On the side of the French Film Festival - The Intouchables -just released on Blu-Ray
For a number of (bad...) reasons, we missed out on seeing this film which has been on everybody's lips ...and on the screens here for quite a while.
But, it has been finally released on DVD and Blu-Ray and I bought a copy a week or so ago.
First, a technical note: I don't think there is much value in buying the Blu-Ray copy over the DVD, as the music is not the main feature of the film and my guess is that on most disc player/TV combo, it will not make a great deal of difference.
The whole film is about the interaction between the characters/actors.
This is an amazing performance from start to finish, oscillating between deep emotion, hilarity, dispair and hope, friendship, difference, the list goes on...
I will not bore you by restating the story, but it is a great story about how one sees another human being in a predicament that is completely foreign to the other one and what reactions this triggers. It works both ways here, whether it is about wealth or absence of it, education versus deliquancy, black versus white (in real life, it was European versus Arabic), and the desire to be respected and loved in any circumstances. The casting is perfect with Omar Sy jumping to international fame and Francois Cluzet - somebody has labeled him the Dustin Hoffman of French Cinema, not bad... - and Audrey Fleurot that you may remember as a venal lawyer in the TV series "Spiral" and there are some hilarious moments that I won't spoil for you if you have not seen the film yet.
I guess it is one of those films that you will need to view a few times to actually appreciate all the little details of it which make it such a great film. In a lateral thinking sort of way, it reminds me of "The Soloist".
I saw this movie when I was in Paris in January and was happy to see it included in the line-up for the Festival here in Sydney.
I like the film a lot!: The performance of Michel Bouquet as an ageing Renoir and the sometime very graphic depiction of his illness - rhumatoid arthritis - but also the scenery of Provence - a background for my own childhood - which is beautifully captured by Ping Bin Lee - a Taiwanesse DoP with over 60 films to his credit, like "In the Mood for Love" and "Norvegian Wood".
I would be liing if I were not mentioning being quite taken by the young actress playing Renoir's last model: Crista Theret. Her rough beauty and character certainly add spice to the story.
In real life, she ended up marrying Jean Renoir, the famous French filmmaker.
The film paints a portrait of Renoir as a real "bon vivant' reminiscent of Monet, both fascinated by nature, good food and beautiful women.
A voir d'urgence!
This interesting event, which runs four times a year, has been raised to my attention by Camille Loubat of Tapage Mediatique.
If you are interested in vintage fashion, furniture and lifestyle objects, it is not too late to rush out of bed and get yourself at l'Espace Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais. There are plenty little bakeries and cafes around so you won't have to skip breakfast!
Obviously, this is if you are lucky enough to be in Paris!
But if you don't, we will try to give you a glimpse of what it is all about, so you can get there for the next one at the end of May!
The next edition will have a dedicated section for vinyls and vintage hifi - and I will definitely review this one on my other blog: www.frenchvintagehifi.com.
During this current event, the furniture designed by talented architect and designer Gae Aulenti for the film "La Piscine" will be for sale. I am lucky enough to own a set of cutlery she designed for a restaurant in Monaco in the 1970s called Le Fontane - see photo below - but they are not for sale! You may have spotted them in my photos of recipes, as we are using them anytime we feel like it and definitely when we have guest over.
So, if you send me a good recipe or guest post on anything French and I get to publish it, you may well be invited for dinner and experience both my cooking and Gae Aulenti's cutlery! A vos plumes...
In the meantime you can try the best hot-dogs in Paris at Little Fernand who will have a stand at the Salon du Vintage
Laine Magi & Jeanne Moreau in "A Lady in Paris"
This was our last film for this year's festival and it was little jewel of a film.
Although technically not French, as the director Ilmar Raag is Estonian, it is filmed primarily in Paris, and beautifully at that!
Being filmed in winter add a airie dimension to the amazing photography by Laurent Brunet famous for working on the films of Raphael Nadjari and winning a Cesar for Seraphine by Martin Provost.
