Friday, 29 October 2010

Comment traduire les poissons

Quand je vais au restaurant en France j'ai souvent du mal à traduire les noms de poissons comestibles. C'est très compliqué! Je m'étais promis de rédiger une liste, mais j'en ai trouvé une déjà faite (en plusieurs langues aussi):

Est-ce que quelqu'un peut m'expliquer pourquoi les Français consomment si peu d'églefin qui est un poisson très répandu dans la mer du nord et qui a un goût très semblable à celui de la morue?

L'Argent de Poche

This is one of Truffaut's minor works and I've just watched it again for the first time in several years. The film consists of a series of episodes in the lives of a group of children from the town of Thiers. There is very little plot, plenty of observation and a few memorable scenes, notably when little Grégory falls from the window of a flat and walks away unscathed (apparently unbelievable, but based on  faits divers). Two main child characters emerge, each one representing aspects of Truffaut's own youth, one coming to grips with adolescence and relationships with the opoosite sex, the other a victim of neglect and physical abuse. The primary teacher offers another aspect of François Truffaut, the father figure.

There are a good few classroom scenes, reminiscent of Les 400 Coups and whilst the teachers are more enlightened, what they are teaching seems to have progressed little since the 1950s.

In a way, this was the film that Les 400 Coups was meant to be, before Truffaut decided to concentrate on the Antoine Doinel character. Some regard it as too sentimental and the teacher's (Truffaut's) speech to the class as too preachy on the subject of children's rights, but on this re-viewing I would say that the children are not all seen through rose-tinted spectacles and that perhaps the theme of child abuse is a very contemporary one, not dealt with enough in the cinema. The children act very naturally and Truffaut is able to revisit some of his leitmotifs, for example weak father figures, untouchable women (especially their legs) and children struggling to become adults.

If the movie is lightweight, then, if anything, it is because the violence done to the neglected boy is not shown overtly and therefore fails to shock enough. Truffaut said that he felt like a grandfather making this film, whereas in L'Enfant Sauvage he was like a father.

This is an affectionate, quite compelling film, representing a marked contrast from his previous Histoire d'Adèle H.

Foreign language assistant scheme in jeopardy?

From The Independent

Century-old teaching programme suspended after spending cuts

By Kevin Rawlinson
Saturday, 23 October 2010
Fiona Bruce: the BBC newsreader taught children English in a school over the Channel in Saint Quentin. She spent the 1984/85 academic year in France
Fiona Bruce: the BBC newsreader taught children English in a school over the Channel in Saint Quentin. She spent the 1984/85 academic year in France

For more than a century, British students have been travelling abroad to teach in foreign classrooms as language assistants.
The tradition could now be in jeopardy after the British Council, which runs the programme, was forced to suspend next year's selection process following George Osborne's budget cuts.
J K Rowling, Fiona Bruce and Angus Deayton are among the scheme's notable alumni, while Alastair Campbell, who admitted to not being a "natural teacher", famously used the time to begin writing the "soft porn" that would later see him dubbed the "Riviera Gigolo".
"I still remember a sense of excitement that I was on my own, about to have a year in a foreign country," Mr Campbell told The Independent. "I got off the train in Nice and didn't even know where I was going to live. I was forced to set myself up there. It was around 10 weeks before I really felt like I was teaching the students anything useful but I also used the time to write."
He described the move as "symptomatic" of the effects the Comprehensive Spending Review would have, adding that to scrap the scheme would be a "great shame".
"The rich will still be able to go off on their gap years, but people from poorer backgrounds may never have another opportunity to experience another culture," said the former spin doctor. "My year abroad turned me on to my studies. I did not particularly enjoy my time at university before I went but, after coming back, I began to really get into it."
Others who have served in European classrooms as part of the programme include the BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti as well as the impressionist Rory Bremner and the author Stephen Clarke, who later wrote about his experiences as an Englishman living in France in his book A Year in the Merde. The current Aston Villa manager Gérard Houllier also served as foreign language assistant in an English school. That programme – which this year had 2,800 foreign students in Britain working as assistants – is not affected by the suspension.
The latest British Council figures, to be finalised in November, show that more than 2,500 British students made the move this year, most of them to France – a rise of about 400 on 2005. University lecturers claim that interest in the programme has been rising steadily for years. About 2,800 foreign students are also currently teaching in British classrooms.
The British Council is understood to have written to tutors earlier this month, informing them that recruitment to the programme depended upon the CSR. After the Chancellor's speech, the British Council received a £30m cut to its FCO grant, which fell to £149m. A spokesman confirmed yesterday that the programme remained suspended in England and Wales.
A statement read: "As the programme is funded by the DfE, it is subject to the current government review of all public spending and at this stage we are unable to open recruitment for English language assistant placements in 2011-12." No date has yet been set for recruitment to the Welsh programme. A final decision is due to be taken by the Department for Education, which funds the scheme.
Florence Potot, head of French at the University of Northumbria, a leading university for foreign language teaching, said: "The assistantship programme brings more long-term benefits than costs. To cut it because of budget constraints would really be ironic. Employers love the skills that the programme teaches."

