Yummy and Yucky: The French Cuisine in “L’aile ou la cuisse”

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Right now, I’m writing my text for the Food in Film Blogathon AND eating a sandwich at the same time. SO CONCEPT. I have to admit, I’m a pretty greedy person. Things I can’t resist? Ice cream, french fries, Champagne, and mojito (among other things). When I saw the announcement for Kristina and Ruth’s blogathon, the first film that immediately pop-uped in my mind was L’aile ou la cuisse (The Wing or the Thigh), a 1976’s French film directed by Claude Zidi and starring the crazy Louis de Funès, Coluche, Ann Zacharias, and Julien Guiomar. France has always had a reputation for its gastronomy. No wonder why they also make films where food is at the center of attention. I was happy to dive into that film again since I had only seen it once before and that was many years ago (I wasn’t even really watching classics at the time). I even remember watching it with my sister. Anyway, I don’t regret my choice as it is pretty perfect for this blogathon!

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The central character of L’aile ou la cuisse is Charles Duchemin (Louis de Funès), the editor of an internationally reputed restaurant guide. He has just been elected at the French Academy and is about to retire after the publishing of the Duchemin Guide’s last edition. He hopes to transmit his knowledge of the French food to his son Gérard (Coluche), hoping he’ll eventually follow his vocation. However, Gérard is barely interested in a career in this field and prefers his life as a clown in a circus (something his father isn’t aware of). However, Charles has to face a more serious problem: Jacques Tricatel (Julien Guiomar), the owner of a mass-produced food company is about to buy some restaurants that were supposed to be awarded by the  Duchemin Guide. If these restaurants are bought by a company producing cheap food, the future of high gastronomy might be at stake. Tricatel is also quite decided to tarnish Charles’ reputation. So, this one has to stop Tricatel and make people realize what kind of horrid food his company produces. So, with the help of Gérard (despite himself) and his new secretary, Marguerite nº2 (Ann Zacharias), he’ll tempt to stop Tricatel’s shenanigans, and this leads us to an unforgettable climax.

L’aile ou la cuisse doesn’t lose time to introduce food in the story. The opening titles present us a most entertaining animation made with kitchen tools, plates, and pans. It’s accompanied by Vladimir Cosma’s dynamic scores. These opening titles give the spectator two clues: that this will certainly be a film about food and that it will be a lively one.

Watch this. The “song” will probably be stuck in your head for a while, but, believe me, it’s worthy.

Seriously, I love that music! Somehow, I can imagine majorettes dancing on that with giant kitchen tools instead of batons.

After these credits, we move to the introductory scene, the one presenting us the Duchemin Guide. I believe it’s a perfect way to begin the movie as it gives you a good idea of what the Duchemin guide is about and the importance it has. The reputation of French cuisine very much depends on this guide, so the great restaurants have to give their best to keep their good status.

Charles Duchemin is known to be someone quite “mysterious”. Us, spectators, know who he is since we witness his everyday life, but, when he visits a restaurant to rate it, he always disguises himself not to be recognized. This creates some pretty hilarious scenes. Thus, Louis de Funès is not introduced to us as the veritable Duchemin but as a fancy old lady. One of his employees has been appointed to rate a restaurant but Duchemin prefers to assist as a second judge. The restaurant staff has obviously recognized the “assistant” and treats him like a king. They serve him the best food they have and multiple plates. Meanwhile, Duchemin (as an old lady) is neglected by the waiters, which indicates that, even if they serve good food, their customer service isn’t the best.

Duchemin will also visit restaurants as a cowboy, a bride’s father, and a cab driver.

Claude Ziddi’s film is an interesting one as it shows us different facets of the “food world”. Indeed, we and Duchemin’s crew encounter the best and the worst of French cuisine. At some point, some meals are real masterpieces, but some other are made by cooks who doesn’t really seem to give a damn about what they are serving to their customers.

In this Japanese restaurant, cooking becomes a real performance.

