vendredi 19 mars 2010

Masterpieces from Paris at National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Official NGA Masterpieces website.
Getaway (travel tv show): General exhibition information including video review.

My friend recently saw this exhibition and it's with much shame that I admit I hadn't even heard about it until she told me she went.

For a limited time only, selected artistic masterpieces from the post-impressionism period from the Musée d'Orsay have been flown into the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

This is the first time the precious masterpieces have left Paris and Canberra is the lucky first city to get it.

Works featured are by: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Monet, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and more.

According to recent news reports such as SMH the event has been a blockbuster sell out and so far, more than 300,000 people have seen it and only 20% are locals. US President Obama has even had problems getting accommodation in the small city of Canberra due to this exhibition!

On one hand I really want to see this, but on the other I would prefer to see the works in their real 'home' in Paris. Canberra is a 4 hour (one way) drive from Sydney and I'm still deciding if I want to go or not.

Date: Until April 18, 2010.
Times: Easter: 10am-5pm Mon-Thur and 10am-9pm on Fri-Sun.
From 6 April: 9am-5pm Sun-Thur and 9am-9pm Fri-Sat.
Entry fee: $25 for adults, $16 concession and $6 for children up to 16 years of age.
Family tickets are $55 for two adults and two children.


Récemment, mon amie m'a dit qu'elle a vu cette exposition d'oeuvres de Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Monet, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso etc à Canberra et j'ai honte que je ne savais pas de cette exposition.

Jusqu'au le 18 avril, cette exposition exposera ces grandes oeuvres au National Gallery of Australia à Canberra. Les oeuvres ont été sortir du Musée d'Orsay à Paris pour la première fois et cette exposition a été un success.

La date: Jusqu'au le 18 avril, 2010.
Les horaires d'ouverture: Pâques: 10h-17h Lundi-Jeudi and 10h-21h on Vendredi-Dimanche.
Du 6 avril: 9h-17h Dimanche-Jeudi and 9ah-21h Vendredi-Samedi.
Tarif d'entrée: $25 - les adultes, $16 - tarif réduit et $6 - les enfants jusqu'à 16 ans.
Une famille: $55 - 2 adultes et 2 enfants.

jeudi 18 mars 2010

Veuve Taylor/Escaping and Lavender and Linen by Henrietta Taylor - book review

Veuve Taylor: A New Life, New Love and Three Guesthouse in a Small French Village
Escaping: A New Life, New Love and Three Guesthouse in a Small French Village
Lavender and Linen: Living life to the full in a Small French village

The day I checked out the French section at a big bookstore I found a book called "Escaping". I read the blurb on the back and it appealed to me because (as I mentioned many times already on this blog) I am always looking for true stories/memoirs about (single) women moving to, working, and living in France. When I find books like this I eat them right up.

I have been trying to conserve my finances and always see if my library has a book before I buy it. Luckily for me, my library had this book (formerly called "Veuve Taylor") as well as the sequel "Lavender and Linen".

I was in luck!

I was tempted to borrow them both in one go but I know I have a habit of buying or borrowing way too many books and not having enough time to get through them all so I decided to just borrow the first, see if I liked it first, and then go back for the second.

It took me a while to even start "Veuve Taylor" (re-released as "Escaping" by the publishers for unknown reasons) and when I started to read it I actually had forgotten what the book was about, and the title didn't 'click' so it was a shock and surprise to read she becomes a widow. (I haven't really given anything away as this is all in the blurb on the back cover).

The book is a true story and takes place (in the beginning) in Sydney in suburbs, areas and schools I am extremely knowledgeable about, having grown up not too far away. And the author is right, Balmoral Beach is the most stunning beach ever, all year round.

The book starts when she is about 20 and ends when she is in her early 40s. For all this time she acts about 2/3 of her age. Example, when she is 20, she acts 14. When she is 40 she acts 25.

I did enjoy the book and her story but I found her character soooooooooo annoying I seriously wanted to slap her! If it was a character it would be easier to deal with but she's a real person! ARGH. She goes through life making out she is incompetent and incapable of every little thing. Apparently she can't do anything. She can't give directions, she can't drive well, she isn't studious, she's a terrible mother, she's forgetful, she overdoses on drugs, she's an alcoholic, she's not good with cars, nor with computers,... need I go on? It's amazing that she knows how to clean (which she admits is the only thing she knows how to do well).

