Thursday, February 12, 2015

Of diplomats and sex parties

In case you haven't been following the wild goings-on at the pimping trial in Lille of one Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), the man who not long ago was expected to be the next president of France, you've missed:
  • Topless women protesting outside the courthouse
  • DSK telling the press this his orgies were no big deal because "it was only four a year" 
  • The unique defense “I dare you to distinguish between a prostitute and a naked socialite.”
That last statement is really the crux of the issue, for not only are orgies legal in France (as in the U.S.), but the French have a classy word for it (this from the language that doesn't have a dedicated word for "wife"!): libertinage, whose tradition goes back to the 16th century, when the best ones took place in the Bois de Boulogne on the northern outskirts of Paris, and the participants wore masks (in case you missed that movie).

The only problem is that in DSK's case, these weren't naked socialites cavorting around with 70-year--old men, but prostitutes with names like Jade, and securing a prostitute is illegal in France - it's called "pimping."

This is, of course, the same DSK who was accused of raping a maid at a hotel in New York a few years back and who might be in a New York prison right now if the accuser hadn't had her own shady background, forcing the DA to drop the case. I happened to be in France, at an immersion language school, at the time, and here's a brief excerpt from "Flirting with French" in which I describe the French reaction:

The French are furious with the American judicial system for holding DSK “hostage.” He’s a prominent figure, not a flight risk, and shouldn’t be treated this way. Emboldened after four days of classes, I decide to give a rebuttal in defense of my country. I rehearse it in my head several times, then speak up.

 “I’ve a proposition. You give us Roman Polanski and we’ll give you DSK.” My French is decent enough that the room erupts in laughter.
That, by the way, is about the all thing I've ever said correctly in French. I'll keep you posted on Monsieur DSK.

Friday, February 6, 2015

French movies to get you through l'hiver

Here in New York's Hudson Valley, as in much of the Northeast, it's been a snowy, cold winter (l'hiver), Fortunately for we francophiles, Netflix has a nice collection of streaming French movies to get you to le printemps.

Le Chef  Not to be confused with the Jon Favreau movie "Chef," this one stars the wonderful  French actor Jean Reno playing, not a tough cop (or assassin) for a change, but a tough chef trying to hang on his Michelin stars. You'll need to suspend disbelief at times, but it's a lot of fun  to watch Jean play against type and to watch the French skewer Spanish-inspired molecular cuisine

Bicycling with Moliere  Life imitates art imitates life in this fascinating psychological study which will, if nothing else, make you feel totally culturally inferior to the French. Which, by the way, you are.


The French Minister  A young man navigates the perilous corridors of power in France. A nice little French comedy if you need a diversion.

On My Way  Catherine Deneuve, still beautiful at 70, gives an acting seminar in this beguiling movie, which costars a pack of cigarettes.


Venus in Fur  Roman Polanski brings the Broadway play to the screen. I loved the play, and the movie almost as much.

Aliyah   A secular Jewish, low-level drug dealer thinks about escaping to the Promised Land. I love films that make you root for a drug dealer.

Blue is the Warmest Color - If  nothing else, this movie should warm you up. But some terrific performances make it much more than the soft porn it was peddled as.

Only 42 days till spring! Bon courage!