This wine has a similar colour to the one Mr. Alexander serves to Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange…

Tricatel “food” (if we can call it food) is the perfect example of anti-French gastronomy. Indeed, when Charles and Gérard manage to enter in the factory, they discover how their food is made, which is a process that has to be denounced. Sadly, even if L’aile ou la cuisse is “just a film” it certainly reflects a certain reality.

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At one point in the film, Duchemin faces a pretty challenging problem: to Tricatel greatest amusement, he has lost his sense of taste! However, the renowned editor hasn’t finished to impress us. Indeed, in a scene, he manages to guess the name, grape variety, and year of a red wine only by looking at it.

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If you haven’t seen L’aile ou la cuisse yet, I highly recommend it. Not only it will make you travel in the world of French cuisine, but you’ll also appreciate it’s humour.

A big thank you to Kristian from Speakeasy and Ruth from Silver Screenings for hosting this delicious blogathon! 😉

Make sure to satisfy your appetite by reading the other entries!

Food in Film Blogathon Day 1

Food in Film Blogathon Day  2

Food in Films Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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The Ballet Scenes from Les Uns et les Autres (1981)

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Last February, I saw a ballet for the first time. It was Swan Lake and it was beautiful. Dance and cinema are two things that always fascinated me. As Christina from Christina Wehner and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood prove us with their En Pointe: the Ballet Blogathon, this dance style could be included in movies on several occasions. My choice for the blogathon is Claude Lelouch’s French film Les Uns et Les Autres, which contains some of my favourite dance numbers in a movie. The film is a complex one, so here I’ll really be only focusing on the ballet scenes only.

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Les Uns et les Autres is a great fresco depicting the lives of four different families on three different generations. Some actors play more than one role. For example, James Caan (from the American family) plays both Jack Gleen and his son Jason Glenn.

But let’s move to the dancing aspects of the film right now. Forget about the pink tutus, Les Uns et Les Autres challenges the clichés.

The audition

The film starts in Moscow in 1936. Tatiana (Belgium dancer Rita Poelvoorde) auditions to become Bolchoï’s first dancer. One of the judges, Boris Itovitch (Argentinian dancer Jorge Donn) falls under her charm. Tatiania fails to become the star of the Bolchoï, but she eventually marries Boris.

This first ballet scene is a simple, but a beautiful one. Here, the dancers are dressed in white. There are no extravagances as the first objective is to show us dance, not a fashion show. The camera revolves around the dancers to show us the moves on various angles. In this scene, there’s an alternation between the two ballerinas dancing and Boris’s reacting shots. He is obviously charmed by this thin white angel that Tatiana is. The ballerinas dance on Ravel’s Bolero, which will take an important place in this film.

 

Sergei’s Solo

Tatiana and Boris have a son, Sergei (also played by Jorge Donn), who later becomes a great dancer like his parents.

In this scene, he dances alone in a palace in front of a crowd of rich people. He wears gold and red pants and a red scarf in his hair. With his impressive talent, we can’t deny that he has inherited his parent’s passion for dance. This scene contains a few slow motions which allow us to husk the dancing movements. The room where he dances is a magnificent one with its large mirrors, its chandeliers, and its gilding. The chosen music for this scene is the energetic 4th movement from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

 

Apocalypse Ballet

This really is one of my favourite parts of the film. A filming crew is shooting a dance sequence. Everything starts slowly. Three men in white walk slowly surrounded by dense smoke. A funeral procession passes next to them. Suddenly, Michel Legrand’s musical theme for the film explodes and the dancers, wearing white and grey one-pieces, appears. They dance without stopping to advance. They are indeed surrounded by a real apocalypse: smoke, car accident, fire fighters, a helicopter, flames, etc. Here we are far from the prestigious palace where Sergei was dancing and we explore the creepy corners of a city. I love this scene for its dynamic staging, the music and the choreography itself, of course.

