Sunday, November 16, 2014

Que reste-t-il de nos amours?

Nana Mouskouri touches the heart of Charles Aznavour with the sad song
Que reste-t-il de nos amours? (What Remains of Our Love?) is a French popular song, with music by Léo Chauliac & Charles Trenet and lyrics by Charles Trenet.

The song was first recorded by Charles Trenet in 1943. It was used extensively in the François Truffaut film Stolen Kisses (1968), its French title, Baisers volés, having been taken from the song's lyrics. The song was also used in the films "Iris" (2001), "Something's Gotta Give" (2003) and "Ces amours-là" (2010).

The song is best known to English-speaking audiences as "I Wish You Love", with new lyrics by Albert A. Beach: introduced in 1957 by Keely Smith as the title cut of her solo debut album, "I Wish You Love" would become one of Smith's signature songs.

Que reste-t-il de nos amours?
Ce soir le vent qui frappe à ma porte
Me parle des amours mortes
Devant le feu qui s' éteint
Ce soir c'est une chanson d' automne
Dans la maison qui frissonne
Et je pense aux jours lointains

Que reste-t-il de nos amours
Que reste-t-il de ces beaux jours
Une photo, vieille photo
De ma jeunesse
Que reste-t-il des billets doux
Des mois d' avril, des rendez-vous
Un souvenir qui me poursuit
Sans cesse

Bonheur fané, cheveux au vent
Baisers volés, rêves mouvants
Que reste-t-il de tout cela

Un petit village, un vieux clocher
Un paysage si bien caché
Et dans un nuage le cher visage
De mon passé

Les mots les mots tendres qu'on murmure
Les caresses les plus pures
Les serments au fond des bois
Les fleurs qu'on retrouve dans un livre
Dont le parfum vous enivre
Se sont envolés pourquoi?

{au Refrain}

François Truffaut - Baisers volés

Saturday night I watched in a satellite channel Baisers volés (1968), a movie by the celebrated French cinematographer François Truffaut (1932+1984). The film is continuation to the semi-autographic Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959) that was for him a sensational break-through as a first class movie director. Here he shows to the world what auteur theory is all about.

Jean-Pierre Léaud and Claude Jade in Baisers volés (1968)
The experience of watching this movie was very powerful but not completely pleasant. The problem for me is Truffaut's ability to take almost total control of my attention and focus using cinematic tools that I do not know so well. I was led along the seemingly simple love story of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) with unstoppable power - but did not understand exactly how he glued me to the seat. Most movies do this in obvious ways and it is easy to accept that manipulation keeping my freedom of choice. Here the freedom is lost in the stream of images that control me without asking my permission.  

Why is that stairwell so important? Filming the opening of the elevator door through a mirror hanging on the wall... Fast change of everything and yet the audience hangs on the story line... That mysterious man who only speaks at the last minute of the movie...

How does he do that? I do not know. But there is obviously painstaking attention to every detail and the uncanny sense of movie magic of a gifted student of Alfred Hitchcock. While the master of suspense controls our deep fears and creates excitement and tension Truffaut brilliantly applies the same cinematic techniques to ordinary human stories. 

A good example of this attention to detail is how Truffaut introduces the seductive Fabienne Tabard. Camera work is intensive, her dress, make-up, hair-style, position and smile perfect. The first shots of her are like taken from a fashionable high class portrait studio in Paris looking for best angels to emphasize her charm and no hurry to rush forward with the story. I was almost shocked saying to myself "those French women really are beautiful." Truffaut emphasizes her elegance understanding also the aesthetic value of the person sitting in front of his camera.   

Delphine Seyrig as Fabienne in Baisers volés (1968)

Well, the truth is, of course, that Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyrig (1932-1990) was an exceptionally beautiful woman. But too often hasty camerawork and cliches minimize the effect of such feminine beauty. Not in this movie. Poor Antoine has no other choice but to run away for his life from this seirene!

Baisers volés is an unforgettable movie about humanity. Strangely concealed under everyday images the powerful direction leaves watchers no chance but to let the movie take them for a ride using cinematic tools in ways that only masters of the art know.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sônia Braga and hymen

Sonia Braga... Arnaldo Jabor's... Eu Te Amo
youTube link 
Sônia Maria Campos Braga is an exceptionally beautiful actress known from many Brazilian and international films and TV series. She has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and for an Emmy Award. On personal note, she tells about relationships in the past but she has not married and has no children.

