lundi 24 mai 2010

SIFF 2010 - Mon Palmarès à Moi

I've seen four films in the SIFF line-up so far. One I've already indicated; the three others are Amer (Franco-Belge), Le père de mes enfants (Belgian) and, last night, Farsan, a delightful Swedish comedy. Farson would never make the Cannes line-up, simply because Cannes seems to have something against comedies. We went with a friend and the three of us laughed our heads off at all the delightful silliness. At the same time, Farsan has its genuinely touching moments. The guy who plays Aziz makes the film. He's a lovable but totally invasive parent who hasn't really moved on from his wife's death and who as a result is making things hard on his son and the son's wife. They are secretly adopting a child while she pretends to be pregnant. The film is in Swedish and was filmed in one of those lovely, sleepy towns that dot the Swedish landscape. Watching it, you long to move to Sweden and work in a bicycle repair shop for peanuts. Seeing Sweden as I remember it made the film special for me; my two movie companions had never been to Sweden and thoroughly enjoyed the movie anyway. One of them wanted to move there, right away.
Amer and Le père de mes enfants are more sober films. The French don't do Swedish comedies. They do comedies, but that's another matter. Both of these films are Belgian productions; both are in French. In the case of Amer, filmed in the south of France (near Eze, it looks like), the language is not that important because there is not much dialogue. The film is a hommage to the Italian giallo style of the 60s. I saw it with my friend D. Her first words when the lights went up were "that was the worst movie I have ever seen". I'm not so sure. There was something compelling about the way it was filmed. Three key moments in the life of one person - as a girl, an adolescent and a young woman. A giallo is a half thriller, half slasher film. This was more slasher than thriller, though the explicit violence came only in the final sequence. If you watch the film as reality, it doesn't work. But as the developing fantasy life of the main character viewed from inside her head, it works much better. The music is creepy and funny at the same time: Sergio Leone meets Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. The camera work and colors reminded me of a cross between David Lynch and Bunuel. On a visual and auditive level, the film works. That's the only way to see it.

Le père de mes enfants was filmed in and around Paris, except for a brief sequence in Italy. Paris was the character in the movie I most wanted to watch. Based on a true story, the film is both warm and sad. It mostly works, though at times it seemed about to veer off topic. The three daughters of the over-extended film producer are wonderful and relaxed. In the case of both Farsan and Le père de mes enfants, the lighting and actors are natural. Such a refreshing contrast with Hollywood big productions! The sixty-year-olds in Farsan look their age and it is wonderful to see. The actors in Le père de mes enfants are not overly-made-up or facelifted. Everyone just looks like a person. Vive le cinéma!

Le bonheur est sur les Champs (Elysées)

Anyone who has spent any time on the Champs-Elysées (la plus belle avenue du monde) will love this transformation.

dimanche 23 mai 2010

Mom and me

After losing my expensive and really beautiful prescription sunglasses on Christmas Day, I have now lost the expensive and really beautiful Yves Saint Laurent glasses I bought in Paris two summers ago. The sunglasses are gone forever, having been accidently thrown out. Okay, they were inside a bag. As for the more recently lost pair, they are somewhere in my house. I just can't find them. So I have taken to wearing old glasses. The pair I was wearing last night is about 20 years old. I only wore them when I went to movies (I never drove when I lived in France and didn't even own a car). They are really hilarious. I actually love wearing them because it makes me feel like a secretary in a 60's sitcom. The photo was taken by my sister Carolyn; the occasion was the wedding reception of my cousin Suzi's daughter Tina; the place was the Rainier Golf and Country Club.

vendredi 21 mai 2010

The copy and paste mentality

When I taught at the super-selective HEC (Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales), a French grande école that trains many of France's future business elites and captains of industry, I often had my students keeps a journal in English so they would get writing practice. I told them they could write on any subject whatsoever, but sometimes suggested topics for open-ended essays.

I would collect the journals a couple of times during the term and read/grade them. To my surprise, one student had copied text from Time magazine word for word, passing it off as his own reflections about the problem of immigration in France (a topic I had given). I did not read Time magazine regularly, but just happened to have read this very article. I immediately recognized the words, not to mention the vast improvement in this student's written English. From upper intermediate to publishable in one fell swoop!

When I confronted the student, he denied having copied the text. So I showed him the original. He did not seem too embarrassed and eventually explained to me that he needed a good grade in my class to get an internship his dad had arranged for him in New York the following summer. The end justified the means, in his mind at least.

