Blanc is the second of the well regarded Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski. The first one is Blue based on Liberty (liberté), this one is White and based on Equality (egalité), and the next one Red is based on Fraternity (fraternité). Roger Ebert calls it an “anti-comedy between the anti-tragedy (Blue) and the anti-romance (Red)”, which seems to be the best description of the film that I can find. Spoilers to follow.
This time around the main character is a shy man Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), an immigrant from Poland. We meet him before going into a divorce hearing and despite his limited knowledge of French he learns that, his wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), doesn’t love him and that the reason for the divorce is that the marriage hasn’t been consummated. Humiliated by his wife Karol has lost everything but a 2 franc coin. He is left to busk in the Métro de Paris where another Pole, Mikołaj (Janusz Gajos). recognizes a song Karol is playing on his comb harmonica and they become friends. Mikolaj offers Karol a job to kill someone. They make their way back to Poland with Karol smuggled in a suitcase. Now back in Poland Karol become a wealthy man and decides to humiliate his ex-wife to get back at her for all that she did to drive him from Paris.
The Three Colors Trilogy is one of the greatest trilogies of all time. It is based on the French tricolor with each film being one (blue, white, red) and the story of each film is loosely based on one of the three political ideals in the motto of the French Republic liberté (bleu), egalité (blanc), and fraternité (rouge). Spoilers to follow.
The first of the films is Bleu which is about a wife, Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche), whose husband and daughter died in a car accident and wants to cut herself off from everything but finds that she can’t escape human connection. The film is deeply moving and has several wonderful moments. One of my favorite shots in the whole film is when Krzysztof Kieslowski uses Juliette Binoche’s eye as a mirror. The music also plays a stunning role in the film as Julie’s husband is the famed composer, Patrice de Courcy, and he died before the piece he was working on for the Unity of Europe concert and it is hinted throughout the film that Julie was a contributor of some sort in the composition of the music, either as the real composer or a co-composer. As segments haunt her throughout the movie. After Julie gets out of the hospital after the accident she hooks up with Olivier Benoit, a long time collaborator who has long loved Julie. It’s a bit complicated as Julie gives up basically everything of her former life but as she tries to stop the Unity of Europe score from being finished and figures out about her husbands mistress. This bring her back into the life she is trying to escape.
Crispin and Crispinian (circa Third Century)
Most of us have heard of Saint Crispin, there’s that famous speech from Shakespeare, but who exactly is Crispin. They, Crispin and Crispinian, are twin brothers who were born to a noble Roman family. They fled to Soissons to get away from persecution. In France they preached to the Gauls and made shoes at night. From their shoes they earned enough to live comfortably and aid the poor. The governor heard of them and had them tortured and thrown into a river with millstones around their necks. They both survived but were eventually beheaded by Diocletian. Or Crispin and Crispinian could have been from Kent somewhere near Canterbury, but after their father died for displeasing the Roman Emperor their mother persuaded that they flee to London. The brothers made their way but stumbled upon a shoemaker’s workshop in Faversham and decided to stay there. The English version of the story has no information about how they were martyred.
Pope Evaristus (died c. 107)
Evaristus was the Fifth bishop of Rome. Evaristus was originally a Hellenistic Jew on his father’s side from Bethlehem. He divided Rome up into titles, or parishes these have grown to the Titular Church that Cardinals are given when they become Cardinals. Evaristus also appointed priest to these Churches and appointed seven deacons for the city.
Chiara Badano (29 October 1971 – 7 October 1990)
Chiara is a member of Generation X and is proof that regular people can still become saints. I felt compelled to mention Chiara Luce, her nickname given by Chiara Lubich, even though she is only a blessed since a couple weeks ago I read about her and felt that her words are something that we need to hear in the world today. Chiara was born in a small village in Italy and her parents had waited and prayed for her to come for eleven years. Chiara got involved in the Focolare Movement in Italy at nine. The Focolare Movement was started by Chiara Lubich in 1943. In 1988 her life was changed dramatically as Chiara felt a twinge in her shoulder while playing tennis and it turned out to be osteogenic sarcoma, a rare and painful bone cancer. When Chiara heard this she simply declared, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.” This is remarkable as all that Chiara wanted was to be married to Jesus, and at her funeral she got her wish. Before Chiara died she told her mother “the young people…young people…they are the future. You see, I can’t run anymore, but how I would like to pass on to them the torch, like in the Olympics! Young people have only one life and it’s worthwhile to spend it well.” I hope that many young people take up the torch of Chiara and live always with a light that radiated from within from a heart full of the love of God.
