (Version Originale ) films, while the smaller L'Orient Express shows only VO films. If you're going to see a film in the latter, I figured it should be one where lots of people get murdered, so last week I traipsed off to see Hellbent, your typical run-of-the-kill gay slasher movie.

FNAC is a French chain-store specializing in books, CDs, DVDs and electronic wares. The Les Halles labyrinth is spread over 3 floors, and in general offers a superior range of products in all these areas. Today's little haul included the first volume of the BD adventures of a rather pugnacious nun Soeur Marie-Thérèse des Batignolles. Obviously my first piano-teacher, Sister Celestine - who bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Marie-Thérèse - has a lot to answer for.

My real quest was to track down some of my favourite French films on DVD. I keep a list of these in my IMDB account so I can see when Amazon stocks them at one of their stores. Disappointingly, not only are none of them available with English subtitles (I'm not going to depend on 2 months of lessons!), but most are not available in any form. Just for the record, they are:

Cible émouvante (aka Wild Targets, 1993) - Jean Rochefort plays a professional killer in this wonderful black comedy.

Colonel Chabert, Le (1994) - Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant headline a gorgeous adaptation of Balzac's novel. The Largo from Beethoven's Ghost Trio is used to great effect in the soundtrack.

Face cachée de la lune, La (Far Side of the Moon - 2003) . Well it's probably too soon for this adaptation of Robert Lepage's mesmerising one-man stage-play, but I can't wait. Lepage, a Quebecois, is also an actor, and appeared in Jesus of Montreal.

Misérables, Les (1995) Claude Lelouch directed Jean-Paul Belmondo in a very interesting version of Hugo's novel. The characters are treated as archetypes and spread across the first half of the 20th century. Five composers were called on to supply music for the soundtrack, including Michel Legrand and Francis Lai. I remember seeing this in Sydney with my neighbour, cinematographer Jan Kenny, and both of us being absolutely swept off our feet be it.

Monsieur Hire (1989) Another novelistic adaptation. Directed by Patrice Leconte, who also did Ridicule (1996) (thankfully on DVD, but for some reason I think it's only available outside of France).

Polygraphe, Le (1997) Another creation of Robert Lepage's intricate mind, although less engaging than his earlier Le Confessional.


I've been so used to hearing Bondi referred to as the horse, that I thought the French were spouting Franglais by dubbing him le horse. In actual fact, they have been saying l'ours (the bear)! Posted by Picasa

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