Dreaming in Hitchcock’s Movies

“Dream dream, filling up an idle hour
Fade away, radiate”
– Debbie Harry, Dreaming


I’m one of those persons who are quite fascinated by dreams. From the most ordinary ones to the most extraordinary ones,  I saw them in all their colours. When I can remember my dreams, I write them in a little notebook to make sure I don’t forget them later. Actually, this is also a way to stimulate my subconscious and the more I work on them, the more I can remember them. I sometimes read my dream notebook and I have some fun reading stuff I didn’t remember.

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Dreams inspire art; paintings, songs, and, of course, cinema. So I thought, why not discussing the dreaming world in movies. I cannot talk about ALL the movies with dreams. So, why not focusing on the dreaming world in Hitchcock’s films?!

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Spellbound (1945)

“Good night and sweet dreams… which we’ll analyze at breakfast.” – Dr. Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov), Spellbound

When one thinks of dreams in classic films, I’m pretty sure the first scene that comes to his or her mind is the one created by Salvador Dalí for Spellbound. Well, when Dali, the master of surrealism, accepts to direct a dream scene, you know it’s going to be a winning result. Dali’s painting themselves seem to be inspired by dreams or, at least by something that mysteriously poped-up of his mind for whatever reasons. I must admit, I didn’t do any dreams where the objects were weird and misshapen like in Dalí’s paintings, but the importance here is the symbolism of this dream.

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In the 40s, psychoanalyse was a subject that was very “en vogue”. With Spellbound, Hitchcock had for desired to direct the first movie on the subject. Like he explained to François Truffaut, he consulted famous psychoanalyst during the making of his film. The Master of Suspense also explained that he had for break the tradition of blurry and confused dreams that we usually see in movies. That’s why he wanted to work with Dalí. This one would create a visually very clear dream with clear and acute traits.

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So, in a movie about psychoanalyze, dreams are of a high importance. If I’m not mistaken, Dali’s sequence originally laste around 20 minutes, but it was cut to only a few. Not to mention that some of Dalí’s ideas were a bit difficult to shot as Hitchcock explained to Truffaut.  In a way, there’s something interesting about that. Have you ever heard that, even if your dreams sometimes seem to last forever, they only last a minute or a few seconds? In Spellbound, JB (Gregory Peck)’s dream is of a central importance since it helps Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) and Professor Brulov (Michael Chekhov) to understand him and to help him regain his memory. It is said that dreams all have a meaning. Well, Spellbound‘s dream sequence is the perfect example of that.

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I feel that, in classic films, you had some of the most weirdly illustrated dreams. Of course, we all remember Spellbound’s dream for these curtains with painted eyes that are cut by a man with a giant pair of scissors. This is maybe the most iconic part of the sequence. Objects also have weird forms and proportions. For example, one can think of this crooked wheel or this giant table where a game of card is being interrupted by a man without a face. My personal favourite part of the dream is when Gregory Peck is running down a slope and followed by a pair of big wings (we only see their shadows). There’s something very beautiful in this shot that fits perfectly the dreaming world. Of course, we learn later in the film what is the meaning of all this.

 

Vertigo (1958)

“Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere. ” – Madeleine (Kim Novak), Vertigo

The scene designed by Dalí isn’t the only memorable dream sequence from an Hitchcock’s film. In 1958, Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart)’s nightmare had something truly terrifying. The mix between Bernard Herrmann’s score and the flashy colours create a haunting moment. Interestingly, Vertigo was the first film to use computer graphics, these being designed by Saul Bass. Those weren’t only used in the opening titles but also in the nightmare scene. The script doesn’t try to reveal the “meaning” of this dream like it is the case with Spellbound. However, the symbols are clear enough to understand that it reflects a part of Scottie’s life that begins to haunt him more and more.

