You know who’s really excited there’s only one more week before schools go on a two-week holiday? Me.
In the meantime, the week that was.
The theme overall for this week was snow, namely, the 8 or so inches we got on Tuesday. Last time I was here when there was snow that actually stuck around for a while was in winter of 2013, and although there wasn’t quite as much this time as there was then, what we did get made for some nice looking landscapes.
It also meant I got to revive my snowman-on-the-windowsill…thing…from earlier this year.
Now to the usual breakdown:
- Ah the Super Bowl, an event I only half-watch anyway, and almost entirely forgot was happening until I was reminded of it. This year, instead of going to a small bar (likely all the way near Saint-Michel, aka, the other side of the city) to watch the broadcast (which started at 00h30, yeah that’s half past midnight), I had some company to watch it at home.
- You know what’s a fun thing? First, realizing that yes, French people (like two of them) have actually gone to play in the NFL before, and second, the game is actually broadcast on French TV with French commentators. This does mean that you miss out on all the commercials, but being French TV, the broadcast actually doesn’t cut away to ads all that much. It actually makes the pacing of the whole thing a lot less frustrating. Imagine that.
- On the menu were orange chicken-inspired chicken tenders, carrot and celery sticks, and a skillet cookie for dessert (no ice cream though; forgot to buy it). Oh, and beer. Because America.
I passed out pretty much right after halftime, and good thing too because at least I got some amount of sleep before going in to teach on Monday. From the look of some of my terminale’s (senior’s) faces, however, I think some of them may have stayed up watching even past when I did.
- You know the movie Quills? The one with Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade? Well, continuing in the tradition of adapting films for the stage, this was the latest in my long list of plays I’ve seen this year.
- The best description I can come up with for this: 1980s new-Romantics, decadent, Robert Mapplethorpe, neon, tantalizing nightmare. Yeah. The stage of La Colline – normally very large and imposing – was shortened from above with an overhanging set of lights, giving the whole scene a rather squat, rectangular look. On the stage itself was a platform flanked by two large mirrored panels who, at their apex came together on a circular part of the platform that periodically rotated to signal a change in setting. Actually, the use of the mirrors – two-way mirrors, to be more precise – was perhaps the most intriguing part of the production aesthetic, as at times, the fact that the lighting could be used to illuminate (either partially or fully) a person or persons on the other side of the mirror made for some rather marked spatiotemporal traversals. Flashbacks, for instance, saw the image of an actor physically onstage reflected in the mirror, interacting with the physical body of another actor on the other side of that mirror, present but approaching the illusion of ‘image’ by virtue of the lighting design not completely highlighting certain facial/corporal features. Further, although this was another frontal show – to be expected from pieces that are designed to go on tour and thus be easily adaptable – the fact that the mirrors, when the two-way feature was not in use, reflected the audience back at ourselves created, in the first place, an illusion of theatre in the round. Secondly, given that the play takes place in a mental hospital, I could not help but liken the almost pit-like effect created on stage by the coupling of image of the audience with the actual layout of the room to that of a surgical theatre. Knowing how the play ends – that is, with the continued dismemberment of Sade’s body to deprive him from writing – I wonder if this was intentional.
Jumping ahead to Friday…
- The big event this weekend was, without question, the wedding of a good friend and former Cité U housemate of mine to his girlfriend of five years (who he met when a bunch of us crashed her friend’s Halloween party…funny how life is sometimes). Friday saw the arrival of another of our Cité U comrades from Grenoble, and as she was staying with me, I decided to take the afternoon off to check out an expo with her.
- The expo in question – dialoguing the works of Sophie Calle and Serena Carone – was held at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (or the Museum of Hunting and Nature), à museum I had been curious about for a while, but had yet to visit. The photo at the top of this post is from said museum, and hints at its rather extensive and…eclectic collection of taxidermied animals. Aside from a room on the ground floor dedicated exclusively to Calle and Carone’s works/pieces, the expo itself was interwoven amongst the permanent collection of the museum, making it something of a ‘hunt’ to walk through to try and find all the objects/texts, in other words, everything that did not necessarily belong, inserted among everything else.
- Part autobiography, part fiction, the expo explored questions of life, death (which…makes perfect sense given the setting), and the relationship we have to ourselves, our bodies, and those closest to us. My absolute favorite part, however, came at the end when Calle posted a compilation of personal ads through the ages – written by men seeking women, or rather, hunting for them -, which were at once hilarious and unsurprising in terms of how much they reinforced the fact that although the modes of male objectification of the female body have changed through the ages, the basic structure of said objectification has not really gone anywhere (a woman ‘sans tache’ or unstained at the turn of the century became a woman with an ‘ample bosom’ in the 1980s). I will say though that the panel featuring statements culled from Tinder profiles that rounded out this section kept my friend and I laughing for quite a bit (photo below, but be warned…it’s in French).
- Dinner that night was somewhat strategic: eat enough to feel pretty full to the extent that a small breakfast and perhaps a snack would tide us over until the feast that awaited us Saturday night. As such, we went out to Crêperie Josselin near Montparnasse (side note: yes, this is my favorite crêpe place in this city).
- After a quick breakfast of tartines with butter and jam, coffee, and a pear, it was off to Poissy (spare croissants in our bags for an afternoon snack) for part one of the wedding festivities. In France, weddings take on a decidedly civil affair, with the legal ceremony taking place in the town hall, presided over by the mayor (couples can then choose to hold an additional ceremony at a church if they wish). The majority of the talking is done by the mayor, as well as, at times, by another civil servant, who, among other things such as mentioning one or two points about the couple and their history, reads the portion of the French civil code relating to the statute of marriage. Thankfully, this means that the whole thing went by pretty quickly, and before we knew it, our friend – the second in our group – was a married man.
- Following the ceremony, we had some down time before we headed 40km out of Poissy to the reception venue, so we headed to a café to caffeinate ourselves up in preparation for the evening ahead. Then it was off to the Domaine des Clos Vallées for a night filled with food, wine and dancing. We got back into the city at around 4am. I promptly passed out upon reaching my bed. What a marvelous way to spend an evening reunited among old friends!
- And because I never take a break from anything, this afternoon saw a trip to the Théâtre du Rond Point to see Emma Danté’s Bestie di Scena (Bêtes de scène).
- You know how in the opening number of A Chorus Line, the actors end by forming a line downstage, holding their headshots over their faces, vulnerable under the lights in front of an unseen, but vocally present, director? Imagine that but the actors, as they come downstage, start to disrobe, ending up naked and attempting to cover themselves up against the stares of the audience. As the name suggests, this show has, at its center, the notion of actors as performers, as bodies that are both watching and, notably being watched, observed, judged in some cases based on their capacity to entertain and thus sometimes reduced to performing animals instead of being recognized for what they are – human beings with their own opinions, projects, agendas, insecurities. An actor, in sum, is never just a shell for a character to inhabit; an actor occupies that in between space of being in the process of both leaving and retaining themselves, being doubly-present. But, what if, for an hour, the actor fully descended into animality, into pure physicality, slowly leaving behind any corporal insecurity to stare down openly, frontally, those who watch them?
- There were also times when, while watching this, I was reminded of my time doing Viewpoints workshops at Irvine (minus the whole being naked thing), what with the way the ensemble moved together through the space, the dynamics of their relationships to one another, and the fact that the show felt at once both choreographed and partially improvised. Ah to be back doing that again…