Art, Books, Film

Deux Anglaises et le continent

Recently I watched for the first time the film Deux anglaises et le continent (1971) directed by François Truffaut, and then I wrote this.

Truffaut, the key figure of the French New Wave, directed in 1962 the film Jules et Jim. Set in the first years of the twentieth century it examines whether love can find more success outside the bourgeois couple. It was based on a novel by Henri Pierre Roché who had lived a three way, non jealous, open love affair of serene turbulence with the German writers Frank Hessel and Helen Grund between 1907 and the early 1920s. The film explores passion and abundance, misunderstandings and missed opportunities, couplings and decouplings, silent tenderness and hesitations: three people trapped in love but remaining individuals with no wish to hurt the others. Truffaut was the master of films that show the tragicomic consequences of restrained impulse. It was, he said, a ‘hymn to life and death’. A dynamic and vivid film interweaving farce and pathos, reflection and slapstick, anarchy and tragedy; it rolls with a subtle disruptive energy. It is a film about love and tolerance and its morality is for nuanced understanding, never condemnation. Unusually it is a period piece that opens the door onto a summer of modernity. It is my favourite film and I have written about it before: La vie obscure de Henri-Pierre Roché. Continue reading

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Art, Books, Law

Rabelaisians

The prototype of French comedic excess is François Rabelais with his gross, bawdy, scatalogical, jesting, fantastical narratives that pushed back the frontiers of decency. His two classics texts Pantegruel and Gargantua (both 1530s) reveal him to be a moralist in the French sense, inclined to paint folly than inveigh against it. Knowing that humans are not at ease with their condition or sexuality, bodily functions or death he asserted that laughter was the “property of Man”. In doing so he gave us the term Rabelaisian, defined by the Oxford dictionary as “an exuberance of imagination and language, combined with extravagance and coarseness of humour and satire”. Continue reading

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