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Vertigo‘s dream sequence is also the proof that this film used Technicolor to its full potential. I must admit, the first time I saw this scene, I felt slightly uncomfortable, but I think it is meant to be. What particularly frightened me is this moment when Scottie advances toward’s Carolotta’s tomb where a hole has been dug to put a coffin. I was only expecting to see Carolotta’s rotten corpse lying there, but, luckily, there wasn’t anything of the sort. I remember my sister coming in the living room right during this dream sequence and saying “Ah, that’s scary!” before leaving. But once you are more “used to it” you find it somehow fascinating. I love the short moment were Galvin Elster, Carlotta Valdes and Scottie are next to a window and the first two just stare at Scottie with a very cold look. The nightmare scene is also in perfect harmony with the music and, therefore, there’s something very choreographical about it.

 

Rebecca (1940)

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” – Mrs. DeWinter (Joan Fontaine), Rebecca

It’s with this iconic sentence that Daphné DuMaurier introduced her most acclaimed novel, Rebecca. Of course, Hitchcock had to use it in his Oscar-winning film. “I” De Winter (Joan Fontaine)’s dream evokes the memory she has of Manderley, the place where she used to live with her husband Max DeWinter (Laurence Olivier). In her dream, Manderley is burnt and now a desolate place. This is also a vision of reality and the rest of the film is a long flashback that will help us understand the mystery and the fatal faith of this rich domain.

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This dream scene at the beginning that introduces the film is filmed in a subjective point of view. It is seen through the narrator’s eyes, the second Mrs. DeWinter. Joan Fontaine’s enchanting and smooth voice adds a certain tranquility to the sad vision of the abandoned place. It’s interesting how this dream that is so calm is abruptly interrupted by a crash of waves in the following scene. This sequence wasn’t directed by Dalí, but we still can admire its beautiful black and white cinematography that gives it a vision of poetry.

 

Marnie (1964)

“You Freud, me Jane? “ – Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren), Marnie

Just like Spellbound, Marnie has psychoanalysis as a central subject. The main character, Marnie, is a cleptomaniac and also has a phobia of the colour red. Interestingly, in opposition to the previous movies, we actually never see Marnie’s dreams. We only see her dreaming. It is obvious that those are nightmares. To highlight her fear of red, these scenes are filmed with a red flashy lightning which makes the dream even more threatening than it already is. But what is the symbolism or this red that Marnie is so afraid of? The Devil? Violence? Blood? Marnie’s dreams always start with something knocking and the furious first notes of Bernard Herrmann’s score. Marnie constantly evokes her mother in her dreams and it seems that she is associated with some bad memories. Just like Spellbound, these dreams will help us to discover the truth about the title character. However, here the subject of psychoanalyse wasn’t as developed as it was with Spellbound.

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These are, I would say, the essential Hitchcock’s dream scenes. However, one can observe that some of his scenes, although they portrait reality and not a dream, are almost filmed like a dream because of the light, the colours, the blurry image, the way it is shot, etc. A few examples would be the weird trial scene in Dial M for Murder (Margot Wendice is living a real nightmare); the flashback scene in I Confess (which has a very clear and white image); when Margaret Lockwood’s faint in The Lady Vanishes; in Vertigo when Judy comes out of the bathroom metamorphosed into Madeleine, etc. François Truffaut even said to Hitchcock that, for him, many of his films, such as Vertigo and Notorious, looked like filmed dreams.

Dream scenes in movies give the occasion to the film crew to explore a different way to illustrate something. Of course, all dreams are different so, according to each movie director, a dream scene can be very different. We observe that Hitchcock’s dream scenes are mostly nightmare or, in Rebecca‘s case, the vision of something sad. Most of the time, these reflect the past of a character, a trouble hidden in his or her subconscious or a difficult situation.

Which Hitchcock’s dream scene fascinates you the most?

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Source:

– Truffaut, François. Hitchcock/Truffaut. Gallimard. 1993.

 

 

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Top of the World: 15 Burt Lancaster Films

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Today marks the Burt Lancaster’s birthday! You may know it or not, but he has always been one of my very favourite actors since in discovered him in The Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960). The one we also call “Mr. Muscles & Teeth” or “Big Teeth” if you are my mother starred in some movies that marked cinema’s history and always delivered top-notch performances. In order to honour him on this very special day, I thought it would be fun to do a top list presenting my 15 most favourite films of his.