Ipad report

I'm really happy with my ipad. I use it nearly every day. Most of all I appreciate its "instant on" and its portability around the house. If we get wi fi-ed up in the staff room at school, I shall use it there too.

Apart from checking email and web browsing I have made good use of a number of apps. I like the Metoffice app for instant access to weather reports, including current radar and satellite views. The Living Earth app gives instant weather and cloud cover from cities around the world. The Ebay app is easy to browse. I've occasionally used the app, but our slow broadband connection makes live TV unpredictable. I've made good use of the imdb cinema app and daily use of the Guardian app. The latter is designed for the i-phone and bears little resemblance to the newspaper format, but it is comprehensive and easy enough to navigate. I'm awaiting an ipad specific version of the Guardian, for which I would happily pay. The Daily Telegraph app is designed specifically for the ipad, but is slower to load and less exhaustive than the Guardian offering. It's actually a "best of" the Daily Telegraph. I'm not really a Torygraph reader, but I don't mind seeing a different view of the news.

Star Walk is a brilliant app which allows you to browse the night sky. You hold the ipad up towards the sky and its in-built GPS shows you the stars and constellations in that direction. Good fun.

I've also begun using the calendar and contacts applications and enjoy browsing ther app store on a fairly regular basis.

I'm not a huge games person, but I have had fun with Osmos, Angry Birds and RealGolf  2011.

In the summer I did use the ibooks app for some reading, but this has not become a habit. Online books could do with being cheaper.

Other uses for me have included the Youtube app and the excellent Google Earth app.

All in all, I'm delighted with the ipad. The battery lasts about 10 hours and takes a few hours to charge overnight. The keyboard is a doddle to use too. I have not used it as a work tool and cannot envisage doing so, though I am sure plenty of people on the move would do so with Apple's software. Nor have I used its itunes capability, mainly because my album library would take up too much space on this 16 gig version. No camera either, so Skypers would be frustrated. It is occasionally frustrating that the machine does not allow you to view Flash videos, but some sites are already offering alternatives for ipad users.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

L'Histoire d'Adèle H.

Picture: Uiversity of Toronto

 So while I'm in Mark Kermode-mode, what about Truffaut's 1975 film, L'Histoire d'Adèle H? The Adèle in question is the younger daughter of Victor Hugo who is traumatised by the death by drowning of her older sister, whom she considers to be her father's favourite. In fact, after the death of Léopoldine and her husband, Victor Hugo had treated his second daughter with increasing coldness. Adèle, played by Isabelle Adjani in her first cinema role, has fallen in love with an English officer, Albert Pinson, who has been posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Adèle follows him there, partly also to assert her independence from her father.

When the object of her affection turns her down, she obsessively stalks him and does everything she can to win his love, even though he has made it plain he does not want her. He himself is a rather unreliable and feckless character. Her obsession gradually turns to madness and even makes her sick. When the officer is posted to the West Indies, she follows him there, without even revealing her presence to him. When he follows her and approached her in the street, she does not even recognise him. A local woman takes Adèle under her wing and eventually she returns to Paris.