Ernest and Celestine is based on the series of children’s books Ernest et Célestine by Gabrielle Vincent. This is a simple story about a mouse (Celestine) and a bear (Ernest) who become unlikely friends, as Celestine has been told all her life that bear are mean and will eat you. Celestine longs to be an artist and doesn’t want to get involved in dentistry. Early one morning Ernest frees Celestine from a trash can where she had been trapped and offers to get Ernest more food to fill him up that just a single mouse. At this point Ernest gets arrested and Celestine breaks him free and Ernest agrees to help her bring teeth down to the world of the rodents. They are soon pursued by both the bear cops and rodent cops. They make their escape to a cabin Ernest has in the woods and it soon become winter. The two eventually become friends.
This film has a unique visual style as it echoes the water colors from the books and is lovingly hand drawn. It’s a pretty looking movie. The film has had critical acclaim it even won the Magritte Award for Best Film in 2012, Magritte Awards are given to the best film in Belgium, and Ernest and Celestine is the first animated film to win this award.
If you haven’t seen this film go out of your way and watch it. The film is a little over an hour long and it is a great way to break up the stranglehold that Disney and Dreamworks have on the animated film market. If you have children get it and watch the film with them, it’s got a nice positive message as well.
Virginia Dare (16 August 1587-?)
Virginia was the first born colonist in the Roanoke Colony, and that’s about all we definitely know about her. This year is her 428th anniversary of her birth. Being a part of the Lost Colony is about all we really know about all 115 some people who were apart of the expedition. However this might be changing as recently there has been some positive results as they have found some pottery and other artifacts at two location as to possible location the colony moved to. Will we ever really know what happened I doubt it but with all the advances in technology we’ve got to be able to find something more about this. Most scholars tend to believe that the colonists were assimilated into the native population.
National Aviation Day falls on August 19th in the United States and is on Orville Wright’s birthday since the Wright brothers arguably invented the whole industry, although without Glenn Curtiss and his engines I doubt that the industry would be the same.
This week we have another Marian feast the Queenship of Mary is celebrated on August 22. The feast was introduced by Pope Pius XII in the encyclical Ad Caeli Regiam, look for that this October. Pius had the feast at the end of Mary but it was moved by Paul VI to the octave of the Assumption in order to emphasize the close bond between Mary’s queenship and her glorification in body and soul next to her Son
Roch or Rocco (lived c. 1348 – 15/16 August 1376/79 although traditionally c. 1295 – 16 August 1327)
Roch has a unique name and that’s the real reason I chose him. Rocco was born in the Kingdom of Majorca and died in back in his hometown or some indicate that he died in Lombardy. Roch’s whole life seems like a cut and paste job of how to become a Saint, his mother was barren until she prayed to Mary. Roch was born with a red cross on his chest which grew with him, and he would fast just like his mother from an early age. Both of his parents died by the time he turned twelve and Roch distributed all his possessions to the poor, like Francis. He came to Italy during he plague and only survived it thanks in part to a dog who would bring Roch bread and lick his wounds. He went back to his home town but was arrested as a spy by his Uncle and Roch died in prison. Roch is an interesting Saint and is the patron of dogs, falsely accused people, is invoked against plague, and some other things too.
We start this week off with the final feast of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin since they will be canonized later this year and become saints. They are the parent of Therese of the Little Flower, and I’ve talked about them a bunch in the past. On this upcoming 18th of October, Louis and Zelie Martin will be canonized together, I think this is the first for a married couple. Louis and Zelie are a reminder to all married people and those preparing for marriage that it is a way of faith and should change you in some way. It you haven’t heard of these individuals check out this website.
It’s also Bastille Day this week so Francophiles around the globe will be celebrating all things French. 14 July marks the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution. So raise a glass of wine and have some brie on a baguette with some grapes today.
This will be the last Lesser Known Saint in this format, where I talk about three or so saints, maybe I will change the focus on to Orthodox saints or something like that.
