A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru in my role as a film critic and particularly as a critic of French films – they never fail to disappoint (well, they do, actually, but not as sources of continual surprise)! This afternoon’s offering was no exception – called ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, my Geordie friend and I were looking forward to a film described as ‘elegant and enigmatic … erotic and cerebral, bold and restrained’; we should have realised that too many adjectives had been used and ‘cerebral’ was a dead giveaway – there were going to be lots of long silences and gazing into the distance, which are standard in French films.
Beware – spoilers!
The film started with the ‘heroine’, Marianne, being rowed to a small island to paint the portrait of a young lady, Héloïse, although she wasn’t to let the young lady know this because the young lady didn’t want her portrait painting to be sent off to Milan as a sort of 18th century Tinder application. Before getting to the island, the heroine had to leap into the sea from the rowing boat taking her there because her canvases had fallen into the water – she achieved this despite wearing a full-length dress and petticoats, but it allowed the film director to show her sitting naked in front of a fire drying herself off as she gazed into the distance.
The young lady to be painted had only just come out of a convent (it was never explained why she was in one in the first place) to replace her sister, who had died in mysterious circumstances (by throwing herself off a cliff), on Tinder. (She did say that she had never heard an orchestra playing – remember this for later.) Painting the portrait involved lots of sideways glances at the young lady, then making quick sketches back at the chateau in order to help build up the portrait. The chateau was very bare and understaffed – just one young maid – and the food certainly wasn’t going to earn any Michelin stars or fill you up ready for long walks on the beach gazing into the distance.
It was obvious that Marianne and Héloïse were going to fall in love, especially when the mother went off to Italy for a few days (no coronavirus then) to check how the Tinder application was getting along, thus leaving them alone with the maid (who had a problem of her own) and all three spent one jolly evening playing Snap in the kitchen and another evening helping the maid try to get rid of her ‘problem’ by dangling from the ceiling in the kitchen (along with other methods, but I won’t go into detail). A third evening was spent at a party (all-female, for some reason – in fact, we hadn’t realised that anyone else, male or female, lived on the island) at a bonfire to which the local W.I. choir seemed to have been invited, bursting into song before the young lady’s dress caught fire, hence the film’s title. No harm seemed to be done, even to the dress, which she was wearing the next day on a walk to the beach to do some long-distance gazing.
To cut a long story short, there was a bit of arguing, then the mother came back from Italy (without a face mask) and handed over a brown paper envelope to Marianne, presumably containing payment for the portrait, and a wedding dress to Héloïse and Marianne was sent on her way, having done her job. She saw Héloïse twice more – once in a portrait with a young child by her side, displayed in an exhibition, and then in a concert hall where Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ was being performed, causing Héloïse’s bosom to heave mightily at the sound of an orchestra. (Personally, much as I like ‘Four Seasons’, it has never caused my bosom to heave in this way, which is probably a relief to all who know me!)
It was felt that a ‘snifter’ was required after this, although we both agreed that there had not been as much eroticism as we’d expected (feared?), but I needed to hear how my Geordie friend had been mistaken for a care home resident by the home’s minister who said that she was ‘doing really well’ – and she is!
A very good evening to you all! I’m back! Have you missed me? Did you notice my absence? I expect you did – life without the Lifestyle Support Guru is not really life, it’s just a meaningless existence. Fear not, I am here to give shape and meaning to your life once more and, to start you off, I am going to give you some advice on ‘avoiding people’ which may help you should you find yourself in similar difficult circumstances.
1. An acquaintance from another part of the country texts you to say that he would like to call in on you on his way to somewhere else. There are two problems –
i) you have already arranged to meet a friend for an outing to the cinema
ii) you know that ‘call in’ is a euphemism for ‘stop the night and eat you out of house and home’ (well, out of Pot Noodles at the very least)
You inform a friend of this and she says she’s quite happy to offer him a cup of tea and then send him on his way, so you pass this information on to the acquaintance, who’s quite happy with that. You head off to the cinema with a spring in your step and enjoy the film. However, all pleasure disappears when you leave the cinema and receive a text from your friend to say that the acquaintance is still around and is hoping that you will join them in the pub. Knowing that this will lead to the overnight stay mentioned earlier, and which you really wish to avoid, you reply and ask the friend to tell the acquaintance that she thinks you are going to be a while yet because you are going on for a meal.