Adèle's story was recounted in the Diary of Adèle Hugo by Frances Vernor Guille, which Truffaut used to produce a screenplay with Jean Gruault. Adèle's encoded diary only came to light in the 1960's when it was written up by the aforementioned American academic.

It is easy to see what attracted Truffaut to this story. In Jules et Jim, the Jeanne Moreau character Catherine is driven by obsessive love to murder and suicide. In this case, Adèle is driven to madness by her extreme emotional obsession. It is a theme which Truffaut would return to later in his career.

Again, Truffaut uses a true story as his source. He admitted that he was attracted to the story because Adèle was the daughter of the most famous man in the world at that time. Characters who are also cut off emotionally from society also appeal to him.

Don Allen in Finally Truffaut writes:

"Adèle's resistance finds expression in the most romantic, intransigent, absolute and hopless love, which leads her through scandal and humiliation into madness."

Casting Isabelle Adjani was a risk, but she is beautiful and tormented, loved by the camera. The film is all about her, with the rest of the (mainly English) cast secondary. The narrative is, once again, careful, largely undramatic and atmospheric. There is a good sense of the isolation and hostility of the Canadian environment, from the opening night-time scene as she arrives in Halifax by boat. (Most of the film was shot in Guernesey, since an English look was needed.) The film also looks good thanks to the cinematography of Nestor Almendros.

Truffaut makes a slightly gratuitous, Hitchcockian appearance as an English officer whom Adèle mistakes for her would-be lover.

Although very watchable and atmospheric, based on a single viewing, this is not one of my Truffaut favourites. I do not find the subject matter especially fascinating. It is frustrating to see the Adjani character wasting her life and making herself ill when she could have been happy with the local bookshop owner who clearly cares for her. It is not clear why Adèle loves Pinson and I wonder how many people in life allow their emotional obsession to dominate themselves so much. Adjani is excellent, but the dialogue of the rest of the cast seems rather stilted. Perhaps Truffaut's poor grasp of English was not up to getting the best from his English performers.

By the way, why Adèle H? Truffaut said that, although Victor Hugo was well known, many people go to watch a film without much prior knowledge, and since her relationship with Victor Hugo is only revealed half way throught he movie, he thought it better not to advertise the fact in the title.

L'enfant sauvage

Still: allocine

Whilst on half term I've had the opportunity to watch a couple of Truffaut films which I had never got round to seeing in the past. L'Enfant Sauvage (1969) is the story of a young wild boy who had lived his early years alone in woods in the Aveyron and whom Dr Jean Itard attempts to civilise in what is a kind of scientific experiment. Truffaut used Itard's scientific notes entitled Mémoire et Rapport sur Victor de l'Aveyron (1806) to construct a script with Jean Gruaut. Truffaut plays Dr Itard himself, saying that since he was working so closely with the child actor (Jean-Pierre Cargol) and since he did not want a famous actor to play the role, he might as well do it himself.

Truffaut acts the role in a dead-pan fashion, quite deliberately so, as he wished to emphasize the fact that Itard was acting as a scientist concerned above all with observation. Any physical warmth and love the boy receives comes from Itard's housekeeper Madame Guérin, played by Françoise Seignier. It is also characteristic of Truffaut to de-sentimentalise his movies, the result being that the viewer may find his films rather flat in tone. Truffaut said of this movie that the aim was not to scare or impress, but to tell a story.

The musical score, always important in a Truffaut film, is in this instance from Vivaldi, and is similarly un-melodramatic

This movie is very watchable indeed. Beautifully shot in black and white by Nestor Almendros, the early scenes of nature, with plenty of long distance shots, are reminiscent of the renoiresque images of Jules et Jim. The aim here, as in Jules et Jim, was to place the characters within their natural context. The sense of history and nostalgia is reinforced by the frequent iris shots to open and close scenes.

Once Victor has been placed with Itard in his home outside Paris, the film becomes a series of scenes in which Itard patiently attempts to teach Victor how to eat, wear clothes, associate objects with words, then letters and words with objects. Victor has no language skills and poor hearing. At the start of the film he moreorless walks on all fours.