Erkembode (late 7th-early 8th century)
With Erkembode nothing is known what we do know is mostly surmised. He was an Irish monk who traveled to Saint-Omer, France where he lived in the monastery where he was later named Abbot, he was eventually also named Bishop of Thérouanne, the capital of the region. Erkembode was the name of the see where the monastery was located. He was bishop for 26 years and is buried in the cathedral of Saint-Omer. Erkembode’s tomb became a popular shrine, which is visited by depressive people and parents of crippled children. The parents often leave tiny shoes to aid in the recovery of their children.
Padarn (6th century)
Padarn was another bishop-abbot, but he lived in Britain (Wales and Brittany) to be exact. Padarn is a unique saint as his hagiography mentions Arthur, King of Britian. As the story goes Padarn is one of the seven founding saints of Brittany and he establishes a monastery there, Padarn travels around and eventually makes it all the way to Jerusalem where he and his travel companions David and Telio were ordained bishops by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. On this trip Padarn got tunic and it became something that King Arthur wanted to have.
Lidwina (Lydwine, Lydwid, Lidwid, Liduina of Schiedam)(18 March 1380-14 April 1433)
Lidwina was a Dutch mystic and is thought to be one of the first documented cases of multiple sclerosis ever. At 15 she fell while Ice skating and and broke a rib, biographers say that at this time she became paralyzed except for her left hand and bleed profusely. After the fall she never recovered but became progressively worse over time. Lidwina took to fasting continuously and also shed skin, bones and parts of her intestine, her parents keep these in jars and they smelt sweet, there are documents which explain this. She is the patron saint of figure skaters.
Innocent of Alaska (26 August 1797 – 31 March 1879, O.S or 6 September 1797- 12 April 1879)
Innocent is an interesting saint since he is an Orthodox saint. He was born Ivan Evseyevich Popov, his father died when he was six and by ten Ivan began his studies at Irkutsk Theological Seminary. By the time he was 20 he became a deacon and got married. Shortly after this he finished his studies and became a priest. In 1823 Ivan set off with his aging mother, wife and sons to Unalaska Island in Alaska. They finally arrived a year later and he began ministering to all the Christians on Unalaska and other neighboring islands. Ivan was wonderful he quickly learned six dialects of the Aluet language. In 1838 he went to St. Petersburg to report on the mission and ask for an expansion Russian America. While Ivan was in St. Petersburg he received news that his wife had died back in Alaska. Church officials suggested Ivan become a monk and in 1840 he was tonsured and became a monk taking the name Innocent. Over the next 25 or so years he returned to Alaska and ministered to them eventually being named Archbishop and Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. This ended when he became the Metropolitan of Moscow in 1867, as Metropolitan Innocent revised church texts that had errors, worked hard raising money to improve the living conditions of poor priests, and established a retirement home for clergy.
Gwynllyw Milwr or Gwynllyw Farfog known as Woolos the Warrior or Woolos the Bearded and his wife Gwladys ferch Brychan (d. c. 500-523)
Gwunllyw and Gwladys if you can;t guess from the names are welsh saints. According to legend Gwunllyw wanted to marry Gwladys the daughter of King Braychan, but he refused so Gwunllyw and his abducted her and a battle erupts between these two kings. The battle only stopped through the intervention of King Arthur, Kay and Bedivere who supported Gwynllyw in the battle. This is the first saint to have Arthur appear in a Saint’s life, although this seems to just be just a fantastical addition to the story as in another source we do not see Arthur appearing. Gwladys has a child Cadoc and they both convince Gwynllyw to abandon his life of violence and atone for his sins. Gwynllyw and Gwladys, both retreated from the world and formed hermitages. Gwynllyw’s hermitage is kind of still around today, his building is gone but over the year Gwynllyw’s shrine grew into a stone structure, and this stone structure eventually became the Newport Cathedral or St. Woolos in Stow Hill.