I particularly like the little idiosyncrasies of the mistakes people make arriving in Paris and not knowing where to buy proper croissants for instance...But I think the value of the film is the actors play and in equal measure the credits go to Jeannne Moreau and Laine Magi for a delicate and credible portrait of their character. It is also a homage to old age, charm and wit, rather than beauty - Sophie Marceau comes to mind here...
It is a tribute to French actors who do not mind working in their 80s: Michel Bouquet in Renoir, Jean d"Ormesson in Haute Cuisine and Jeanne Moreau here, and still capable of pulling all the tricks of the trade!
A aller voir d'urgence!
PS: As you have been loyal readers, I will add within the next few days a review of Renoir that I saw in Paris in January and The Intouchables, just released on DVD and Blu-Ray, and that I had a chance to buy and watch earlier this week.
This is so far the best movie we have seen at this year's festival. The actors are extremely good, the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat and the filming makes the best of the actors, the decors and uses a few tricks to get you even more involved in the action/fiction which is the fabric of the story directed by Francois Ouzon, famous for Potiche and 8 Women.
The main actors are Fabrice Luchini, who delighted us over the last two festivals with Potiche and The Women of the 6th Floor, Ernst Umhauer, a young german actor of 21, credibly playing a tortured/talented 16 year old, Kristin Scott Thomas, of 4 Wedddings and a Funeral fame and Emmanuelle Seigner - wife of Roman Polanski who gave her the leading role in Bitter Moon.
I won't spoil the story for you, but let's say that although the film ends with a hint of hope, it can be pretty sombre at times and hilarious at others - I hope you are not too keen on Modern Art, or you will have to take the jokes with a pinch of salt!
Danielle Mazet-Delpeuch returns to Sydney after a 23 years absence to promote the film based on her time in the private kitchen of the Elysee Palace, cooking for Francois Mitterand - Haute Cuisine - Les Saveurs du Palais.
We had a chance to meet her after the screening of the film and then again in a more intimate setting at the Alliance Francaise of Sydney yesterday afternoon. Today she was interviewed by Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM and you can listen the podcast by clicking the button below.
Danielle is a vibrant 71 year old, full of life and humour, with plenty adventures over these many decades, and my guess is she is not done yet!
A few things emerged from these three contacts I had with her:
As she says herself, she is not a chef, but just a cook, but obviously not any cook, having learned the tricks of the trade from her grandmother, then mother and many other relatives and people around her over the years.
So really the English title for the film - Haute Cuisine - is misleading and the French title suits better the task at hand and the skills required. Mitterand said to her: Cook like my grandmother and I will be happy:
"Vaste programme" like this other French President, Charles de Gaulle famously answered to his Chief of Staff after he said in a moment of frustration: "Morts aux cons!". (and yes it is quite less rude in French than the English translation will suggest...Actually, I can't print it here, not to offend anyone!)
One person in the audience at The Chauvel asked her what was the most interesting to her: politics, sex or food?
She very politically answered that she was not interested in politics, letting the other two up in the air!
Well, let me tell you, Danielle is a very skilled political animal, as she has maneuvered herself across continents, social layers and various kitchens around the World with aplomb and a sense that anything is possible if you put your mind to it! Her life is certainly a testament to that...
Another interesting comment she made - and I certainly relate to it - was that to be a good cook, you need a good audience, you need "gourmands", and in this regard, Mitterand was definitely famous for his love of good food and good company, with a penchant for the feminine one...
From the moment she started her cooking classes at La Borderie - the famous week-ends foie gras - she actually attracted the right crowd, people that have been exposed to the "Cuisine Bourgeoise" either in their childhood or later in life as they became more affluent and could afford to travel in search of this authenticity attached to it.
This in turn triggers the search for the local and seasonal ingredients and the art of designing a menu with what you have in the pantry or you can source from the farm or the local market(s).
