Film…and Fromage

(Photo of Bruno Toussaint, Fabrice Humbert, and me, by Wendy Rohm)12916711_10206764390247902_494156039573775405_o

Where can you enjoy the passion and erudition of Cinema Master Bruno Toussaint followed by a gourmet cheese tasting with assorted wines? Only at Paris Writers’ Retreats sponsored by the Rohm Agency pariswritersretreat.com. Bruno entertained and enlightened us with a weekend of insights into the art of story telling through image and sound. His outlines are clear and to the point, with rich video illustrations from the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Francis Coppola, Andrew Stanton, and Darren Aronofsky. Against a soothing background of bâteaux-mouches gliding by on the Seine just outside a tall French window, lively discussions and inspired readings by our ensemble cast of witty luminaries (novelists, non-fiction writers, and searchers) added to the festivities, guided by Bruno’s skilful moderating and sense of humor. Then, each evening he initiated us into the artistry and mysteries of fromage:

DSC02673The Master presents platter number one (plan américain), in ascending order of sophistication,DSC02670cutting to the chase in a close up (knife clicks metallically on ceramic surface).

DSC02671Dolly out for daring knee-shot of our hostess, behind her always-stunning table (still-life chiaroscuro painstakingly researched at the Louvre).

Leading ladies in group shot by Fabrice…12977285_10206772563532229_3692852297497162057_oAliss, Anne, Karin, Wendy, Bruno, Susan, Letitia (laughter, toasts, clinking of glasses).

12967904_10206764660254652_2240648670203855480_oDialogs with our leading men, photo by Wendy…

 

DSC02665 Establishing shot from Wendy’s door towards Notre Dame.DSC02663Zoom out, looking west from Pont Marie (Parisian traffic noise in the distance)…

To be continued…

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French Religion?

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(Came across some notes I wrote a few years back for a friend who wanted to do stand up. Relevant?)

France has heart, and it has other body parts, like noses and taste buds. No matter what you’ve heard, the truth is the French are not Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist. They’re Foodist. Fundamentalist Foodist.

You may have heard of those people in Northern Scotland? The Findhorn Community? They caused a stir in the 70’s when they grew these humongous vegetables in very extreme and inhospitable climactic conditions because they could communicate with the spirits of plants, which the French have always known how to do.

They have a special relationship with their food. They worship food. Food is God. And the way they recognise the presence of the Divine is through their sense of smell.

Here’s another difference between the French and the Americans:

Americans won’t eat something that smells. The French won’t eat something unless it smells. It has to have an odor to get their attention. Think of the several hundred French cheeses, each with its genetically diverse flora and fauna.

Americans have all these obsessions about food and actually the defining quality of a person now when they enter a room is they announce what they do and do not eat, it’s part of their persona. Americans, when they introduce themselves, tell you right off the bat what they will and won’t eat. It used to be horoscopes. “Hi, I’m Lisa, I’m a Libra, Hi I’m Linda, I’m a Capricorn.” Now, it’s, “Hi I’m Joe, I’ve completely eliminated carbohydrates.”

Everybody in North America is on some kind of wierd dietary experiment. Forget about being vegetarian and vegetalian and vegan. That’s old hat. We’ve gone to a new level of hardcore food obsessions.

Americans evaluate their food in terms of chemical compounds, like their bodies are some kind of mechanical assembly line that will only take specific elements in specific orders. It’s becoming harder and harder to have a meal with a group of Americans. You just can’t come up with a menu that can be eaten by more than yourself. It’s a nightmare. I had this experience of being at the table with a mixed group of French and Americans and it was really incredible. French people lovingly peruse the menu, trying to figure out all these arcane terms that not even French people understand, it takes forever, it’s like foreplay….. The French were lovingly swirling their wine in their wine glasses and admiring the robe, the thigh, deeply inhaling the bouquet .. This is before even tasting it. The Americans were saying, “Could you pass me some more of that red anti-oxydant with tannin?” The French are spreading goat cheese on their crispy baguette, they’re savoring every bite and talking about things like terroir, tracing the origin and the ancestry of the goat, all the way back to Charlemagne…. The Americans were saying, “I’d really like more of that calcium with the high lipid content, but I have to cut down on animal fat.” “Those carbohydrates look very crunchy but I go into anaphylactic shock at the sight of gluten.”

 So food is really a problem. Beyond mad cow, beyond genetically modified organisms… no one is talking about the human problem. The real problem might not be the food, it might be the people….