Friday, September 01, 2006

Bonjour Tristesse

Paul Verlaine once wrote, “Il pleure dans mon coeur.” Nothing says France to me quite like the heartbreak and melancholy of its artistes. Musicians like Erik Satie epitomize this tradition. His Gymnopédies with its tenderness and fragile chords almost makes me weepy every time I hear it.

I would be terribly remiss if I failed to mention French troubadour and moody poet, Serge Gainsbourg. In a tribute album to mark the 15th anniversary of Gainsbarre's death, Monsieur Gainsbourg: Revisited, the covers include: A Song For Sorry Angel (Franz Ferdinand), I Love You (Me Either) (Cat Power), Requiem For Anna (Portishead), Those Little Things (Carla Bruni), Requiem For A Jerk (Francoise Hardy), and L’Hotel (Michael Stipe).

Jeanne Moreau, a living legend in such classic films as François Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black and Jules et Jim, always seems to capture this same feeling at the heart of hopelessness and tragedy in her portrayals of doomed women.

Moreau went on to star as the queen of despair, Marguerite Duras, in Cet Amour-Là. A brilliant writer, Duras authored the classic L’Amant or The Lover. They were great friends (as evidenced in their mutual admiration in the above photo) and she directed Moreau in Nathalie Granger in 1972.

Other French ladies of letters- After failing at the Sorbonne, Françoise Sagan penned Bonjour Tristesse to a breathless world at 18. A Parisian for a great deal of her life, Jean Rhys, depicted such feelings of displacement and alienation especially in her masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea. Perhaps the most tragic story is The Story of O by Pauline Réage.


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