Tag Archives: le ciné

Body thought

20 Jan

Le français…

Le panais (featured légume oublié a couple posts ago) = parsnip.  Who knew?  Anyone?  I excuse myself, because they’re not exactly standard fare back in the States.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten parsnips before; and turnips I’ve had, but only once, at a pre-Thanksgiving haggis dinner in Cork, Ireland, with a side of Robert Burns read by a Scotswoman with a Midlands lilt.

les combles = the small windows on the top floor of old bourgeois houses.  The femme de menage would live on this top floor in her modest chambre de bonne.  This woman of all domestic trades was also known as a bonne femme, or “good woman.”  So she did basically everything, and was awarded with the privilege of being “good.”

par le bouche à l’oreille = by word of mouth, literally “by the mouth to the ear”…most effective technique for scaring up conversation students in Saint Jean.  I did think like a French person, and plastered my diminutive neon ads at some boulangeries (bakeries)…the only establishments open of a Sunday here in la profonde campagne.

et les Français.

I watched the American cult classic Freaks (1932) for the first time in a stage du film (stage = training session or workshop) with other language teachers at the high school.   Think tensely divided circus community meets love triangle meets sweet gruesome revenge; no wonder we’re studying this film, the students will relate perfectly to the melodrama.  In seriousness, it was good, and though I’d never heard of this film before coming to France, the French are unabashed cinophiles and quite possibly know more about movies than any other culture on the planet (as they well should, it was two French brothers who invented cinéma over 100 years ago).  Cinéma is like the unwritten curriculum that every French child receives, along with opening huîtres (oysters) and bottles of wine.  And thank goodness, because all of these things make for great conservation topics.

Olga Baclanova in Freaks as Cleopatra, the trapeze artist who got what was coming to her.

This film also makes a great thematic hinge for discussing our simultaneous fascination and repulsion when it comes to physical abnormalities.  What about disease, or even just run of the mill colds and flus?  I need to get my hands on Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill, though to be honest, I’m looking for a more uplifting author for my bedtime reading.  In France I am more aware of my body than ever before in my life, ten times more aware than I was when living in health-freak Missoula (I like to talk about that town as if I’m never going back there).  So when something is thrown off-balance by diet, sleep patterns, stress, my environment or the people around me, I notice, and usually remedy, the matter much more quickly.

The French are not squeamish when it comes to talking about every body part external and internal, body parts of animals and in turn of their dinner, illnesses and the detailed symptoms they’re suffering, sex, and of course personal definitions of beauty and hideousness concerning people and everything that people create.   On a sabbatical from my own culture, the latter now reveals itself from the outside as only superficially savvy and concerned about moderation, quality indulgment, and overall well-being: physical, spiritual and mental.  Maybe it’s the vacation getting to my head, or maybe the food that is actually food.  But when it comes to my body, I would much prefer to know too much rather than too little; and though it would be a gross generalization to say that all French care about their personal health, the body  seems to carry much more cultural import here.  Maybe it’s because of the health system; it’s fun going to the doctor when it’s free, right? (Note:  I did wait at urgent care over an hour.   “Urgent” is all relative).