Promoting these ideas at the time she started was completely revolutionary, although today this is becoming mainstream again, and sometime to the extreme, as Chefs around the World go foraging themselves for special herbs and vegetables. Not very different from digging truffes from your own backyard or gently force feeding geese and ducks to produce delicious meat, silky foies gras and fat to cook with. Nothing was dicarded from the animal apart from the head!
A bit of trivia gleaned here and there over her visit:
It took three people to recreate her recipes for the film:
Gerard Besson, ex owner of Le Coq Heron in Paris, now owned by and renamed Kei, a promising young Japanese Chef
Guy Legay, ex Chef de Cuisine at the Ritz, and like Gerard Besson, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the highest distinction one can achieve in this trade
And finally, Elisabeth Scotto, a very famous stylist who write for Elle
The Antarticas scenes were in fact shot in Iceland - a tad simpler, closer and cheaper than going all the way to the Antipodes...
The book mentioned in the film "Eloges deal Cuisine Francaise" by Gerard Nignon is out of print, and is available as an antique for 700euros - that's almost 1000A$. I will be waiting for a generous benefactor!!!
Danielle said also that she dreamt of travelling at a very young age, and she certainly did catch the travel bug, having spent time in the USA, Australia, New Zealand (where she owns a plot of land destined to be transformed into a "truffiere" one day...), all over Asia and Europe.
Maybe the next adventure will be to cook for Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson...Stay tuned!
Danielle, thanks for your time in Australia and thanks for having shared with us some of your experience, adventures and wisdom.
This is a prerelease in Australia, as the official premiere will be in May.
Well, put two of the most handsome French actors together, add some incongruous situations, pepper with great French architecture and interior design and you have this light comedy!
Is it a great film? Probably not, as it misses the mark as a pure "slapstick" one - we would say "tarte a la creme" in French -, but it has some hilarious moments anyway. The youngest of the three kids is just amazing, the music and the piano playing (by Pierre-Yves Plat) a bonus, and the Paris background a treat.
It was a good night, entertaining for sure and romantic a plenty, although in a very conventional way.
I almost forgot to mention another character: the Jewish grandmother, extraordinaire!!! worth the trip....
We finished the night at one of our favourite joint nearby, Tastevin, with a very French dinner of Duck salad for my wife and onglet steak frites, tender and cooked to perfection. Drank some unusual Pinot Noir/Gamay blend: 2009 Coteaux du Giennois Les Tuileries from the edge of the Loire Valley - very interesting!
Les Saveurs du Palais
It is this time of the year again where we spend time at the movies!
And the opening night featured the much acclaimed "Haute Cuisine" film by Etienne Comar, who was behind the much darker "Of Gods and Men" two years ago. This is a light comedy loosely based on the time spent by Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch (DMD) as a private cook for the then French President Francois Mitterand.
Madame Mazet-Delpeuch is in Sydney to present the film, kindly participating in a number of events, like a Presidential Dinner at the Sofitel last week (I will tell you all about it in another post as our best friends Mark and Nicky celebrated their wedding anniversary there...) Q&A sessions after the screening of the film, signing books and having an afternoon talk next Monday at the Alliance Francaise in Sydney - I wiil be there! - quite a schedule for a 70+ year old woman!
The film is very well photographed by Laurent Daillant, Catherine Frot is her usual self, elegant, strong minded, funny and really perfect for the role and the food looks amazing. It took three cooks to produce these marvels, where the originals were obviously made by one - DMD - plus a young promising pastry chef.
There is one annoying thing though: the constant plugs for famous brands of cooking equipment, provedores and the likes. There is one funny one actually, that might escape most non-French people and I will try to explain it without spoiling the scene which is quite funny.
That's how it unfolds: Hortense/Catherine Flot/DMD is telling the pastry chef Nicolas that her name comes from the Latin hortus and ask him if he knows what it means, which he doesn't and subsequently being told it means "garden" a very appropriate name for a cook. She then turns to him and ask if he knows where his name comes from. As he doesn't want to look more stupid, he answers that his name comes from a place where people go and buy wine - nobody laughed in the room but me - quite histerically and loudly I have to confess!
