Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy days are here again

  The United States, the
  page's country of ori-
  gin, is undergoing all
  the electoral hysteria
  its Right Wing can mus-
  ter just now, as if a
  society might be left
  to govern when they're
  finished. But once a-
  gain, they sound ambi-
  valent about that. A
  new virus has come to
  play and, as the natu-
  ral party of govern-
  ing, they are innocent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Origins of Wednesday x: notes from the future

Just finished Lacombe, Lucien .. 
I enjoyed it despite the somber 
mood, but found it remarkably 
hard to relate to Lucien. Maybe 
that is the point? The [sexu-
al] relationship struck me as 
particularly absurd - I've al-
ways gotten the impression that 
the vast majority of French cit-
izens really rallied around the 
Resistance during the German oc-
cupation, it's hard to believe 
a young Jewish girl would fall 
for a member of the Gestapo, 
much less a French one. 

     To a certain sense that the teach-
     ing of history has a very long way
     to go, with each generation, a cor-
     respondent helpfully laid bare the
     range of unawarenesses that it must
     address in an honors student at a
     noted university, studying French.
     Evidently the university assumes no
     responsibility in the matter, as it
     is poised to award its degree with-
     out conferring the requisite support.

     I replied that these findings will
     likely be adjusted, by the assimila-
     tion of information that is bound to
     come the student's way. But by then,
     perspectives framing one's career and
     its expectations will have been cast,
     and the remarkable culture of our time
     will have weathered another young mind.

Michael R. Marrus
  and Robert O. Paxton
Vichy France and the Jews
Basic Books, 1981©

Nicholas Shakespeare
  The Hidden Life of an
  Englishwoman in Wartime France
Harvill Secker, 2013©

Irène Nemirovsky
  and other Stories
Bridgett Patterson
op. post.
Random House, 2010©

Jean-Pierre Melville
  director and screenwriter
Joseph Kessel, book
Army of Shadows
Jacques Dorfmann
Rialto Pictures, 1969©

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Modiano, Modiano, I was muttering internally

With delight I note that the
obscure committee that awards
these things has designated
Patrick Modiano for the Nobel
Prize in literature. This news
burst onto the website of our
paper of record as I was sip-
ping morning coffee, and for
a moment which can no longer
occur again, I could not en-
tirely place the name. Then,
I recalled that it's on the
spine of the Viking Compass
edition I have, of the screen
play he wrote with Louis Malle,
Lacombe, Lucien, a heartbreak-
ingly credible portrait of an
unfinished youth's destruction.

As the movie opens, Lucien in-
terrupts his mopping of a hos-
pital ward, to withdraw a cat-
apult - a Wodehousism for our
slingshot - from his overalls,
to draw a fatal bead on a song-
bird in the tree outside. With
that, a gulp of recognition set-
tles into the gorge with no re-
lease, from which one can not
move. Overshadowed, undeniably,
by Malle's later Au Revoir, Les
Enfants, this film is neverthe-
less weightier in its story:
it places the youth in respon-
sibility, as it does for many,
in the saddest, most certain way.

Louis Malle, I am guessing, en-
countered the young Modiano as a
protégé of Raymound Queneau, in
filming the latter's radiantly
brilliant comic novel, Zazie
dans le Métro. Modiano, in turn,
surely knew Malle's invention
of Laurent (from whom this page
derives its name, and much else), 
in Le Souffle au Coeur. 

My guess is, the Nobel committee
has inspired the rediscovery of
this [paradoxically] wonderful
moment in film history, with an
acumen I can not question. We 
know the idle slayer of song-
birds, from memory not just of
others. He is not more distant
from us than a twig that lurched
awry from our own limb, as he is
seen by Malle's assured and sub-
tle eye, scuffing stones with a
surpliced accomplice, in his vil-
lage's procession on a mountain
path, chanting, Ave Maria. We do 
not part with Lucien. We lose him.

The definitive review of Modiano and
Malle's film is certainly Pauline Kael's.
The version to possess is Criterion's.

Louis Malle
  and Patrick Modiano
Lacombe, Lucien
Sabine Destrée
Éditions Gallimard, 1974©
Viking Press, 1975©

Pierre Blaise, film still