 

Dancing for the Red Cross

In this scene, we find back Sergei for an unforgettable final. Yes, this is the final scene of the film, but I encourage you to watch it now. As a matter of fact, I saw it before seeing the film and it just made me want to see it, you know. And, honestly, it doesn’t really spoil the story. It could perfectly have been the opening scene, followed by a long flashback. The scene takes place in Paris next to the Eiffel Tower. A ballet show is organized by the Red Cross. Sergei dances on a red platform surrounded by dancers dressed in black and white. Not long after the dance has started, Sarah Glenn (Geraldine Chaplin) daughter of Suzanne Glenn (also played by Geraldine Chaplin) and Jack Glenn (James Caan) appears on the top of the Eiffel Tower and accompanies the music with her singing voice. She is accompanied by Patrick Pratt (Manuel Gelin), also a singer. We can see in this scene that Sergei hasn’t lost his talent as a dancer. Jorge Donn moves with an impressive grace which makes him look like he’s flying. He almost makes ballet looks easy (in a good way), but we all know it’s not! What I also love about this scene is that it reunites all the still living characters of the film. Some are watching the show live, some are watching it on their television at home. It makes us realize that Les Uns et les Autres reunites quite an amazing all-star cast. Everybody watches the show religiously, but with a glimpse of nostalgia or, for some, of melancholy, in their eyes. Just like the audition scene, the chosen music here is Ravel’s Bolero, and it’s glorious.

When you’ll watch the clip, you can skip the first 3:30 minutes.

 

This scene definitely is one of my most favourite movie scenes ever. I love it because they kept it simple, but, yet, it manages to be majestic.

A big thanks to Michaela and Christina for hosting this blogathon! 🙂 I sure hope you took a look at all the clips!

Makes sure to check the other entries. 🙂

En Pointe: the Ballet Blogathon

See you!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review # 1: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)

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From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the instauration of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My first review was for the 1953’s classic Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday) starring and directed by Jacques Tati. Enjoy!

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Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, or Les Vacances de M. Hulot in its original French, is the third Mr. Hulot film I’ve seen and is, without any doubt, my favorite. Jacques Tati directed this film in 1953 and it was the first of four movies starring the character of Mr. Hulot (played by Tati himself). The three other ones are Mon Oncle in 1958, Playtime in 1967 and Traffic in 1971. These burlesque films make us think of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton’s films. However, Mr. Hulot is very different and he really is one of a kind. Unlike Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin’s silent films, Jacques Tati’s films couldn’t exist without sound.

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Mr. Hulot’s Holiday tells the story of Mr. Hulot, a tall, clumsy man going to a beach in France for a summer holiday. With his noisy, old little car, his major (and unintentional) occupation will be to disturb the rich vacationers and break their routine through many funny situations. Because major criticism made by Jacques Tati through this film is what the point of taking a vacation is and relaxing if you can’t stop your routine? This aspect of the film brings us to one of the first things I love about this masterpiece: the music. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday’s score is one we could never forget. This music leads the film and it seems to be the only music in this world. When a day begins, nice, easy and relaxing music starts and we see the people on the beach having their daily occupations: the man doing his gymnastic, the lady taking her walk, always followed by her husband, the pretty Martine going out on her balcony to observe the beach, etc.

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This is not a silent film, but you’ll notice that, when people are talking, they are only saying ordinary things such as “Oh! Good morning, Missus! What a beautiful day!” or, when Mr. Hulot introduces himself, he only says “Hulot.” What’s special about these dialogues is the fact they are not clearly captured so they become less important and part of the background soundtrack.

Young people will appreciate this film for several reasons. They’ll love observing the little details that make this movie so unique. I think of the moment in the train station when we hear a speaker saying…saying what? Really, I don’t know, because we quickly notice that what we hear is nonsense. Is it French, English, German or just some random sounds? It’s a good tool to make someone laugh. One of my friends also told me she loved this film because Mr. Hulot “looks like a nobody.” I asked her to explain and she said: “Well, he looks very poor, but he can buy expensive holidays. It’s like the world upside down.” And she’s kind of right.

