Monthly Archives: September 2020

“Paris sleeps in the arms of the Seine”

Following the death of Juliette Gréco, I watched the 1951 French film Sous le ciel de Paris by Julien Duvivier.

 Sous le ciel de Paris 

It’s undervalued film. It begins with an exhilarating fly-over of Paris by night, topped with a voice-over mentioning all these souls in the city for which fate has a thing or two in store.

The ensuing action takes place over a period of 24 hours while many of the participants lives intermingle, making it an early example of hyperlink cinema.

RIP Juliette Gréco (1927 – 2020)

Juliette Gréco was a French actress and singer. 

She first appeared on my radar in 2010 in the Gainsbourg movie Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life where she is played by Anna Mouglalis.

The scene from Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life in which Gainsbourg meets Gréco and plays for her “La Javanaise”.

Below the song “L’Accordéon” (1962) in which she plays her own black-clad body as an instrument. Very French and sensual.

While cycling to work, it dawned upon me that “L’Accordéon” reminded me of the Mary Poppins song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (1964).

RIP Michael Lonsdale (1931 – 2020)

Michael Lonsdale was a British-French actor who mainly worked in France, one of my favorite actors. He played in many films, though rarely as the protagonist. He turned 89.

Final scene from the French 1976 ‘Bartleby’ adaptation

In the English-speaking world, he was known for his role as the villain Hugo Drax in the James Bond film Moonraker, and for his appearances in The Day of the Jackal and The Remains of the Day.

As a character actor with a penetrating gaze, he can be admired in auteur films such as Le fantôme de la liberté (1974) by Luis Buñuel, Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974) by Alain Robbe-Grillet and the unforgettable 5×2 (2004) by François Ozon.

I would like to take this rather sinister opportunity to highlight the story “Bartleby” (1853) by Herman “Moby Dick” Melville. That short story was adapted for film four times, and in the 1976 French version, Lonsdale plays the bailiff.

The hero in “Bartleby” is called Bartleby. He is a clerk who is recruited at a law firm to copy documents, but soon after his arrival at the firm refuses an assignment with the legendary words “I would prefer not to”. From then on, Bartleby the clerk basically refuses everything, which means that he refuses to live.

This hero is reminiscent of other impossible, frustrated novel characters such as the nameless hero in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (1864) and Julien Sorel in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (1830).

In the clip, Lonsdale visits Bartleby in prison where he urges the latter to make a last effort to live. In vain. We see Bartleby die while standing up.

RIP Shere Hite (1942 – 2020)

Shere Hite (1942 – 2020) was a American-born German sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work focused primarily on female sexuality.

She is best-known for her book The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976) which is in several ways a successor to Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response (1966) and Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).

In this book, she permanently devaluated the coitus in favour of more attention for the clitoris.

She is the last great feminist. Perhaps only equalled by Camille Paglia (born 1947). Nancy Friday (1933 – 2017) is another famous feminist of that generation.

RIP Toots ‘Maytal’ Hibbert (1942 – 2020)

“Funky Kingston” (1972)

Toots Hibbert was a Jamaican singer and songwriter, leader for the band Toots & the Maytals. He is best-known for such songs as “54-46 That’s My Number” (1968), “Pressure Drop” (1970) and “Funky Kingston” (1972).

Hibbert was one of the first artists to use the word “reggae” in 1968’s “Do the Reggay”.

RIP Diana ‘Emma Peel’ Rigg (1938 – 2020)

Diana Rigg (1938 – 2020) was an English actress perhaps best-known for playing Emma Peel in the British TV series The Avengers (1965–1968).

Here,  Emma Peel, the rather amusing final scene from the “Something Nasty in the Nursery” (1967) episode of The Avengers.

What do you see Madame Peel?

I see you and I on the scene.

Something lurking in the background?

Yes, I see you attacked by two large…

What?

Things.

I dispose of them?

I do dispose of them?

No. I do.

RIP Simeon ‘Silver Apples’ Coxe (1938 – 2020)

“Gypsy Love”, from their first album.

Simeon Coxe (1938 – 2020) was an American composer and musician known as a founding member of the electronic rock ensemble Silver Apples.

I guess I first stumbled upon Silver Apples when I bought the Underground Moderne cd by Nova Records. It had the track “Gypsy Love” on it, and I always skipped it. Silver Apples were undeniably of great influence, but none of their records would end up in my desert island selection.