Facteur Cheval, a brilliant film by Nils Tavernier

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is played by Jacques Gamblin

There is a famous crazy listed  building in Southern France which has changed its village Hauterives into a famous destination. “Le Palais idéal du Facteur Cheval” was built, stone by stone,  in 33 years by a postman who used to walk thirty kilometers a day to deliver his mail in the Drôme, near Romans. This “palace” was conceived by a simple man after he saw photographs of Angkor Vat in a magazine. The chef d’oeuvre was dedicated to his young daughter Alice. Nils Tavernier has just directed a film about this unpredictable hero with such fantastic actors (Jacques Gamblin and Laetitia Casta) that the film is a winner. Read More

Gerard Mortier’s legacy, a Prize for young theater directors

Krystian Lada, is the first recipient of The Mortier Prize, here at the Ghent Opera on January 12

 

Gérard Mortier shook the opera world when he ran the Salzburg festival and the Paris Opera. Everyone did not agree with his creations but he was somewhat of a revolutionary. He died too young from pancreatic cancer four years ago and his friends have created a Prize in his honor. “Prix Mortier, Next Generation” is attributed to young professionals in the musical theatre world. The laureate receives €30 000 for a specific project and will be helped by “grand masters of the theatre”. Read More

“Peindre la nuit”, at Metz Pompidou center

Winslow Homer, Summer night, 1890, Musée d’Orsay, painted in Prout’s Neck, Maine

“Peindre la nuit”, “Painting the night” is a fabulous title and for the last two months I have been dreaming about seeing this exhibition. Many, many years ago, the Metropolitan museum had shown night paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. It was a revelation to me. I had never realized how disturbing a painting at moonlight could be. This show at Pompidou Metz comprises mostly 20 th century works and is not quite as fascinating as the Met’s, but some of the art was new to me. So when you go and visit the Lee Ufan show next month (Feb 27), make sure to see it too.Read More

Robert Lepage strikes again, at Théâtre du Soleil

A romantic scene in a canoe for Martial Jacques, photo Michèle Laurent

Robert Lepage’s new show, Kanata, was announced last summer as having been canceled in Canada. The reason? “First Nations peoples” demonstrated against the fact that their parts in the play were not acted by their people. A very sensitive political issue. Thus Ariane Mnouchkine the famous founder of Théâtre du Soleil, decided to take the project in hand and develop it with Robert Lepage and her own company in Vincennes. The actors went to Canada to immerse themselves in situ in the Rockies, in Alberta and in Vancouver where Hastings Street has a major role in the play. The thirty two International actors are exceptional as is the set.Read More

Four years later, Charlie Hebdo’s tragedy is remembered with books

Philippe Lançon, the survivor

You might remember reading the wonderful and devastating book “Darling I am going to Charlie” written by Maryse Wolinski (Atria books) on the day her husband, the cartoonist Georges Wolinski, died at the Charlie Hebdo  offices. Another book has come out last year in France and will be published in 2020 in the US and Great Britain: “Le Lambeau” (The Flap) by Philippe Lançon, is the very long description of the journalist’s slow recovery in two Paris hospitals after his face was destroyed by the terrorists. It won Book of the year award and the Femina Prize in France and has been sold in eight languages. Europa Books has acquired World English rights.Read More

La Galette des Rois, a major family festivity

Galettes come in all sizes at Savio at 45 rue Boissy d’Anglas

On January 6th, day of the Epiphany, when the Three Kings or Wise men visit Jesus in Bethlehem, everyone celebrates with a galette des rois, a pâte feuilletée cake filled with marzipan (almond cream). The youngest child in the family goes under the table and shouts out the names of the guests. One of them will get the portion with the “fève” a little porcelain decoration which entitles him or her to the crown. The King or Queen will then choose his mate. With the galette come two golden crowns and the celebrations tend to last all week.
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Fernand Khnopff, old and new dreams from Belgium

A giant reproduction of the portrait of Marguerite Khnopff (the artist’s sister), 1887,  welcomes the visitor, photo Eric Turmel

I did not quite understand why I had left the “Khnopff, Maître de l’énigme” exhibition at Petit Palais slightly sad and depressed? So I went back thinking that maybe, that morning, I was tired and unfocused. And what I found on my second visit of this mysterious turn-of-the century Belgian painter, is that the lighting of the exhibition and the often white walls are just too cold. Of course it could have been intentional to reproduce the cold light of the north but I think it gives a dark ambiance to melancholic paintings which are nevertheless exceptional.Read More

Alberto Giacometti is surprising at Musée Maillol

Composition (dite Cubiste I, Couple) ca 1926-27, Fondation Giacometti

When I went to Musée Maillol, to see the Giacometti show, I thought I would know every single statue and be slightly bored. Well not at all, because the first two rooms have such wonderful early sculptures that it is worth going just for them and the very last painted plaster which is huge and very surprising. The few Rodin groups are of course overwhelmingly beautiful.Read More