In one telling scene Itard explores whether Victor has any moral sense, by seeing how he reacts to punishment. When Victor has a tantrum, Itard locks him in a cupboard. Truiffaut said of this scene: "Dans cette scène, qui est un duel entre l'enfant et le professeur, ce qui m'a le plus intéressé - plus que la révolte ou la non-révolte de l'enfant - c'est le fait que le professeur lui fasse du mal pour son bien. En a-t-il le droit? En a-t-on jamais le droit?" At the start of the film Victor never cries, by the end he does so and seems to have some sense of right and wrong.

Why did Truffaut make this movie? Well, Truffaut was fond of stories from real life, fond of filming children, and maybe here he saw some parallel with how he himself was trained in the cinema by his spiritual father André Bazin. Was Itard cruel to have taken Victor away from his natural home in the woods? Truffaut thinks not and may have felt that Itard, as well as acting as an interested scientist, was also fulfilling a moral duty in civilising the boy.

Jean-Pierre Cargol, who plays Victor, is quite outstanding in the role.

Interestingly Truffaut dedicates the film to his own spiritual son, Jean-Pierre Léaud, from Les 400 Coups.

(Quotation from: Le Cinéma selon François Truffaut by Anne Gillain (Flammarion, 1988))

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Que feriez-vous si un grand Africain nu pénétrait dans votre appartement?

En fait c'est une histoire qui a mal terminé pour un bébé de quatre mois, mais c'est également un fait divers bizarre:

Ils ont cru voir le diable. En réalité, l'étrange apparition nocturne n'était qu'un père de famille se rendant, complètement nu et mal réveillé, au chevet de son enfant qui pleurait... Complètement terrorisées, onze personnes, dont des enfants, se sont défenestrées d'un appartement de la Verrière, dans les Yvelines, samedi à l'aube, causant la mort d'un bébé de quatre mois.
C'est Odile Faivre, procureur adjoint de Versailles, qui a confirmé l'information samedi soir. Selon elle, «treize personnes se sont trouvées dans un appartement au second étage d'un immeuble quand, vers 3h du matin, l'un des occupants a entendu son enfant pleurer».

«Pris pour le diable»

Dans l'appartement, les treize habitants «étaient en train de regarder la télévision», a expliqué la magistrate à l'AFP. «L'homme s'est levé pour préparer un biberon quand son épouse aurait hurlé en le voyant: "C'est le diable, c'est le diable"».
«L'homme en question, d'origine africaine, a été sérieusement blessé à la main d'un coup de couteau avant d'être expulsé de l'appartement», a-t-elle précisé. Le père de famille, qui se trouvait dans le plus simple appareil, a tenté d'entrer à nouveau dans l'appartement. «C'est à ce moment précisément que les autres occupants ont pris la fuite en sautant par la fenêtre, ayant une peur panique du diable», a poursuivi Odile Faivre.

Des zones d'ombre

Outre celui qui a été confondu avec le diable, âgé de 30 ans, un deuxième homme, qui se serait défenestré avec une fillette de deux ans dans les bras, a été interpellé par la police.

«De nombreux points restent à éclaircir», a souligné le procureur adjoint. Les policiers, qui ont fouillé le logement, n'ont pas découvert de substances hallucinogènes. Et selon Odile Faivre, «aucune séance de spiritisme n'aurait eu lieu dans l'appartement», contredisant la thèse avancée plus tôt dans la journée par
Selon le parquet de Versailles, cité par l'AFP, parmi les personnes blessées, sept ont été transportées aux urgences de plusieurs hôpitaux de la région. Elles souffrent de multiples traumatismes. Deux enfants, la fillette de deux ans et le bébé décédé samedi soir, avaient été hospitalisés à Necker à Paris.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Photo: Helen Williams

