Sunday, August 31, 2014

French Flix Fix from Netflix

Looks like much of the country is going to have a wet Labor Day - the perfect excuse to stay indoors and watch some good French films via Netflix streaming. By the way, why do the French not celebrate Labor Day? Perhaps because every day in France is a celebration of the laborer, what with the 35-hour work week, 6-week vacations, and retirement in your fifties.

Back to the films, Bicycling with Molière is clever and entertaining, one of these play-within-a-play things, except that in this case, the play in question, Molière's The Misanthrope, is playing out in real life while a celebrated TV actor tries to convince a real-life misanthrope to come out of retirement to play in the production of The Misanthrope that the TV actor is staging. Fabrice Lucini is terrific as the misanthrope.

Another film I saw recently is 2 Autumns, 3 Winters. More typically French, meaning there's not much of plot, and a little offbeat, I found myself drawn into this drama about a couple who meet by chance -- twice. A good rainy day movie. To stay abreast of other French films streaming on Netflix (or playing in a theatre near you), check out the website But check these two films out soon - Netflix can easily yanketh what they giveth.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Passé simple? I don't thing so...

I was recently asked in an interview if my French quest had allowed me to to read any of the French classics in the original. Actually, that was one of my goals in learning French, but when I tried, I came across an unexpected obstacle that no one had warned by about: the passé simple. This is the past tense that was once use exclusively in writing, with the more common passé composé reserved for spoken French.

That's right, French has two past tenses, equivalent in meaning: one for spoken French and one for written! Quelle langue!

When I first encountered the heretofore unknown passé simple in a Balzac story or something, I couldn't figure out what the heck it was. It looked a lot like the future tense, but I knew the conjugations for the verb in question, and it wasn't the future; it wasn't the imparfait; it was just bizarre looking, and I learned later, that is how to recognize the passé simple. If it's weird and doesn't match anything else, it's probably the simple.Which is, trust me, anything but simple!

By the way, the passé simple wasn't the only obstacle to reading French classics. It's often repeated that 90% of a language uses just 2,000 different words. Je pense que non! After a year of study, I couldn't make my way through Le Petit Prince.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rave review from Kirkus

The very first review of Flirting with French is in --whew!

Thanks, Kirkus Reviews, for your kind review, which begins with "A charming memoir by a passionate Francophile" and ends with "Alexander’s love affair with French, he concludes in this wry and warmhearted memoir, has reaped unexpected rewards."

So, not only is it nice, but even better, they got the book!  Five weeks till publication, but you can pre-order here for less than 15 bucks (cheap!).

Read the full review at Kirkus Reviews.