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Mr. Hulot, this tall man with a strange gait, is one of the funniest creations of the 7th Art and people like to laugh. Mr. Hulot is funny, but what’s also hilarious are the situations he unintentionally creates. One of my favorites is when he plays tennis. He doesn’t have good technique and plays very violently. He wins, but people complain about the way he plays. Martine is the only one who laughs and the arbitrator, an English lady, are the only ones who really like Mr. Hulot and are proud of him.

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In 1963, Jacques Tati created a new editing for his film and, in 1978, he came back to Saint-Marc-Sur-Mer (where the movie was shot) to shoot the famous kayak scene. Mr. Hulot is kayaking on the sea when, suddenly, the kayak breaks in two and people on the beach think it’s a sea monster or a shark. And yes, that is a reference to Jaws, directed in 1975 by Steven Spielberg.

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Mr. Hulot’s Holiday is a masterpiece of French comedy. It seems to be a very simple film, at first, with no real objective, but Jacques Tati was obsessed with details and perfection. It is surely a brilliant, entertaining and a timeless jewel of the silver screen. So, like Mr. Hulot, stop working and take a little cinematographic holiday, just to watch this film.

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Top of the World: 15 French Films

I’m here with a new top list! As a matter of fact, I’ll try to add publish one every week if that’s possible. And as you can see, my weekly top lists will be entitled “Top of the World” (because we are at The Wonderful World of Cinema).

This week, I’ll let you know what are my 15 most favourite French films (French from France). I have French origin myself and, we agree, France makes some pretty memorable films.

These are MY own personal favourite, so if yours doesn’t appear on it, don’t panic. Just enjoy.

Here we go!

1- La grande illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

“D’un côté des enfants qui jouent aux soldats et de l’autre, des soldats qui jouent comme des enfants.”

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2- Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati, 1953)

” Ah bonjour madame!”

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3- Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)

“Nous sommes deux soeurs jumelles nées sous le signe des Gémeaux”

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4- Plein Soleil (René Clément, 1960)

“Monsieur est en mission, envoyé par papa, de San Francisco, pour me récupérer”

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5- Les compères (Francis Veber, 1983)

“J’ai plus de boulot, ma femme m’a quitté, j’habite avec ma mère qui me fait une vie impossible, j’ai pas de projets, pas d’avenir, tout à bout j’suis foutu! C’est formidable non?”

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6- Subway (Luc Besson, 1985)

“Police…menottes…prison!”

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7- Alexandre le Bienheureux (Yves Robert, 1968)

“À force d’aller mal, tout va bien.”

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8- Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1946)

“C’est tellement calme ici. Il semble que ce serait mal de faire du bruit.”

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9- Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

“Elle avait des bagues à chaque doigt,
Des tas de bracelets autour des poignets,
Et puis elle chantait avec une voix
Qui, sitôt, m’enjôla.”

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10- Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire (Yves Robert, 1972)

“C’est lui. Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire.”

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11- La Nuit américaine (François Truffaut, 1973)

“Moi, pour un film, je pourrais quitter un type, mais pour un type, je ne pourrais jamais quitter un film !”

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12- Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)

Oh c’est si pratique! Tout communique!”

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13- La grande vadrouille (Gérard Oury, 1966)

“- Y a pas d’hélice hélas.

– C’est là qu’est l’os!”

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Real : GŽrard Oury

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14- L’aile ou la cuisse (Claude Zidi, 1976)

“- Vous vous appelez comment ?
– Marguerite. Et vous ?
– Je m’appelle monsieur le directeur !”

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15- L’arroseur Arrosé (Louis Lumière, 1895)

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As you can see, I added some movie quotes. Can be a way to practice your French. 😉

And you, what are some of your favourite Classics from France?