This happened in the mid-80's, before the ubiquity of the Internet. Today, it is so easy to copy and paste and the amount of material available for the taking is so vast that plagiarism has become a major problem. Le Monde has published an interesting article on the subject (this post's title links to it). Apparently, plagiarism detection software has been developed and a string of more than six identical words with an existing published document gets picked up and flagged.

This paragraph caught my attention:

Mais pour Hélène Maurel-Indart, si le plagiat prend de l'ampleur, ce n'est pas seulement à cause d'Internet. "Bien sûr, avec les ordinateurs, il y a la banalisation du geste copier-coller." Un clic suffit, plus besoin de recopier manuellement des pages d'ouvrage. "Mais il y a également l'augmentation du nombre d'entrées en master, avec des étudiants qui ne sont pas toujours capables de valoriser leurs informations."

But for Hélène Maurel-Indart, the Internet is not the only reason plagiarism is becoming more widespread. "Obviously, with computers copy-and-paste has become a banal gesture." It just takes one click; manually recopying the pages of the work is no longer necessary. "But there are also more students pursuing master's degrees, and some of them are not always able to valorize their information."

That is the crux of the problem, I think. With the Internet, one quickly realizes that one's thoughts on a given work or author or movement or moment in history or sociological phenomenon or whatever have probably been expressed by someone else already. Blissful ignorance of one's precursors is no longer an option. The challenge lies in acknowledging them and building on what they have already written. But what if what they have already written tallies with what you think? Just agreeing is so lame. Just going out and finding the words of others who agree or disagree is easy. The world of scholarship has not yet figured out how to deal with the copy-and-paste mindset. Judging from my experience at the University of Washington, higher education functions pretty much the same way it did 30 years ago. The anxiety of influence may have intensified, that's all.

jeudi 20 mai 2010

Ten pounds lighter, ten years younger

They say the right haircut can make a gal look younger and lighter. It sure did the trick for Neko, who has just come back from the groomer. She'll thank me for it this summer.



samedi 15 mai 2010

mardi 11 mai 2010

L'inconnu du métro

Merci à Philippe Colin et sa cellule de dégrisement sur France Inter, que j'écoute en différé grâce au podcast, de m'avoir fait découvrir l'incomparable Marie Dinkle et son blog, l'inconnu du métro. Le concept est très simple, comme le style d'écriture de Marie. Avec son ton juste et léger, elle nous montre qu'on peut aimer autrui sans passer pour quelqu'un de candide.

A propos de l’inconnu du métro
Vous vous demandez qui est cet inconnu assis en face de vous qui regarde par la fenêtre. Chaque fois que vous tentez de regarder dans sa direction vous croisez son regard. Gêné vous baissez les yeux. On ne dévisage pas les gens. Il se demande la même chose. Pourtant vous ne le reverrez jamais. C’est l’inconnu du métro

Marie repère puis aborde l'inconnu du jour, mène sa petite enquête auprès de sa proie consentante, prend une photo de cette dernière et met le tout sur son blog (il suffit de cliquer sur le titre pour le visiter). Par example, ici c'est Mauricette. Pour connaître son histoire, et celle de tant d'autres inconnus, suivez le lien et consultez sur place. A déguster sans modération.

Il paraît que le blog sera bientôt traduit en anglais. Personnellement, je ne vois pas l'intérêt mais why not?

En tout cas, continuez Marie Dinkle. On vous aime beaucoup!

mercredi 5 mai 2010

My career in advertising

The pay is pretty good.
I created the tagline for the Sanctuary advertising that will be visible with every film shown at this year's Seattle International Film Festival. It was the best ten minutes I ever spent. My friend D is one of the SIFF sponsors this year and, as a result, in addition to the free advertising, we get free passes. These are cool things you wear around your neck, and they get you in for free to any film you want to see, any time.

The festival starts in about two weeks, but there are press screenings going on now and we get to go to those too. Today I actually went to a movie at noon! It was a French film, Les Beaux Gosses. Bizarrely, the title was translated as French Kissers. Most unfortunate. Not a great film, but not bad either.

A cross between a tranche de vie and a series of vignettes.

No time to blog!

The best part? As I was leaving Pacific Place, I noticed that Anne Taylor was having a sale on dresses, so I walked in to have a look. Ten minutes later, I walked out with two for the price of one. I am not a shopper; I get no pleasure out of agonizing and lingering. These dresses are perfect; one will be just right for my cousin's daughter's wedding in three weeks. I just need to find the right shoes. Clementine will have them.

If you go to SIFF, look for my masterpiece.

Sanctuary: a unique place for life's special events.

It is just right with the artwork, which I can't post here for some reason. Go to SIFF and you'll see it.