Now, there is a slight problem here that I haven’t yet mentioned – if you catch the bus home, you will have to pass directly in front of the pub where the acquaintance is being entertained by your friend (who has far more patience than you) and the scenario you are dreading will come to pass if he spots you. So, what do you do? This method works:
• You hang around in town for an hour or more, calling in for a coffee now and again at nearby cafés, and helping a little old lady who has fallen over, before catching the bus and scurrying to the house where you sit in darkness for two hours, not daring to turn on the lights or television, until you get the ‘All clear’ text from your friend. What jolly japes!
2. An acquaintance from another part of the country turns up unexpectedly on your doorstep one afternoon, saying that he is just ‘calling in’ on his way to another destination. You invite him in and offer him a cup of tea, which he drinks and then promptly falls asleep, stretched across your sofa. He wakes up and says that he’ll take you out for a meal a little later (translation: I’m hoping for a bed for the night), then falls asleep again. So, what do you do? This method works:
• You go into the kitchen and ring your landline from your mobile (don’t EVER get rid of your landline!). When you answer the landline, you hold a one-sided conversation along the lines of: ‘NOOO!! How could he do that just after Christmas? And he’s left you with the kids? NOOO!! I’ll be straight round!’ You then turn to the acquaintance and explain that your best friend’s husband has just walked out and left her with two children under three and you need to go and see her, so you’ll have to ask him to leave because you may have to stay the night with the friend. The acquaintance drives off and you drive off behind him, turning in a different direction to drive up to the top of a local mountain in the Welsh valleys where you sit for an hour or two until you’re pretty sure that the acquaintance won’t still be hanging around (in case he saw through your story!) before you go home. What jolly japes!
3. You are at home one Saturday lunchtime, reading and enjoying a refreshing glass of lager, while your husband is upstairs doing some DIY. You look through the window and spot some feckless student coming down the road, knocking on doors and obviously trying to sell something. You’re not in the mood for small talk and trying to get out of buying something you don’t want, and the feckless student will spot you through the window, so you take your book and your drink to the cupboard under the stairs, where there’s a little seat, and settle yourself down until he goes away. This method almost works:
• As expected, the student knocks, but he doesn’t go away because … your husband answers the door and invites him in!! Said husband then offers the student a lager and sits talking to him and looking at the lithographs he’s trying to sell. Eventually, the student gets ready to leave and your husband says, ‘Oh, before you go, would you like to meet the wife?’ and he opens the cupboard door to reveal you sitting there with your book and glass of lager! The husband had spotted the student from upstairs and realised what you’d done to avoid him! The jolliest jape of all!
Good night all!
A very good evening to you all! The Lifestyle Support Guru here with another insightful and incisive film review. The film, a French one, was suggested by Mrs Marzipan (who featured heavily in my last post). She was accompanied by her husband, Mr Lederhosen (who also featured briefly in the same post and who, for once, had not managed to come up quickly enough with a DIY project to get out of the afternoon’s entertainment).
The film was called ‘Les Gardiennes’ and had been positively reviewed in some newspaper or other, although Mrs Marzipan couldn’t remember which one – I have a feeling it may have been ‘Farmers’ Weekly’.
The film was about how the women in France coped while their men were fighting in the Great War and, since I enjoy films about the two World Wars, I thought this would be an interesting ‘take’. Well, for the first hour, I thought we’d accidentally bought tickets for a screening of ‘Countryfile’ which had been filmed in an agricultural museum. We had long scenes of women haymaking, while the older men of the village stood around drinking homemade wine; every so often, a younger male member of the main family would turn up on leave from the front, give a little help in the fields, have a nightmare or two about the hostilities, then gaze into the distance for a while (as they always do in French films) before going back to fight.
