Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), À bout de souffle (1960) and La Jette (1962)

It’s  been awhile since I’ve posted much of anything. Summer was a bit crazy. Over the summer I was a bit of a French Film kick these first two are often put on list of top film you should see so I got around to watching them and have some opinions. All of these films still hold up today and it is sort of a shame that most of what we get isn’t anything close to the creativity in these films. Spoilers to follow so watch out

Au Hasard Balthazar is a film by Robert Bresson, who many consider the Patron Saint of cinema. This film inspired from a passage from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. It follows a donkey and it’s one kind owner Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a shy farm girl around. Both go from place to place continually taking abuse from all they encounter. Bresson has said that each encounter is like one of the seven deadly sins and that Balthazar is a symbol of Christian faith. Now, when the film came out in America the review were unfavorable however over in Europe they were glowing, Jean-Luc Godard said that “Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished […] because this film is really the world in an hour and a half. These mixed reviews seem all to common with this film. It’s an important film that everyone should see at least one.


À bout de souffle or Breathless is a film from Jean-Luc Godard and is considered to be one of the groundbreaking films from the French New Wave. A small time crook, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo ) he is fascinated with Bogie and steals a car and murders a cop.  He then shacks up in Paris with a former love interest Patricia (Jean Seberg), who work for the New York Herald Tribune Newspaper, she sells papers with aspirations to be a journalist. Patricia doesn’t know Michel killed a cop and willingly hides him and listens to his plan to escape from France. Patricia tells Michel she’s pregnant implying it’s his. After learning that Michel killed a police officer Patricia sort of changes her mind and eventually calls with were Michel can be found. When the police come Michel runs and is shot. It seems like a film that if made today would be a huge hit. This is another important film that should be seen especially if you like crime drama.

Finally is La Jetée or “The Jetty” this is a short film from the French Left Bank a part of the French New Wave, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The film 12 Monkeys was inspired by and borrows several concepts from this film the time travel and the protagonist seeing himself dying at an airport as a child. It is an interesting film if you are a huge fan of 12 Monkeys or just like Science fiction films in general. This is only about a half an hour so it won’t take up too much time.


World Cup Finals

It has been a long while and there have been many spectacular matches but it is down to France and Croatia in the final with England and Belgium having a rematch in the third place game. Now this seems like an easy task from the French to claim their second cup as they are the higher ranked team 7th in the world compared to the 20th of Croatia, however they are 2 and 5 in the Elo rankings. In the third place game England will look to change the results of their last meeting when they were blanked by Belgium. The third place game is on Saturday and the final is on Sunday. Here’s hoping that France wins or Croatia takes home the cup for the first time

Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)

The final film in the Three Colors trilogy is Red, this is also the final film that Krzysztof Kieślowski ever made. The first one Blue is about Liberty (liberté), the second one White is about Equality (egalité), and Red is about Fraternity (fraternité). Rouge is the anti-romance of the three film. As Roger Ebert put it in his review of Red “This is the kind of film that makes you feel intensely alive while you’re watching it, and sends you out into the streets afterwards eager to talk deeply and urgently, to the person you are with. Whoever that happens to be.” Spoilers to follow.

The film is a bit complicated to explain, the basic premise is communication. The main character is a student in Geneva, Valentine Dussault (Irène Jacob) who is a part time model as well, she has a giant ad for chewing gum (which gets referenced later). She runs over a dog and meets a retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), he owns the dog and doesn’t care what happens with it so Valentine takes the dog to a vet and takes it. Several days later money is delivered to Valentine’s place and she takes the dog for a walk, it runs off back to Kern’s house. Valentine learn that he sent the money and Kern is secretly listening to his neighbor’s phone calls. One of the phone calls that we hear is from one of Valentine’s other neighbors Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) who is studying to become a judge, talking with his girlfriend. Valentine confronts Kern about eavesdropping on his neighbors. Valentine and Kern develop a nice friendship. More things happen and all the main characters from the trilogy end up on a ferry that capsizes in the English channel and they, Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White and Auguste and Valentine from Red, are among the seven survivors. The film is about relationship and how we are all connected and who know when our paths will collide as Valentine and Auguste live across the street from one another but it isn’t until the end when they finally meet. It’s a nice film and provides a happy ending to all three films.  Now to watch one of these film is to put the others on your to watch list.

Trois couleurs : Blanc (1994)

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.

Trois couleurs : Bleu (1993)

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.

Lesser known…

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 & Celestine (2012)

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.

Lesser Known…

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.

Lesser known…

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.


Lesser Known Saints

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.