Francis of Paola, OM or Francis the Fire Handler (27 March 1416 – 2 April 1507)
Francis is a pretty cool saint and it seems like he was basically born to be one. His parents were having difficulties having children and they prayed to Francis of Assisi for help and they named their first born after St. Francis. Then when Francis was little he suffered from swelling in one of his eyes which might cause trouble with his sight, so his parent again prayed to Francis of Assisi for help and they vowed that their son would become a Franciscan for a year if he made it through this ordeal. Francis was cured on the spot and at 13 he joined a friary. After a year he and his parents went on a pilgrimage around Italy hitting Assisi and Rome among other places when they returned home Francis found a secluded cave and became a hermit spending six year there. In 1434 two people joined him and a new community was formed the Poor Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, the name would eventually become the Order of Minims. They are kind of sort of like a branch of the Franciscians but they observe a fourth vow which is living a Lenten way of life (abstaining from meat and other animal products) and are hermits who do not wear shoes. There are many stories about Francis showing his compassion the animals in one of them Francis had a pet lamb, Martinello, who had been eaten by workmen. Francis came toward them looking for his lamb and the workers told him that they had ate the lamb and the bones and fleece had been thrown into the fire. So Francis looked into the fire and called ‘Martinello, come out!’ the lamb came out, completely unharmed, bleating happily at seeing Francis. Francis is unique among the saints as he is the founder of an order who never ordained a priest, and he was an incorruptible Saint.
So I’ve heard and read rave reviews of Mon Oncle the masterpiece of Jacques Tati. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign film, the Jury Prize at Cannes and a bunch of other awards. The funny thing about the film is that the dialogue is meaningless and is really only used for its sound along with the other sound effects in the film.
The film is about Monsieur Hulot, the french Charlie Chaplin, and his struggles to deal with technology (the gadget-ization of the world) and the increasingly impersonal nature of people. At times it feels that this movie could have come out recently as we are still dealing with these issues. Hulot is the beloved oncle (uncle) of Gérard Arpel, who lives with his parents in a crazy modernized and gadget-ed house. The problem is that the Gérard’s parents believe that Hulot needs to grow up, start a family and get a job, but Hulot wants none of it. The film begins and end with basically the same shot of dogs in the streets.
This was a difficult film to watch since from the reviews I read they made it out to be like Chaplin’s Modern Times, but although in a similar vein Mon Oncle just seems to be saying that tearing down to old and replacing them with modern things isn’t the best solution for anything. Perhaps we should take that advice and try to relate to people more instead of gadgets and taking about things rather than possessions. I didn’t find it to be as funny as Modern Times but perhaps that is due to the fact that I don’t understand french humor.
Before we get to the saints. Monday is Clean Monday and marks the beginning of Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The first week is known as clean week which is a nod to the spiritual cleansing which is encouraged through fasting, prayer, repentance, reception of the sacraments or Holy Mysteries and seeking forgiveness. Fasting is very strict this first week. Great Lent last forty days in total and ends on Lazarus Saturday which begins Holy Week.
Serenus the Gardener or in France Cerneuf (died c. 302)
There isn’t much that is really known about Serenus but the legend surrounding him is great. According to the legend Serenus was a great gardener, hence his descriptor, one day he found the wife of imperial guard for walking in his garden and he went up and torn into her. She told her husband who went and told the Emperor Maximian. Serenus was put on trial and the Governor found him innocent of insulting the guard’s wife, but had Serenus beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman Gods.
Aba I or Mar Aba I or Mar Abba the Great (died 552)
Aba was the Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, he was in the East and introduced different Eucharist prayers and ancient liturgies to the Persian Church. Aba grew up a Zoroastrian and while working as a secretary to the governor of Beth Garmai, Aba came across a Christian. Aba was so impressed with Christian’s simplicity and humility the it inspired him to become a Christian. When Aba was Patriarch it was a time of division as many of the remote areas had elected their own bishops. He was influential at stopping this schism and reuniting the area back together.
Pope Alexander of Alexandria (26 February or 17 April 326 or 328)
Alexander was the leader of the Coptic Church. Not much is really known about his early life but as a young priest he experienced the tale end of the Christian persecutions in the Roman Empire. When he became Patriarch Alexander faced three big problems, when Easter is, an ongoing conflict with Meletius of Lycopolis, and Arianism. Arianism was his biggest problem as Alexander’s predecessor had allowed Arius back into the church and gave him the oldest church, which meant that Arius had a lot of influence and his message could go further. All three issues would lead up to the first Council in Nicaea. At Nicaea Alexander brought a deacon to help Athanasius and we know what happened next the council did a great deal to basically end the heresy of Arius. The date of Easter was set as well.