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Lately I have been reviewing my blog and drafting reflective posts on what I can only describe as our recent great adventure. I took over 4000 photos which I have trawling been though, deleting the not so good, and enjoying those which remain to tell the story. I am compiling a photo book too, which is time-consuming (hence the lack of posts since our return), but the book will be a fabulous reminder of four very special weeks in France. I have also started creating an album on Pinterest celebrating the humble door – which I have found not to be so humble in France and Italy (and even the UK) – rather they tend to scream – “look at me” – and I did – I have the photos to prove it!

Meanwhile I continue to yearn for France as I endure our cold and wet winter (which is thankfully coming to an end), and have recently fed my longing by attending a couple of excellent French films showing at the Auckland Film Festival. It was wonderful to be listening to the language again, and to vicariously revisit places I had not long since seen – the bonus was that both were to do with fashion, which I love to follow.

 

Frédéric Tcheng’s Dior and I, is a fascinating glimpse at the birth of a collection (Raf Simons’ first at the House of Dior). The Sterling Ruby-inspired fabrics he had created for some of the garments in the collection were truly beautiful, and his use of exquisite flower installations (inspired by Jeff Koons’ Puppy) in the magnificent mansion where he presented his first collection, was inspired. Not only that, the opportunity to see an atelier at work, in the hands of the two premières, and the development of their relationship with the new creative director, was insightful. The film absolutely indulged my love of France, fashion and flowers – what more could I want. You can see comment regarding Simon’s first show here.

Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent film provides an illuminating view of the life and times of coutourier Yves Saint Laurent. Sanctioned by Saint Laurent’s long- time partner Pierre Bergé, the film felt very real – Pierre Niney is brilliant as the troubled designer, presenting the flawed genius of the man, quite authentically I believe. I certainly learned a lot more about Saint Laurent, and influential people in his life, Bergé, Loulou de la Falaiase and the stunning Betty Catroux.  The authenticity is further supported by the use of actual YSL garments and 1976 Russian Ballet and Opera collection is exquisite. The film provided me with a much desired Parisian fix and I was delighted that I recognised streets and places we had wandered along just a few weeks ago.

The most recent French film I have seen is Claude Berri’s Lucie Aubrac. The film was in French and without subtitles, but I was able to understand the plot and even some of the conversation, thought the speech was very fast.  The film was quite gripping and I asked my French tutor Marie, about the significance of Lucie Aubrac in French history. Lucie was a Resistance heroine and she is greatly revered. I have since discovered the film was based on her memoir Ils partiront dans L’ivresse: Lyon, Mai 43, Londres,  Février 44. There is an English language edition available too with the title Outwitting the Gestapo,  which is a must read for me now.

One of the things I noticed whilst in France, particularly in the South, was the extent to which those who fought in the wars are honoured and respected – every little town had a memorial to those who perished – it was very moving – as was the film itself. It brought back memories of our recent visit to Oradour-sur-Glane, the village which was decimated by the Nazis in 1944. The untouched ruins remain a chilling and poignant memorial to those who died, and I will carry the images of those ruins in my mind forever.

It is fairly obvious that France is in my blood, under my skin, in my mind – its pull is powerful, enticing, enchanting, and it is calling me back. This was made more obvious to me last weekend, as I watched the delightful movie The Hundred Foot Journey – set in southern France, and starring Helen Mirren, I was completely unprepared for the depth of emotion it evoked in me as I looked at the beautiful town of St Antonin-Noble-Val – the colourful market, the people, narrow streets lined with beautiful old buildings. Suddenly my eyes welled up with tears – confirming to me that I should just be there…. 2016 can’t come soon enough!

An aside – The delightful Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon appears in both the Yves Saint Laurent movie and The Hundred Foot Journey – she beautiful and a delight to watch.

 

Meanwhile – pictorial evidence of those monuments to those who perished in in the first and second World Wars:

 

 

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