Before we continue…

I insist you respect my choices. This is a list of MY own favourite Lancaster’s films. I’m not claiming that these ones are the best, but only the ones I personally like the most. It’s not objective at all. It’s very subjective.

Also, if a movie is not on the list, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I have seen a total of 22 of his films. So, obviously, some won’t be on the list (not to mention the ones I haven’t seen yet).

Notice: If you should fail to respect this simple request, your comment will be deleted.

Of course, you are invited to share your personal favourites in the comments section!

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So, that’s enough blabla! Here we go!

15. Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954)

I think I mostly like this film due to its cast. I mean, Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper in the same film, what a dream!

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14. Trapeze (Carol Reed, 1956)

I remember my grandfather talking to me about this film. It was the second film to reunite Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis (well, don’t you remember, Tony was playing an extra in Criss Cross. Haha!). Pretty enjoyable, but not a masterpiece like Sweet Smell of Success either!

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13. The Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960)

I discovered Burt with this film!

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12. A Child Is Waiting (John Cassavetes, 1963)

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11. Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 1964)

 I’m normally not too much into political films but I had to include it on the list as it’s unique in its own way and has an impressive modern touch.

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10. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (Norman Foster, 1948)

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9. Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)

” Match me, Sidney!” (Couldn’t resist). Brilliant film, but Burt sort of scares me in it!

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8. The Rainmaker (Joseph Anthony, 1956)

This is one of Burt’s most underrated films. I personally love it and his performance in it is one of my most favourites. That monologue at the beginning totally captivates me! When Earl Holliman sent me these autographed pictures, he wrote that this was indeed the favourite film he made (his performance in it was brilliant as well) and that he loved working with Burt and Kate. 🙂

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7. Elmer Gantry (Richard Brooks, 1960)

Not a film everyone “gets”, but I personally love it. Burt won a well-deserved Oscar for his performance!

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6. Airport (George Seaton, 1970)

Is it a guilty pleasure? It’s not a bad movie, of course.  It’s pretty good in fact, but disaster movies always seem to be a synonym of “guilty pleasure”! Anyway, I know many will have a different opinion on that.

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5. Separate Table (Delbert Mann, 1958)

That cast! Oh, my! I didn’t like the film so much the first time I saw it but loved it the second time. I’m weird like that.

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4. Come Back Little Sheba (Daniel Mann, 1952)

Some say that Burt was miscast for the part as he was too young. Maybe but personally, I’ve never really mind it. Love the film itself anyway!

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3. Birdman of Alcatraz (John Frankenheimer, 1962)

Such a special film!

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2. Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)

Hard to believe this was only Burt’s second film! Always enjoy watching my Criterion DVD. 😉

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And

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  1. From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)!

I know, this might not be a surprising choice, but I that film absolutely conquered me!

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I haven’t include it in my list but I have to say, Burt is SO sexy in The Crimson Pirate! ❤

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Well, that’s it! Hope you enjoyed it! I’ll be curious to know which ones are your favourites!

Happy heavenly birthday Burt! 🙂

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In Honour of Joan Fontaine on her Heavenly Centenary

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Do you remember the first time you ever heard about the more than extraordinary Joan Fontaine? I do as if it was yesterday. I was looking at this book called Les Stars de cinema that I had bought for my own curiosity (I was 15 and yet not really familiar with classic movie stars, but I thought the pictures were beautiful) and came across this picture of Joan Fontaine. I thought she was simply gorgeous, and even if I didn’t immediately watch one of her films, I stayed forever fascinated by this photo.

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The book mentioned the film Rebecca and since I had always been curious to see more Hitchcock’s film, it obviously was quite high on my to-see list. However, the first Joan Fontaine’s film I saw was Suspicion (also directed by Hitchcock) for which she won the Best Actress Oscar in 1941 (she is the only actress who won an Oscar for a Hitchcock’s film). And then, I watched Rebecca. Two films were enough for her to become one of my favourite actresses. I was charmed by her softness, which is present in her smooth voice, her kind gaze and her her skillful ways. When I watched Suspicion for the first time, I was with my mother who also agreed that her performance was brilliant. She made an observation that I think defines perfectly Joan’s talent: she is able to change emotions very easily.