Throughout the book she makes lists which are blockquoted and italicised. I wanted to make my own list. Namely:
1. Will she ever grow up and act her age?
2. Will she ever be a decent mother, instead of having her kids look after her?
3. Will she ever learn some new skills and be good at something?
4. Will she always be an alcoholic?
5. Will she continue to go to her father forever?
6. Will she be a compulsive shopper and be in debt forever?
7. Will she ever dump this guys she calls her 'Latin Lover' but which I'd rather called the 'Latin Loser'?
I know this sounds super harsh and it's not as if I dislike this woman, but more that I pity her. She seems to have come from a rather normal (and somewhat affluent) family yet she turned out... well... not so good. I know I should give her some slack given she was a grieving widow with 2 young children to look after but even many many years later, she still seems to act pretty much the same way - irresponsible, immature, naive, and bimboish for lack of a better word.

The second book is a continuation of the first and written in the exact same style (with fewer lists). She does grow up a bit (not much) and more things happen but I still kept wondering to myself, "When the heck is she going to dump this Loser Ray?" (who she met in her early 20s and now it's 20 years later and he's still a loser!) The funny and interesting thing is that the first book is dedicated to him (and to her children and late husband) but the second one is not. Ha!

I can tell you that in the second book, most of my questions (though not all) are finally answered. For example, she is in debt so she thinks of selling one of her properties only to end up acquiring another one and despite all this debt she seems to be able to afford a lot trips back home to Sydney (which, as you would expect is expensive. The airfare alone is about $2000) so on the finance front my question was never answered... but at least I'm satisfied that most of the others are.

Even though this woman is annoying I would still recommend this book if you like similar ones (that I have already mentioned numerous times - "Almost French", "Lunch in Paris" for example). You may not find her as annoying as I did ;) It is still an interesting story after all, especially when she goes from being needy, incapable person going through dark, dark, depressive days as a new widow, to being a competent, capable, self reliant single mother of two. In a way it's a powerful story of one person's journey through life with its ups and downs...

However annoying she was, she is still a much more interesting person to read about than Ellie Neilsen. At least she learns how to do things, how to make new friends and make the most of her life in France. Ellie just seemed like a bimbo with her head in the clouds and wanting her husband to solve all her problems. (ARGH).

On another note, I found Henrietta's use of 'install' interesting as I don't often hear people use this word for people in English.. ie that person installed themself in the bedroom... I have noticed in other books and on blogs too that people use words like 'recount' (a story) or 'pose' (a question). I know these words exist in English but it's far more common to say 'tell a story' or 'ask a question' and I dare say that speaking French makes peoples' brains become Frenchified (almost typed Frenchifried!).

On a final note, she mentions her childrens' asthma problems and how when they move to Provence their symptoms cease, and when they go back to Sydney they start up again. This is actually one reason I want to move away from Australia so badly as it gives me asthma (rarely now) and hayfever allergies constantly to live here, and my problems always decrease or even disappear as soon as I go overseas!

Henrietta's guesthouses website
Harper Collins (publisher)
Interview with Henrietta Taylor (2005)
Review of her guesthouses and the Saignon area (by same journalist as above) (2005).

Extr@ - French learning videos

I came across these videos some time ago on this website and I felt compelled to watch them all. Strangely, they became quite addictive for me even though:

1. the acting is horrible
2. the storylines are largely predictable
3. the whole thing is just so cheesy and lame...

but, it's good for:
1. listening practice
2. learning new vocab
3. a laugh


check it out here. There are 13 episodes in total and I found myself wishing that there were more!

mercredi 17 mars 2010

Airport movies


After all the years of travelling I've come to detest the whole airport rigmarole. After September 11 the hell got even more hellish. I find that I am constantly fatigued and jetlagged when travelling on planes. And when you live in Australia, trust me, there ie a LOT of fatigue and jetlag.

I absolute hate the security hooha (I mean all the queuing and everything taking forever)... The only thing that can save me from airport hell is having nice duty free shops to browse in, or nice cafes/restaurants to eat in, but that all depends on how early I arrive there before my flight and how much money I have to spend ;)

For some reason, it only just occured to me that I have a fascination with films involving airports. I love Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the film The Terminal which was set in New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport and loosely based on a true story of a man who lived in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

There is a lesser known film released a little earlier called Gate to Heaven (Tor zum Himmel) which was set in Frankfurt airport.

I saw it during the 2004 Sydney German film festival and remembered it as one of my favourite foreign films ever. I have not seen it since and can barely remember what happens but I love all the 'behind-the-scenes' lives of the airport workers.. whether or not it's realistic I don't know but I remember the storyline was wonderful and I am still trying to track down a copy of this film but it's not very well known.