Voici le groupe français de l'Institution Saint Louis, Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult. Nos amis de Charente Maritime viennent nous voir chaque année. Cette année ils sont 33 à avoir choisi le formule cours-excursions-séjours en famille. Demain nous allons nous promener à Malham Cove. Helen Williams, ma collègue et notre amie de longue date, accompagne le groupe avec sa collègue Céline Braganti qui travaille dans le secrétariat de l'école.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

La Nuit Américaine


After studying Les 400 Coups and Jules et Jim, my A-level students are going to watch Truffaut's award-winning movie-within-a-movie movie La Nuit Américaine (1973). In English it's called Day for Night and in case you didn't know "day for night" is a technique used in films whereby you film in daylight, but give the impression the action is at night by the use of camera filters. It's an apt title for this movie, since it suggests that film is a bit like cheating and in this affectionate and warm-hearted film you get to see what film making is all about behind the scenes. It's usually said to be the best film made about film-making and it was rewarded with an Oscar.

Truffaut plays Ferrand, the director of a film called Meet Pamela and the story follows the progress of the shoot. We get to see how Truffaut directs actors, how scenes are put together and, principally, how there is a whole separate drama going on behind the scenes as the actors cope with their off-screen lives.

Truffaut plays with some of his favourite motifs: his early love of cinema as he experiences a recurring dream in black and white of his stealing a poster of Citizen Kane from a cinema, his fascination with women (Est-ce que les femmes sont magiques? says Jean-Pierre Léaud's character) and the frustrations of human relationships. Plus you get to see Truffaut working as Truffaut, which for his fans is an extra treat.

Good lines from Ferrand to Jean-Pierre Léaud:

"Les films sont plus harmonieux que la vie. Il n'y a pas d'embouteillages dans les films, pas de temps mort. Les films avancent comme des trains, tu comprends, comme des trains dans la nuit. Des gens comme toi, comme moi, tu le sais bien, on est fait pour être heureux dans le travail, dans notre travail de cinéma."

In some ways La Nuit Américaine is a light-weight, easy film when compared with his early new wave masterpieces, but fans of cinema rate it as one of his best. You see his long-standing team working together to achieve something despite all the hurdles along the route. You should reach the end with a warm feeling. updates

Recent additions include more links and translation work for use with Jules et Jim. I also found a little article on about pets living longer. It looks like the phenomenon of increased life expectancy is not limited to human beings living in wealthy countries. Pets are also living longer; for cats and dogs it is around 2 years since 1980. Not sure whether that is in human or dog years, though.

German and British pets seem to be taking this in their stride as their owners are happy to pay our for better food and more complex medical treatments. French pets have taken to the streets as they fear that their retirement age may have to rise. It could be miou 68 all over again.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Retraites: les peurs françaises

J'ai bien apprécié cet article récent d'Eric Le Boucher sur En gros je suis d'accord avec son analyse. Le dernier paragraphe est à noter. Le gouvernement a su convaincre les Anglais que les coupes sont non seulement nécessaires, mais aussi désirables. Mais pour ce qui concerne les retraites, j'ai l'impression que nos réformes sont passées presque inaperçues.

A ceux qui descendent dans la rue en France je pose la question: si le système actuel est en panne, comment voulez-vous le réformer?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Citroen DS3

Un des premiers posts que j'ai affiché sur mon blog, c'était sur la DS3, la version "premium" de la C3 et qui rappelle la DS originale. Eh bien, ma femme a décidé d'en acheter une. (Son époux est content car c'est lui qui la conduira de temps en temps.) Il s'agit d'une édition spéciale, la "White", en version diesel. Elle consomme peu, émet peu de CO2 (mais elle est neuve et acheter une voiture neuve est la pire chose à faire pour l'environnement même si ça donne du travail aux ouvriers de Poissy). Bref, elle est jolie et agréable à conduire. La voici:

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Le français en voie de disparition à Bruxelles

Cela ne m'étonne pas car mon vieil ami Jonathan Todd qui travaille à la Commission Européenne me l'avait déjà dit il y quelque temps.