A young woman, Francine, an orphan, joined the cast to help on the farm and, of course, fell in love with Georges, one of the sons of Hortense, the matriarch of the family. The tempo was upped a bit by now because Hortense, after falling over as she was guiding the plough (too much homemade wine, I suspect), decided to mechanise the haymaking and we were treated to a ten-minute scene of how this machine worked – fascinating! I was waiting for Hortense to get swept into the machine, but no such luck. Given that there was a war on, how did they manage to get the money? By selling homemade wine to some dastardly American soldiers who had not yet been sent to the front.
I’m not sure you want much more detail – a tractor featured, and we were treated to five minutes of that being driven around the farmyard – and Hortense didn’t get run over, sadly.
Meanwhile, Francine has been getting more involved with Georges – they go off on a picnic and ‘cement’ their relationship, so to speak. I was most disappointed because they didn’t touch their picnic at all, leaving the baguette sticking up out of the wicker basket to go stale. 😊
However, things were not meant to run smoothly – as Georges was being driven to the station by his mother to go back to the front, they pass Francine selling some wine to one of the dastardly Americans who is trying to kiss her – of course, Georges gets completely the wrong end of the stick (or baguette?) and Hortense encourages him in his mistake. Briefly, Francine gets the push and, of course, she finds out she’s pregnant but, although she writes to Hortense to tell her this, Hortense throws her letter on the fire.
As the film was going on, the year would be shown briefly when action changed and I (naively, as it turned out) assumed it would finish in 1918. It was when 1920 flashed up that I whispered to Mrs Marzipan and Mr Lederhosen, ‘I just hope this isn’t going to continue into the 21st century – we’ll be here all night.’
All ends happily – sort of (this is a French film, after all!). Francine, who has come into some money, is leading a happy life as a singer, and Georges turns up where she’s singing, and he looks thoroughly miserable. Hah!
We felt in need of some refreshment after all this agricultural misery, so we repaired to the bar for some wine. With eyes bigger than our thirsts, we ended up not finishing a bottle of wine and Mrs Marzipan and Mr Lederhosen insisting that I take the unfinished bottle home with me. Picture me getting on the bus home with a half-finished bottle of wine sticking up out of my handbag. Luckily, no neighbours were on the bus, so I think I got away with it!
Enjoy the rest of your evening! 🍷📽️🚜🥖👩🌾
A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru! I have just returned from a visit to the cinema, but worry not – I am not about to regale you with another film review; I think the ‘sensual egg’ and the ‘passionate peach’ were enough for now!
However, I will simply say that Kenneth Branagh’s Belgian accent as Poirot in ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ left a little to be desired – and someone please tell me that French-speaking Belgians do NOT pronounce ‘les oeufs’ (eggs) as ‘les urfs’, with the ‘f’ and the ‘s’ being pronounced!
DODO and I arrived at the cinema and joined the small queue for tickets. The friend that we were meeting had arrived early and, just as we got to the head of the queue, came to ask us if we wanted something to drink. The conversation went as follows (try to imagine this all taking place at the same time):
DODO (to ticket seller): Two tickets for the film, please.
Friend: What do you want to drink?
LSG: I’ll have a half of Aspall’s cider.
Ticket seller: Which film?
D (to LSG): Which film are we seeing?
F (to D) What do you want to drink?
L: Mind’s gone blank.
F (to D): Murder on the Orient Express.
D (to TS): Murder on the Orient Express.
D (to F): A glass of wine.
TS: Any concessions?
L (to F): Ooh, I’ll have wine as well.
L (to TS): One member with concession and one concession.
F: One red wine, one white wine, then.
L: No, two the same colour.
F: Two white wines?
TS: That will be £13.
L: No, I’ll have red as well.
F: Two red wines… and a cider?
L: No, just the wine.
TS: Should you two be allowed out without supervision?
How does one answer that?
‘Only on Wednesdays when our carer can accompany us – she’s gone to get the drinks.’