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Posts tagged ‘Oscars’

No. 179: Sylvain Chomet

Very recently a friend introduced me to the animator, illustrator, writer, director, BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated Sylvain Chomet. In the past week I have spent far too much time Googling him and illegally watching his movies. This guy is brilliant.

Born in Maisons-Laffitte in the banlieue of Paris, he started his career drawing and writing print comics. His first feature-length animated film, Les Triplettes de Belleville was nominated for two Oscars in 2003. This was followed seven years later by his next animated film L’Illusionniste (loosely) based on a 1956 script by Jacques Tati about his flawed and troubling relationship with his daughter. It tells the story of a struggling magician and a young woman who idolizes him.

Both films evoke mid-twentieth century French society and are quirky, especially Les Triplettes, which might be more accurately described as a bit on the creepy and Tim Burtonesque-side. While L’Illusionniste is also quirky, it had moments for me that reminded my of the animated film Up – at least in the way it deeply stirred my emotions.

A couple of weeks ago, the Simpsons (an animated American television show, in case you’ve been living under a rock…) gave Chomet the green light to direct the animation for the opening couch scene and add a Gallic twist…cue the snails, force-fed geese, accordion-playing Lisa, and the notoriously high-waisted men’s pants. Take a few seconds to see what I adore about Monsieur Chomet and let me know what you think about him.



banlieue: suburb

No. 153-154: Cinemas and the UGC Illimité


I love going to the movies. I always have. My daddy was a big filmgoer and I have many fond memories of us watching movies together. One of my best memories with him is sitting through JAWS three times on Denver’s largest movie screen in the summer of ’75 and, by the way, still being scared out of our wits when the credits rolled for the final time.



Well, luckily for me, I now live in a country with the highest number of movie screens per million inhabitants: 89…versus 60 in Germany, 56 in the UK, and 24 in Japan. In Paris, the weekly what’s-on-in-Paris guide, the PariScope, usually has 50-60 pages listing all the films showing in the city. That’s a lot of movies, my friends.

The number of Art Houses in France also seems much higher than other places I’ve lived and there are lots of exciting film festivals held around the country throughout the year.

And here’s a small bit of history that I just discovered: France is also home to the world’s oldest surviving cinema. The Eden Theatre in La Ciotat (in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region near Marseille) just re-opened a few months ago after a massive and spectacular overhaul. The Eden is the theatre where the Lumière brothers showed the very first moving picture to a dazed and frightened audience in 1899. The 50-second black-and-white silent movie, filmed in 1895, shows a train pulling into la Ciotat station and passengers getting on and off. The audience was so spooked by the train hurling towards them that they dove from their seats in horror, at least that’s how the story goes…

…oh, the French, they do love their stories and films (and everyone else’s too)…and boy have we’ve come a long way, Baby, since that first chugging choo-choo.

In 2014, we English speakers in France have to be patient as we wait for the new releases from the US and the UK to arrive, but eventually most everything comes our way. They’ve even started running French films with French subtitles for the hearing impaired, or the linguistically challenged (comme moi).

On top of that there are several cartes de fidélité which allow you to watch as many films as you want to (or are able to) for a monthly subscription. The best deal I’ve found is the UGC Illimité. Every month for a 20€ inscription, I can see a movie at one of 600+ different salles in Paris, as well as use my card when I’m traveling throughout France.

C’est super, génial, formidable, et chouette, n’est-ce pas? It’s hard not to become a film fanatic in France.


cartes de fidélité: frequent viewing/buying cards

C’est super, génial, formidable, et chouette, n’est-ce pas! That’s super, great, terrific and cool, don’t you think?

comme moi: like me

n’est-ce pas: isn’t that so/ don’t you think

salles: room, hall, screening room

And, by the by….


les Césars (the French equivalent of the BAFTAs and Oscars) are being handed out in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet as I publish this. François Cluzet (Intouchables) is hosting and there’s lots of French political drama unfolding as Julie Gayet the new “First Girlfriend” (sort of?) to the President  is up for a supporting actress award for Quai d’ Orsay. Stay tuned.