When I discovered Joan, one thing I found quite nice about her is the fact that she was still alive. That was something rare enough as most of the great classic movie stars are now dead. But, unfortunately, as I was thinking for the x time on how it would be nice (and impossible) to meet her, I read a fatal Facebook post announcing her death. That made me very sad and I didn’t sleep a lot that night. Poor Joan, she can’t be gone forever! December 15, 2013 was metaphorically a very cold day.

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Photo taken in the late 70s: proof that she aged very gracefully!

Another of Joan’s talents is the fact that she was always able to give the right essence to her characters, her performances. For this reason, I cannot think of a role where she was miscast. She often plays gentle and innocent dames, but movies like Ivy and Born to Be Bad are a proof that she could also play fascinating villain without, however, losing her charm and by staying faithful to herself.

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If Joan is often associated with one of Daphné Du Maurier’s most famous characters, many will agree that she was also the perfect Jane Eyre. Indeed, I can hardly imagine someone else than her for the role. The only problem might be that Jane is described as someone plain, but Joan certainly wasn’t!

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Poor Jane, alone in the fog

If we continue to discuss her movie roles and how talented she was in their execution, one thing that always fascinated me is how she was able to play teenage girls and be convincing. Indeed, in The Constance Nymph, Joan was 26 when she played the role of the young Tessa and 30 when she played the role of Lisa in Letter from an Unknown Woman. Here, her acting is convincing both as a teenager and an elegant lady. It’s perhaps the innocence that she embodied that made it easy for her to play these roles.

When we hear Joan’s voice narrating the film at the beginning of Rebecca, we are enchanted by this sweet melody. She had a voice that inspired calm and serenity and one of these movie star voices that I could recognize everywhere. I love the way she talks, with an incredible fluidity. I could listen to her all day, even if she was reading the back of a cereal box. The tenderness in her gaze is also something absolutely seducing about Joan. One of the best examples would be this scene in September Affair when she and Joseph Cotten listen to September Song sang by Walter Huston on the radio. The way she looks at Joseph, with nothing but love in her eyes, creates one of the most beautiful scenes of the film.

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In another tribute I wrote to her, I explained that what I liked the most about Joan, and this time, Joan the woman and not Joan the actress, was her sense of humour. Indeed, this one can easily be seized in her interviews. Even if she didn’t give many of those, her ease was admirable. One can only smile when listening to her laugh and stories. By embodying my favourite quality ever (sense of humour), Joan only gains my sympathy and make me regret I could never be one of her friends. But, she remains a friend at heart and a precious spiritual companion for all those who love her.

There is also this video of an amazing meeting between Joan and another of my idols: Doris Day. The circumstances were indeed perfect for them to meet: Both love/loved animals and live/lived in Carmel.

Joan the woman can also be admired for a multitude of other reasons. Indeed, apart from being a gifted actress, she also was a talented cook, a licensed pilot, an expert rider, a licensed interior decorator and certainly a clever woman: at the age of 3, she scored no less than 160 on an IQ test! (IMDB)

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With her first husband, actor Brian Aherne

In 2015, I read Joan’s autobiography No Bed Of Roses where she tells her fascinating story. However, I think I should read it again as, at the time, I was still not used to reading long books in English and probably missed a few things. the nicest thing about this book is that it has Joan’s autograph inside of it! She didn’t autograph it for me, but just to think that she held this book is quite satisfying. One thing that particularly marked me about her life story is when she tells how she met Evita Peron (who thought they looked alike). Can anyone find a picture of them together??

