Thursday, March 24, 2005

Aching shoulders
In high school and college, my language electives were always French. I'd convinced myself it was a good fit. I didn't smoke while I was an educational establishment resident, but I did tend toward mumbling, speaking with one eye closed, walking around with bread of the longish variety, imbibing of the red wine, philosophizing (of the teenage variety), exhaling in long deep breaths, and long-winded postulating of the romantic kind. Learning French was a painful experience for me. A gift for language was never found under my Christmas tree; both the written and the spoken foreign sentence were difficult for me and, even moreso, difficult for the recepient of my communication. When I was younger, my forays into Francaise were received with a laugh and the kindness usually extended to someone trying a new trick or task. Older now, but none the better in formulating and mouthing words in French, my attempts at speaking are now met with sad shakes of the head. My awe-inspriring daughter, as talented in French as I am not, stares at me, wondering if this is what dementia looks like.
I'm not sure why I persisted. Aside from the obvious lack of connection between ear, brain, & mouth, French was physically a difficult language for me. Even when I was in mate-finding shape, speaking in French was exhausting.
Italians seem to be instructing planes how to land on aircraft carriers when they're speaking.
Americans seem to be perpetually hammering their words onto a plank when they are droning on.
The French? They are unburdening themselves. Perpetually. It's a shoulder language. All that shrugging, that sagging, that pulling back of the shoulder blades. My upper body just was not in shape to speak French.

But I love seeing it spoken. Correctly. With full shoulder action.
This weekend bodes well for some of that type of watching. Netflix is mailing Bertrand Blier's 1978"Préparez vos Mouchoirs" (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs).

A film aside here: (Bertrand Blier's unconventional, sophisticated French comedy follows two men -- Raoul (Gerard Depardieu) and Stephane (Patrick Dewaere) -- who try everything to make the insatiable Solange (Carole Laure) happy. But their efforts fail when they lose her to a precocious 13-year-old boy. Winner of the 1979 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.)

This movie is one of my all-time favorites. Depardieu is his usual rambunctious physical self. His partnership with Dewaere is an underappreciated gem. Laure, a French-Canadian, offers her own dialect of French along with a childlike earthiness that has me blushing each time I see this film. Blier caused quite a stir with this movie due to the story line. The first 20 minutes are especially strong. The only shame is that the sub-titles are merely adequate; I'm hoping my French hearing skills have not totally deteriorated. Although with Depardieu, I would listen to him reading the Paris phone book and enjoy it.

I'll be Ben-Gaying my shoulders in preparation; perhaps I'll buy a pack of Galloises to place next to my bottle of wine.

Anytime French is mentioned in the same sentence as Drako the DarkOne...the only thing that pops into my mind is Tres Ri...or very laugh
I took three years of hs French, and I can read it - a little. Cannot understand more than a single word or two in an actual conversation. I loved my classes, but retained only a miniscule amount. Come to think of it, I took three years of shorthand, too. Fat lotta good THAT did me.
"The shoulders" ... I think you're on to something, here. There's nothing like French poise, is there (particularly, to my eye, as it's expressed by the women)? Both my daughters are in French Immersion, and picking up the language like ... well, like only 6 and 8-year-olds can. They've already surpassed their mother's abilities, which is no small feat (their father's French already provokes gales of laughter). With a little luck, I believe they'll pick up the poise as well. It's good for fending off the more troglodytic males, I think.
lovely descriptions darko. what's your take on russian? my friend from grad school andre told me once "daaave, when i was at university of moscow my professor said 'there are 2 peelars in philosophy, ploto and kant. andre you must read only one page ploto per day!' so daaave, i tell you, you must read only one sentence ploto per day."
Ivan: That's "Tres Ris". I want to make sure my butchered French is cut the right way.

C. Pattie: French & Shorthand. Now, THAT combo would certainly be indecipherable.
W.P.: Sounds like your two daughters will soon be skewering you in another language. As far as fending off troglodytic males...I'm afraid of the opposite reaction!
Dave: Nice to read you again. Russian always ALWAYS makes me think of two things. Boris Badenoff & Natasha (I'm counting here, so that's only one) and Nikita Krushchev (specifically the pounding of the shoe sequence at the UN). The language combines humor, terror, and beauty (all of those fabulous Russian writers..ok, that's three things).
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