Then, recently I saw Up in the Air as I briefly mentioned here which is not really a film about airports but a lot of scenes take place in them.

Finally, I just saw this weird French movie from 2000 called Stand-by where everything that happens is described in the blurb on the back of the DVD case. At the beginning of the film there is a couple in an airport and the guy decides to dump his girlfriend then and there and go on their trip to Buenos Aires without her. She totally freaks out but there is nothing she can do...

The whole movie takes place in Orly Sud airport on the outskirts of Paris, where the woman spends her days, moonlighting as a high class prostitute, sleeping with random businessmen in hotels, which are now her accommodation as she refuses to go home or to her sister's place.

She kind of goes a bit insane (I think) but it's an interesting look at how people deal with painful relationship breakups. It's the story of this woman, and her relationship to (ex) boyfriend, the staff she meets (and gets to know) at the airport, and the random passengers who she tries to proposition.

It was far too long I felt as I found myself wondering when the heck it was going to end and all I can say is, it was one heck of a bizarre movie.

Something I've been finding myself doing when watching French films is, noticing when two characters (who don't know each other at the beginning) change from the 'vous' form of 'you' to 'tu'. It's quite interesting. Sometimes they mention the tutoyer, other times they don't. Sometimes one person continues to call the other 'vous' but the second person calls them 'tu' back!

Sydney AF French Film Festival 2010 film reviews - Part III - Le premier jour du reste de ta vie

Le Premier Jour du reste de ta vie (The first day of the rest of your life)

Wow, what a movie. I rated it 10/10 on imdb but I wanted to give it more.

Essentially, nothing out of the ordinary happens and it could almost be a documentary. We meet the Duval family consisting of the father, the mother, and the 3 kids (2 sons and 1 daughter). On the outside they seem like your typical, average, everyday family who live in a big house in the 'burbs.

But as the film progresses, we get to know the inner turmoil of each of the characters, as they deal with life's ups and downs and getting older. In particular, we see the mother become sad, unhappy and somewhat unfulfilled when the oldest leaves home for the first time and the other 2 kids are growing up rapidly. She must be in her 40s but somehow reverts back to her 20s. She enrols herself into university and starts dressing younger and becoming 'hip' and 'cool' much to the disgust of her daughter (the youngest child).

We see the father battle with his nicotine addiction and his neverending quest to stop smoking, aided by his children. (on another note, I found it interesting that people smoking seem to feature in every French film whereas I know in Australia, and the US too I think, it's illegal to feature someone smoking unless the film is rated accordingly). Although I've never smoked in my life and find the habit abhorrent, I did feel sympathy somewhat for his character.

Next we have Raphaël, the (hot ;) ) eldest son. The story starts on the day he decides to put their old, sick dog to sleep, and that he is moving out of home for the first time. I'm not sure of his age at that stage but it must be somewhere around 20. It starts off a chain reaction of events...

At the beginning of the film the daughter is around 12 years of age, and we watch as she grows up and goes into the difficult teenage years. In some ways the relationship between Prune and her mother reminded me of the relationship between Lola and her mother in the film LOL. Both girls are pre-occupied with boys and trying to grow up too fast.

And then we have Albert, the middle child and second son. In his story he has a flash back to 6 years ago when he met the love of his life but she got away... (I don't want to give spoilers so I won't say anymore).

Even though all of their 5 stories are distinct, they are always intertwined with each other since they are a family and although they may not seem close on the outside, they are in fact very close and there for each other.

About 3/4 of the way through something unpredictable and shocking happens, although I actually predicted it because something similar happened in another French movie (won't say which one). and that almost creates a different timeline for the future...

One of my favourite scenes is near the end with the 2 sons and their father where they are bonding like they were when the boys were young, and the father is reunited with one of his old schoolmates. It is such a sweet, tender, and extremely funny scene (not to mention extremely imaginative on the writer's part).

Actually I have so many favourite scenes (including the one with daughter's diary) I could go on and on. This movie really touched me and I felt that it would touch everyone as there was something in it for everyone. We have all been through the highs and lows, the happinesses and the sadnesses of life... What's interesting is that the English title is "The first day of the rest of your life" which is the literal English translation but in some countries it's called "The first day of the rest of my life" and it may as well be, the first day of the rest of my life, your life, or anyone's life really.

Trailer (but don't watch it if you don't want to know too much):

or link here.

Making of:

Rémi Bezançon has certainly created an amazingly emotional film that will stand the test of time and that everyone regardless of age, sex, or background can relate to.


Official website (French version of imdb I guess) with lots of viewers' comments
another French movie review site

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