In the youTube clip from the Portuguise movie Eu Te Amo (1981) which became a Brazilian blockbuster, she tells in rather cynical way the loss of virginity of Maria, the fictional woman she is acting.

But alas, the story she tells is probably that of thousands and thousands of teen age and younger girls around the world: the loss of virginity way too early to a carpenter with filthy finger nails, an uncle or other horny man near or far.

It may be a bad experience or something enjoyable, as Sônia here brags, but invariably breaking the hymen too soon permanently damages the growing woman and causes life long difficulties in sexual life and marriage. Violating that growing rose, opening that bud too early, is a serious crime, even if the underage girl agrees to the proposal.

In the movie Sônia is gallant about the history of the person she is acting but I think in real life she - as all other women - think otherwise. Virginity is of great importance both to the woman and to the man who marries a virgin.

For humans hymen has a clear purpose. Also many other mammals have them from monkeys to elephants. But it is not just a quirk of blind evolution but rather something that marks a permanent relationship between a human male and female couple.

W.A. Mozart even wrote an opera, one of his best, Le Nozze di Figaro, about the right to the first night.  Count Almaviva requires this privilege from his servant Figaro's future bride Susanna. The old habit recognizes the special value of virginity and was still known if not anymore practiced in 1786 when the opera had its first performance, Not so long ago.

Virgin Mary
Sônia Braga is a celebrated actress in Brazil, the country of many beautiful women and with the largest Catholic population among the countries on the Earth.

In the movie Eu Te Amo, Maria was sent to a convent school to be taught by nuns and to study among many virgin catholic girls. Religious values on purity and virginity.

Even world famous Brazilian Carneval was originally a Christian feast "entering to the Easter fast". World famous statue of Cristo Redendor spreads His hands atop Corcovado blessing the people living in Rio de Janeiro, in its lush palaces and in the miserable slums.

Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, pray your Son for us.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lulu in Barcelona 2010

Berg's Lulu performed at Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona in 2010

"Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera."
Jim Zychowicz

The faustic, mesmerizing and surrealistic performance of Alban Berg's Lulu in Gran Teatro del Liceu works as a whole. It only works as a whole.

Taking apart from the whole, Berg's 12 tone music with all its brilliance and emotional power would be in-comprehensive.

Remove the extraordinary setting of the stage, the props, the neon lights, and you take air out of the wheel.

Replace the wide-eyed lead singer Patricia Petibon with someone else and I wonder do you have the same experience of an artist giving her everything to perform art in this most sophisticated and twisted form of modern opera.

Same goes for the lesbian Countess Geschwhitz, Julia Juon, who makes this dark tale so real to life.

And the list goes on. This performance of Lulu works as a whole and is an unforgettable experience for the viewers.

Alban Berg (1885 - 1935)
Image Wikimedia

Austrian composer Alban Berg died only 50 years old from complications of an insect bite in Christmas 24, 1935. Today Berg's star is rising like that of his artist friend in the Vienna school, painter Gustav Klimm.

And yes, Alban Berg too was there in the blood soaked trenches of the First World War seeing first hand one of the worst human slaughterhouses in history. It certainly had him thinking the state of humanity and the meaning or meaninglessness of life.

The next chapter, the Anshluss of Austria to Germany, took place about three years later in March 1938. Lulu thus represents the post World War I culture in central Europe before the cultural purges even as it was composed between 1929 and 1935 during the time Nazis were rising to power so despising the weaklings and decadence of the 20's portrayed in the opera.

The power of Lulu as performed in Barcelona is in the strange impact of the whole as the real human experience, being a man and being a woman. It speaks not so much to the rational man or woman but rather to the human soul inside. It uses the language of music and symbolism to explore the depths and heights of human existence. Not only is money mentioned, but the exact sum of 20.000 marks.

The performance ends with naked Lulu dying at the hands of Jack the Ripper in the position of the Crucified.

I did not see the ending before curtain fall as blasphemous.

Rather, I saw it as a silent prayer "Somebody out there help us humans, we are dying in our sins."