Well, Nicolas is a chain of liquor stores in France, not dissimilar to our Vintage Cellars in Australia...here you go!
It had to be a very well planned plug to actually choose the names of the characters to suit!
Anyway, it is a good well crafted movie, a very enjoyable treat for a Friday evening.
Stay tuned as we are seeing another movie tonight...
The Glenrothes Single Malt Whisky "Sample Kit"
The Speyside river and the surrounding area are famous for the highest concentration of Single Malt Whisky distilleries in Scotland.
My sister-in-law surprised me for Christmas with a beautiful box of small bottles of vintage (1995 & 1998) and Select Reserve whisky from the Glenrothes distillery, Probably less known than Glenlivet, Glemorangie (further North) and Macallan - my all time favourite specially in the 18 year old version - it was certainly an excellent surprise!
I have only got the guts to open and try the Select Reserve (I can't find the courage to open the older vintages...and will probably wait until 2015 and 2018 respectively to try them out. I guess it's called delayed gratification...). And I love it!
The colour, the smell and finally the rich, suble and lingering taste...
The Glenrothes Distillery lies on a tributary of the river Spey in Scotland. Speyside is universally acknowledged as the heartland of single malt whisky distillation.
A combination of many factors including an unusually slow distillation process in tall copper pot stills deliver the characteristic sweet, fruity and elegant spirit. Further flavours are derived from the extensive maturation in oak casks. Each expression has its own unique personality, underpinned by the distinctive, hallmark characteristics of the distillery - ripe fruits, citrus, vanilla and an exquisite spicy finish all encased in the creamiest of textures and with a complex and well-poised balance.
It was my older son birthday yesterday and, as he is travelling through Morocco with his lovely partner Nadine on their bikes, we decided to cook a Moroccan feast here in Sydney, while his brother and sister in Paris went to a Berber restaurant there...
I love Morocco and its people and well as their delicious cuisine. I have had a lovely recipe book for many decades and searched it for inspiration.
On the photo, you can see a pea and chicken tajine, but ingredients in the fridge and pantry suggested a lamb tajine with oignons, chickpeas, olives and preserved lemon would do the trick.
I had sourced specially a bottle of Chateau Chantemerle 2009 to drink with it, as it is a bit more robust than our traditional Cotes-du-Rhone!
So, here is the recipe and photo of each stage, so you can get a better idea of the process and make your own!
First, you need a tajine dish, this triangular shaped earthware pot. You can put it in your oven - if big enough - but I prefer to use it directly on my gas stove - with the appropriate heat diffuser in between the flame and the dish. I have a non sticking modern version of it that i bought from The Essential Ingredient.
Put some generous amount of olive oil in the bottom, put the heat on then prepare half a dozen of small onions, add some julienne of carrots (2) and turnip (1), and lay the lambs chops in the pan - make sure to get some fat enough ones, so the fat contribute to the generosity of the sauce.
Add a table spoon of ground cardamon, cumin and some saffron - as much as you can afford... -
Brown the cutlets on both sides before you go onto the next step.
Once the cutlets have the right colour, add 250ml of good vegetable stock. Reduce the heat when the stock starts to simmer.
Then go and prepare a handful of black olives removing the stones, cut the preserved lemon into fine ribbons and rinse 500grs of organic chick peas - reserve.
When you are satisfied that the onions, carrots, turnips and spices are all nicely cooking in the stock, then throw the lemon and olives in, then the chick peas and then cover with another 250ml of stock.
If you re so inclined, you could add some dates to the sauce at that stage, but I didn't...
At this stage, it is time to cover the whole thing with the funny hat and relax for 30mns with a glass of your favourite red.
It should not take more than an hour to have the whole thing deliciously ready to be savoured and washed up with some more wine!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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