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To this day, I have seen a total of 21 Joan’s films. This is quite good I think, but not even half of her filmography! So, of course, there are much more I have to discover. So far, the ones I’ve seen are Rebecca, Suspicion, Gunga Din, The Women, This Above All, The Constant Nymph, Jane Eyre, The Affairs of Susan, Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Emperor Waltz, You Gotta Stay Happy, Kiss The Blood Off My Hands, September Affair, Something to Live For, The Bigamist, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Island in the Sun, Until They Sail, Ivy, Born to Be Bad and Darling, How Could You! For various reasons, I’ll recommend them all, but I’ll also be curious to know which one you think I should watch next!

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That awesome haircut! Joan was like the David Lynch of the actresses!

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It is not surprising that a rose was named after Joan Fontaine because this is really what she was, a true rose who embellishes our screens and seduces us forever. Today, this great lady would have had the honourable age of 100. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her sister’s Olivia de Havilland magic potion and already left us for a different world, but her memory is with us forever.

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Happy heavenly birthday dear Joan!

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This post was part of the Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon, hosted by me (!) and Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Make sure to read the other wonderful entries:

The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon

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I’ll leave you with this video tribute to Joan that I edited in…2014! Time flies!

See you!

The Third Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon Is Back in November!

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Hello hello!

I must admit since I will already host the Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon in October, I hesitated on hosting the Grace Kelly blogathon this year but, since I love her too much, I couldn’t resist.

Plus, we have good reasons to honour Grace Kelly this year: 2017 marks the 35 “anniversary” of her tragic death and 2017 also marks the 50th anniversary of Montreal’s Expo 67 that Grace Kelly attended as a representant of Monaco.

The blogathon will start on November 10 and will end on November 12, 2017.

If you are new to this blogathon or to blogathons in general, there are a few steps/rules to follow:

1- Choose a topic related to Grace Kelly. Since she only made 11 films, I will allow duplicates, but try not to all write about Rear Window! And don’t forget that Grace Kelly wasn’t only an actress. She was also a princess, a fashion icon, and a woman first. So, the topics are much more numerous than you might think! You can submit your topic in the comment section or via email at virginie.pronovost@gmail.com

2- Can I participate if I don’t have a blog? Sure. You just have to send me your text via email and I will publish it on my blog and credit you.

3- If you have one, please give me your Twitter handle.

4- Once your subject has been confirmed, decorate your blog with one of these banners to help me promote the blogathon. As always, I had a lot of fun creating those.

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5- All posts must be new material and no plagiarism is allowed.

6- To give a chance to everybody, I will allow a maximum of two entries/blog.

7- The blogathon will start on November 10 and end on November 12, 2017, on Grace Kelly’s birthday. On the first day, I will publish a new post where you will be able to submit your entry.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

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The roster:

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest Rear Window (1954)

A Shroud of Thoughts Dial M for Murder (1954)

Box Office Poison The Country Girl (1954)

Maddy Loves Her Classic FilmsTo Catch a Thief (1955)

Anybody Got a Match? High Society (1956)

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Crítica RetrôGrace Kelly as a Style Icon

In the Good Old Days of Classic HollywoodIn the Good Old Days of Classic HollywoodHigh Noon (1952)

Life With Books and MovieMogambo (1953)

The Flapper DameWhy I Love Grace Kelly

4 Star FilmsGrace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn

Three Enchanting LadiesMy life as a Grace Kelly’s fan

Old Hollywood Films Grace Kelly: A Life in Photos

Crimson Kimono The Swan (1956)

 

 

 

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I hope many of you will be able to participate! If you can’t, you are still always welcome to help me spread the word about this event. 😉

See you!

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My Hitchcock Movies Paintings

Remember this post where I told you that I had painted three little paintings illustrating Alfred Hitchcock’s films? I told you I would share them. Well, here they are! 🙂

As you can see, it’s not academic art, but I think that academic art is boring anyway. 😉 Well, I hope you’ll like them! I had a lot of fun doing this on my Hitchcock day!

The Birds

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The Trouble With Harry

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Suspicion

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Artworks by ©Virginie Pronovost

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This summer, I also painted a bunch of little artworks like these illustrating David Bowie’s songs. ^^ If you’re following me, I’ve shared a few of them on Instagram! 🙂