Article tiré de

Selon Jean Quatremer, correspondant de Libération à Bruxelles, l’anglais est maintenant «la langue unique, ou presque» des institutions européennes. Le journaliste cite des chiffres d'Europolitique selon lesquels l’anglais est désormais la «langue source» de 75% des documents de la Commission Barroso, contre 8,32% pour le français et 2,74% pour l’allemand.
Jean Quatremer s'inquiète de cette mainmise de l'anglais qui aurait commencé au milieu des années 1990:
«Une langue, c’est un moyen de communiquer (argument de ceux qui défendent l’anglais langue unique), mais aussi de transmettre un système de valeurs. Vous ne verrez par exemple jamais un Américain accepter de négocier dans une autre langue que la sienne, à la différence d’un Français toujours prompt à complaire. En anglais, libéralisme, concurrence, administration, État, réglementation, gouvernement, élargissement ou OGM, par exemple, n’ont absolument pas la même connotation qu’en français (je parle pour ma langue). Est-ce un hasard si l’Union s’est lancée à corps perdu dans “l’ultra libéralisme”, pour reprendre ce mot que je n’aime guère, au moment où l’anglais devenait dominateur?»
Qui est responsable de l'afaiblissement du français? Les Français d'abord qui, comme Pascal Lamy, ancien commissaire, ou Christine Lagarde aujourd'hui privilégient l'anglais dans leur travail à Bruxelles. Mais la disparition annoncée du français viendrait aussi, selon Jean Quatremer, de nos voisins allemands, espagnols ou italiens qui évitent le français, langue jugée plus arrogante et moins neutre que l'anglais.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Vous aimez le pâté de foie gras?

L'autre jour j'ai voulu faire goûter à mes élèves de seconde du pâté de foie gras qu'une gentille collègue m'a offert. Un peu au hasard j'ai cherché sur youtube pour voir comment on le prépare. J'avais vu quelque chose sur une émission de Rick Stein où on donnait à manger aux oies. Ce n'était pas trop dégoûtant. Mais il semble que la production du foie gras soit parfois plus désagréable (c'est le moins qu'on puisse dire). Attention, ça risque de choquer certains.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Jules et Jim


Jules et Jim is considered by many to be Truffaut's best work. I've been working on it again with two groups of A-level students and I'm hoping to get them to share in my enthusiasm. But I remember myself that when I first saw this movie I was slightly underwhelmed. I recall that little emotion was communicated from the screen, the film seemed episodic and that the lead character, Catherine, played by Jeanne Moreau was simply not very appealing.

But what you have to remember with Jules et Jim is that it is, above all, a hommage to a book which inspired Truffaut after he came across it by chance at a second hand book shop in Paris. The autobiographical novel, with its charming simplicity and clipped sentences, is faithfully rendered on the screen, thanks to the superb acting, particularly of Jeanne Moreau and Oskar Werner, the use of the original text in the dialogue and voice- off narration, and the rapid editing and new wave camera tricks which reflect the style of the novel. It is also a rather beautiful film to look at, with its pastoral scenes; and a lovely film to listen to, with its uplifting, sometimes bitter-sweet score by Georges Delerue. With several viewings you also appreciate Truffaut's enormous attention to detail.

As for that lack of emotion, that slightly detached flatness, Truffaut said that he did not want to over-dramatise events which were the memories of a writer in his seventies, Henri-Pierre Roché. The film should be like an old album of photos, memories recalled fondly, but with the detachment of time passed. A good example is when Catherine suddenly jumps into the Seine to grab back the attention of the two men in her life. The event takes the viewer by surprise and is accompanied by a melodramatic twist in the score, but then immediately Truffaut goes to a voice-off narrative which distances us from the scene and reminds us we are looking at a filmed book.

This degree of subtlety is hard to communicate to students, as is the principal theme of the film, that the couple is inadequate, that alternatives are worth exploring, but that happiness is always fleeting. The pleasing title of the book (which is what first attracted Truffaut to it) reflects the fact that the most long-lasting and reliable relationship is that of the two men. The complicity between the male characters of the film, who all vie for Catherine's attention, is striking.

If you haven't seen the movie, read the book first. There is a nice interview with Truffaut about the film here: