Explore French-Australian cultures in whatever areas interest you.
Events and getting involved with Sacreblue!
Huppert, hashish, and a side hustle
in La Daronne (2020)
Film critique by Xiao Marshall-Taylor
La Daronne (English: The Godmother, Mama Weed)follows Patience Portefeux (Isabelle Huppert) as she translates wiretaps from Arabic to French for the Paris police narcotics department whilst also masquerading as a drug dealer. That may seem like an absurd proposition, however it is made possible through Huppert’s seamless acting, a sincere screenplay, and an ensemble of strong characters. Whilst The Godmother is based on Hannelore Cayre’s acclaimed novel of the same name, Cayre co-wrote the screenplay along with director Jean-Paul Salomé and his son. The Godmother is whimsical, imaginative, and comedic, all the ingredients needed to make a successful film.
What is refreshing about The Godmother is seeing a woman work both sides of the law to her financial advantage. Viewers may not agree with what Patience is doing, but her wit, gut, and perseverance is undeniable. Throwing caution to the wind, Patience disregards any ethical concerns or boundaries related to her work in order to survive and support her mother and two daughters. She is not the only strong female in the film. Kadidja (Farida Ouchani), the mother of a les go-fasts driver (the method of transporting drugs in ordinary vehicles at high speed) whose words Patience regularly translates for the police, forms a bond with the translator over their drive to protect their children at any cost. We also meet Colette (Jade Nadja Nguyen), Patience’s Chinese landlady who presides over an underworld of her own but seeks to protect her family and property. Exploring the themes of motherhood and survival, the film gives us the rare chance to witness three women from diverse backgrounds, classes, and races come together to challenge the system.
Focusing on Huppert’s character however, we are not only presented with an empowered woman but also a woman in search of her own identity and purpose. The photograph of a younger Patience seated in her father’s boat combined with her self-reflections in a mirror are representative of the protagonist’s internal struggle. This is a struggle between her earliest memories as a child, recollections of her father and the complexity of her present situation.
Patience’s double life is further complicated given the male-dominated field she works in and the cliché of having a romantic relationship with her boss (Hippolyte Girardot). This particular storyline feels forced, almost unnecessary, since Patience demonstrates that she can successfully have a career, raise two daughters, and manage a side hustle. It is due to her expertise and competence that Patience always holds the upper hand in dealings with two younger drug dealers, Scotch (Rachid Guellaz) and Chocapic (Mourad Boudaoud) – creating a satisfying dynamic for audiences. From her bright red fingernails finger walking to demonstrate how they should be moving like ants, to purposeful, calculated movements in the street wearing a hijab and oversized sunglasses – Huppert’s acting is reason enough to watch this film.
It is interesting to note that around the time of The Godmother’s release in 2020, France underwent various reforms concerning the possession, usage, and sale of cannabis. The Godmother questions the war on drugs, who its victims are and why it is being fought. The film subsequently hints that a disengagement from authorities can occur after the prohibition of drugs. As Colette explains to Patience in the aftermath of a shooting, why call the police when her community can deal with the fallout? Salomé further highlights a modern Paris by blending Muslim, Chinese and French origins and culture. Whilst some may question the way in which a white woman dresses and adopts a headscarf-wearing drug-lord persona, the film serves as a basis for larger discussions surrounding the roots of drug sale and usage, and the power structures that exist between minority and majority groups.
To really enjoy The Godmother, it’s necessary to consider what’s going on beneath the surface. From thrilling, intense chase scenes to comedic moments to showcasing courageous women and addressing contemporary political and social issues, this film has something for everyone. It is difficult not to smile at Patience’s one-sided conversations with her dog or not to appreciate Huppert’s energetic performance. The Godmother ultimately reminds us that we cannot change who we are; we must accept it, and for that the film is compelling.
End of Year French Markets and Festivals
This end of year, there will be plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in French culture all whilst remaining in the country!
Read on to discover the end of year French markets and festivals happening around the country from end of October – December.
Geelong French Festival | Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 October
Location: Telopea Park School, 25 New South Wales Cres, Barton ACT 2600 Organised by Telopea Park School
Go on a trip to France… without leaving Canberra! Telopea Park School’s La Grande Fête is one of the largest public school fêtes in the ACT, there’s something for everyone—including delicious food, carnival rides, the annual Canberra French Car Clubs display, live entertainment, clothing, books and market stalls.
From a small local school party attended by the nearby community, to an iconic event welcoming nearly 10,000 visitors at the last edition, the French Market is recognised as the French cultural celebration bringing people together from all over Sydney and beyond; this is one of the biggest French cultural highlights in New South Wales. This year will be the 16th edition of the French Market.
From 10am to 4pm, discover more than 30 stalls at the Alliance Francaise of Canberra in Turner, for a touch of French culture, food and drinks, all while supporting local Australian businesses! Enjoy a picnic area to taste one of the many delicious foods and have a drink, try out our new pétanque field, enjoy some outdoor live music, and let your children have fun with special activities just for them!
Le Festival is on its way back for another wonderful celebration – the Le Festival’s French Christmas Market is coming back for a second round! From Saturday 19th to Sunday 20th November 2022, we will transform the grounds of West Village into a magical French Marché de Noël illuminated in festive bleu-blanc-rouge!
Bringing French culture from around Brisbane and southeast Queensland together in one place, this market will showcase local, unique French-inspired talents – with a festive French touch. You can expect an array of specially selected stalls offering creations, products, and services that have a French connection – including a diverse range of artists and artisans, as well as a French bar, a dedicated Merchandise stall, an exciting raffle, French festive melodies, and more!
When France is just too far away, head to Adelaide for a taste of all things French! Bring along friends and family to enjoy the French ambiance and discover the fantastic French food and drink, plus French-inspired products, gifts and entertainment at the French Market.
French Fest at Taren Point Public School | Saturday 26th November
Location: Taren Point Public School, 93 Woodlands Rd, Taren Point NSW 2229 Organised by La Belle Vie
La Belle Vie are the proud hosts of the annual La Belle Vie French Market in May and the French Fest in November, organised in support of the French language programs at Taren Point Public School and a community partnership with the Francophone Association of Southern Sydney (FASS).
Head to the French Fest for a fabulous French music concert with French food and beverages. French Fest is a family-friendly event open to all ages.
Enjoy a day of musique, picnic, fantastique!
ChampagneDay 2022: how well do you know champagne? Plus champagne recommendations
It’s Champagne Day 2022 so we’re sharing with you information about the different types and styles of champagne as well as which big house champagnes and grower champagnes are recommended by French wine importers and champagne experts in Australia for ChampagneDay 2021.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHAMPAGNE
There are a few ways that champagnes can be distinguished from one another. Such as by:
the grapes used and whether from a particular year or many years
reference to the sweetness – you may have seen “brut” on a bottle before.
a two letter code that you’ll often find on the front of a bottle (unless the bottle has been completely relabelled for the Australian market)
The grapes used
There are 3 main grape varietals used in the making of champagne:
4 others are also permitted to be used but rarely are:
You can get an idea of which grapes have been used from the following wording:
Blanc de Blancs (literally means white from whites) is 100% chardonnay grapes
Blanc de Noirs (is a white champagne made from black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
Rosé (this will be made either by mixing red wine and white wine or via the saignée method (where the colour bleeds from the grapes)
Another way to distinguish between champagnes is by the amount of sugar added to them (called the dosage).
Brut nature (also sometimes called Brut Zéro) is the driest of champagnes with no sugar added at all. Doux is the other end of the scale and is the sweetest of all the champagnes with more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.
The dry to sweetness scale is as follows:
Brut Nature/Brut Zéro has no sugar added;
Extra Brut has between 0 and 6 grams of sugar per litre
Brut – the most popular, and probably most commonly found, style of champagne has less than 12 grams per litre
Extra Dry despite its slightly confusing name actually sits in the middle of the 7 point scale and 12- 17 grams of sugar per litre is allowed
Dry is probably actually more accurately called medium sweet as it has 17-32 grams per litre
Demi-sec (which means half dry in French) is a very sweet champagne, more likely to be drunk with dessert at 33-50 grams per litre
Doux is the sweetest of all the champagnes with more than 50 grams per litre permitted.
Other types of champagne
Some other words that you may see on a bottle can often explain the price difference between champagnes from the same brand:
Non-vintage: grapes from different years blended together
Vintage: made only from grapes from a particular year, which will be marked on the bottle
Prestige Cuvée: the premium product of a champagne range
Who made the champagne
Two little letters often on the front label of a champagne bottle tell you a lot about who made the champagne:
NM : Négociant manipulant. A person or legal entity that buys grapes, grape must or wine to make Champagne on their own premises and market it under their own label. All of the big Champagne Houses belong in this category.
RM : Récoltant manipulant. A grower who makes and markets Champagne under their own label, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards and processed on their own premises.
RC : Récoltant-coopérateur. A cooperative-grower who markets co-op produced Champagne under their own label.
CM : Coopérative de manipulation. A wine co-op that markets Champagne made from members’ grapes.
SR : Société de Récoltants. A family firm of growers that makes and markets Champagne under its own label, using grapes sourced from family vineyards.
ND : Négociant distributeur. A distributor who buys in finished bottles of Champagne for labelling on their own premises.
MA : Marque d’Acheteur. An ‘own brand’ wine label produced exclusively for one client (supermarket, celebrity or other).
CHAMPAGNE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHAMPAGNEDAY 2021
We asked French wine importers and champagne experts in Australia to recommend big house champagnes (NM champagnes) and grower champagnes (RM champagnes) for ChampagneDay 2021. Find out their recommendations below.
This wine is a super prestigious Champagne that has been given top honours among the upper most echelon of Champagne Houses! It has won over 150 awards and medals!! It is also a truly artisan house that only produces 300,000 bottles per year compared to the big makers who are making over 10 million a years! It is now overseen by the current generation of the Mignon family, Guillaume and Manon, who as kids ran through the vineyards and played hide and seek in the cellars.
So, what’s in the bottle? Immediately on pouring it you notice the incredibly fine bead which leads to a luxuriously creamy mouth feel. On the nose is apple, pear and a hint of stone fruit. On the palate is another blast of pear, some citrus notes and a trace of brioche. The acid leads to a fantastic burst but is kept in check by the perfect balance of sweetness and fine bead. It is a super finessey style only the finest Champagne Houses seem to be able to muster. Nothing in your face about this. We tasted dozens and dozens of Champagnes and although we wanted to bring you back a couple, the Charles Mignon was just such a standout that it was all we needed! Don’t miss out on this rare glimpse into the artisan, historic world of French Champagne.
A few Popsy & JJ tips …we used flutes in our video review, but you could certainly throw it in a nouveau style of champers glass if you’re feeling posh. This one could sit in the cellar for a few years but that won’t happen at our houses! With all its finesse, we matched it with fresh natural Sydney rock oysters with Tetsuya dressing on the side. What more could you need in life?!
This cuvée is extra aged on lees and reveals the character of Pinot Meunier grapes wonderfully. It’s dominant use of Pinot Meunier sets it apart from most other Domaines of the Champagne region. With Domaine Dehours being located in the Marne Valley, the meunier grape is suited to this cooler area of Champagne and with Jérome championing the diversity of his terroirs through producing single vineyard cuvées this Grand Reserve is a top quality grower champagne.
The palate is vibrant and jolly, featuring apple pie, white and yellow stone fruit, cinnamon and vanilla spice. The dynamic mouthfeel and bubbles are silky smooth with delicious minerals lingering on the finish.
What are the differences between the grower champagne you’ve chosen and champagne house champagne (apart from the fact that it is a grower champagne)? Taste, bubbles, dosage?
Domaine Dehours is a part of les Artisans du Champagne, a class of 17 Domaines, who have come together through their common principles of sharing, respect, high standards, passion, and freedom. This group does not focus on setting guidelines and a single way of creating sparkling wine, rather they work to complement each other’s creations and adapt to the changing eco-system together. This is a focus not common with house champagne. Therefore, the character, the depth of complexity in this Champagne is truly unique.
What would you marry it with?
I would pair this wine with aperitif-based foods like charcuterie and cheese, deep fried snacks, salmon and prawns.
David Donald has taken a different approach for ChampagneDay 2021 and will be celebrating with Champagne’s only indigenous variety, ‘Meunier’.
There has been a groundswell of young producers who are championing the variety to re-establish its noble reputation. It’s an essential component in many big house brands as it provides the flesh, body, and textural element in any blend. Pol Roger, Piper-Heidsieck and Moet use a high proportion in their blends and even the exalted Krug are great believers in how important the addition is to their ‘Grande Cuvée’.
Although 100% Meunier cuvees are relatively rare, the beauty of the best grower examples is that they showcase the variety and unique terroir of the producer.
Salmon are Meunier specialists, and this is a great example. Bright and fleshy with tropical nuances, candied white fruits and honey with a mineral, savoury finish. Textural, complex, pure, and persistent.
Some critics have suggested that Meunier doesn’t have the ability to age. However, the last time I visited the estate, I shared a bottle of the 1976 Meunier with third generation winemaker Alexandre Salmon, which was still incredibly vibrant and fresh. If you haven’t discovered Meunier in its purest form, here is the place to start.
Dosage is 7gms/ltr, combined with the palate weight and richness, it could be served as an aperitif right through to the main course. I served this with roast pork belly recently and the match was sublime!
Amanda Reboul from Effervescence shares her recommendations for ChampagneDay 2021.
Négociant manipulant champagne (big champagne house champagne)
The big house champagnes play such an important role in promoting the drink and the region on the world scale. However, they only own about 10% of the land in the region, so must buy up grapes from small growers in order to have the volume they require. As a result of getting grapes from across all the different growing areas, they tend to focus on having a house style with their NV champagne that is always consistent. As with any luxury product, there are some people who adore a particular label and are happy to be seen drinking a certain brand.
Some of my Amanda’s favourite Houses that she recommends for ChampagneDay 2021:
Moët & Chandon – elegant and fresh. Great with oysters and beluga caviar
Bollinger – full bodied, yet elegant. Pairs well with truffles and duck
Canard-Duchene – the elegance of Pinot Noir. Pairs beautifully with scallops in butter and sage
Mumm – because who doesn’t love their Mum! A lighter style that is such a great party starter.
Grower champagnes are, as the name suggests, made by individual growers from grapes that are grown on their own land. They do not buy grapes from other people. Interestingly, the growers own 90% of the land in Champagne, but only represent 10% of the market.
The interesting thing about growers is because their grapes come from their own land, they are much more an expression of the individual terroir of each grower, and can vary from year to year due to climate and growing conditions. If a particular grower is situated in an area that is well known for Pinot Noir, then their standard NV cuvée will reflect those characteristics.
The four main growing regions and the grapes that they are best suited to are:
Montagne de Reims – Pinot Noir
Vallee de la Marne – Meunier
Cote des Blancs – Chardonnay
Aube – pinot noir
Some of my favourite growers from each region are:
Kaaren Palmer, Dame-Chevalier des Côteaux de Champagne shares her knowledge and recommendations with us for ChampagneDay 2021.
(along the lines of Jacquesson) has that delightful combination of freshness from the base vintage and complexity from Roederer’s reserve wines which include wine from a solera which was commenced some years ago. I love it!
Serve with coffin bay oysters (amongst other treats).
Growers – hard to know where to start, I really have so many favourites.
One of my (many) favourite grower champagnes is Jacques Picard in Berru, north-east of Reims. They are really underrated for historical reasons.
East End Cellars in Adelaide have just started to import and distribute them.
Annie Gasparre from Single Vineyard Sellers recommends Champagne Jacquart Blanc de Blancfor ChampagneDay 2021, which is a co-operative champagne (CM) rather than a grower champagne.
This champagne has suggestions of delicately fresh citron, star anise, iodine and lemon core on the nose. Swirling reveals fruity notes of pear, white peach, fresh grape, grapefruit and rhubarb. Point of entry on the palate is clean and fresh with creamy, soft effervescence. The palate is fleshy and crisp with minerality that is both limestone and sandy and imparts honesty, salinity and length. The finish is suffused with lemon and adds wonderfully concentrated, fleshy and deliciously saline drive.
What would you serve with it?
This pairs nicely with rich fish, such as salmon, tuna etc. Also with shellfish. For those that are not a fan of seafood, soft cheese, or pork.
This is a unique wine, using close to 100% Pinot Meunier, although now there is a very small amount of 10 year old Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc which were planted next to the Pinot Meunier parcel. The soil is calcareous sand, layered over clay, over calcareous sand. The vineyard is organic, natural. Fruit is picked ripe and vinified using barrels for 10 months. With age these wines only get better. This is very different to the Blanc de Blancs, with a similar price.
What would you marry it with?
This would also go well with similar food to Jacquart Blanc de Blanc – salmon, shellfish, pork etc
Natalie from The Bubbles Review recommends two champagnes that were featured at The Bubbles Festivals for ChampagneDay 2021. Rather than recommending champagne from one of the big houses and a grower champagne (many of these are out of stock around Australia), Natalie has recommended an MA (buyer’s or marketing brand) and a CM (a co-op champagne).
Champagne Royal Riviera Cuvee Brut Supreme I’ve recently done a virtual tasting on our Facebook page with this champagne. I describe it as a lifestyle or party champagne. It is a different category to a Negociant (NM) as an MA which translates to a buyers or marketing brand.
The name Royal Riviera has been licenced by the creators to promote the fun and frivolity of the French Riviera. In saying that, this is still a serious champagne. Made in Epernay, it is a blend of Pinot Noir 50%, Chardonnay 40%, Pinot Meunier 10% from Grand Cru and Premier Cru parcels. It is in the Brut range, a non-vintage as it is made from 100% reserve wines. A traditional champagne, perfectly balanced to create an easy drinking style. Which is perfect for a party!
Predominantly Pinot Noir and aging on lees, this wine is very playful on the palate. Mellow tannin swirls enable the elegant mousse to open to its full potential, creating fullness in the cheeks. The second-generation notes are complemented by freshness and soft effervescence achieved by blending Chardonnay from exceptional Grand Cru villages.
The structure and integrity of the Chardonnay offers robustness and vigour, whilst arousing a pleasantly elegant floral bouquet. The true style of this complex and well-balanced wine is completed by a touch of Pinot Meunier to engage the fruitiness and development of the wine. It has been aged for 5-7 years on lees with a dosage of 9 gms.
The balance of grape varieties in this champagne allows for effortless food pairing with most, if not all, dishes. It is a champagne that will take you from “caviar to cupcakes”.
Royal Riviera proudly celebrates the style of Monte Carlo and the French Riviera.
Women Wine and Spirit Awards – London 2020 – Double Gold Glass of bubbly awards 2019 – Gold – First date category
NOTE: This is the same champagne recommended by Single Vineyard Sellers above.
This one is not a grower champagne, but a ‘growers’ champagne. Coming from the same group of one of the original co-operatives. A co-op champagne (CM) is owned by the growers and has access to many of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru regions of Champagne. This champagne was our VIP tasting at The Bubbles Festival Sydney. In some other locations we tasted the 2012 vintage, which was delightful as well, but has now sold out with the importer, but if you are lucky you may still find some stocks on the shelves at Vintage Cellars.
The 2013 Vintage Blanc de Blancs is also delightful, a characterful Champagne encapsulating the youthful fruitiness of the year with all the vibrant minerality of Chardonnay Grand Crus. What I particularly enjoyed about this wine was the creaminess, cut through by the delicate fruit notes and minerality on the palate. The colour is an enticing lemon-yellow hue with pale silvery yellow tints, with fine, lively bubbles. The nose recalls mineral aromas of chalk, sugar coated liquorice entwined with blanched almonds, lemon peel and fresh grape on first pour. Airing adds refinement with delicate aromas of acacia, freesia and notes of verbena infusion lifted by Granny Smith apple and crushed pear.
The palate is supple and fresh at point of entry with creamy, soft effervescence. The Champagne develops luscious fruit-forward weight underscored by a faint zesty acidity suffused with lemon. The mid-palate revolves around chalky minerality which imparts salinity, honesty and length. A seamless fusion of rich minerality and fruity freshness typical of the vintage characterises the whole. Carefully judged dosage of 7gms creates an appealing, creamy sensation on the finish which extends to a beautiful long length.
This Blanc de Blancs is a blend from the Grand Cru Chardonnay regions of 40% Avize, 35% Chouilly, 15% Cramant, 10% Oger. It has been aged on lees for around 6 years. This was delightful drinking now, and could easily be aged for another 5 to 10 years.
Food pairing suggestions from the winemakers are Scallops – Roasted with white butter, liquorice and chervil; Cod fillet – Tartare of oysters and mashed potatoes with Yuzu butter; Veal tartare – Cockles, clams and cumquat. It also works perfectly on its own as an aperitif.
Sara Underdown from Vine & Bubble magazine shares her big house and grower champagne recommendations for ChampagneDay 2021.
Which négociant manipulant champagne do you recommend for #champagneday and why? I think it’s apt to choose any champagne produced by one of the great Grandes Marques. Each have forged a path of remarkable endurance and quality, and therefore a legacy, for the region. Take your pick from Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Pol Roger, Lanson or Louis Roederer. There are others too, but these producers are among my favourites. Personally, I will celebrate with a bottle of Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2013.
What would you serve with it? Seared scallops, champagne sage butter, capers.
Which grower champagne would you recommend for ChampagneDay 2021 and why? Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club Cramant Grand Cru
What are the differences between the grower champagne you’ve chosen and the champagne house champagne (apart from the fact that it is a grower champagne)? Taste, bubbles, dosage? Both are made exclusively from chardonnay taken from grand cru fruit in the Cote des Blancs, though Pierre Gimonnet is single-village (Cramant) and Pol Roger sources from Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil. The Special Club Cramant has a lovely silky, airy elegance and rainwater like purity whereas Pol Roger’s blanc de blancs is more opulent with pastries, white flowers and zesty freshness.
What would you marry it with? Confit chicken in a light lemon sauce.
Which style of champagne do you like? Sweeter? Dryer? What’s your favourite champagne to drink?
Happy ChampagneDay 2022!
Annie Ernaux, French feminist who uses language as ‘a knife’,
wins Nobel Prize for Literature
Article written by Véronique Duché | A. R. Chisholm Professor of French at the University of Melbourne
Annie Ernaux was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 6. The 82-year-old writer, whose sociological autofiction and memoir is influenced by Simone de Beauvoir and Pierre Bourdieu, is the first French woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since the founding of the awards in 1901. Ernaux also becomes the 17th woman (among 119 Nobel Prize Laureates) to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
This follows her 2019 shortlisting for the Man Booker International Prize for Literature, for The Years (translated by Alison Strayer, originally published in 2008), a personal narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 – acclaimed in France as a modern In Search of Lost Time.
Considered the mother of contemporary sociological autofiction, Ernaux claims to write “something between literature, sociology and history”. To write “life”, she uses language as “a knife”. Her short, sparse, unlyrical, minimalist writing is wielded as a sharp weapon.
Her Nobel win is not a surprise. In 2021, she was widely named as a favourite to win the prestigious award. A fake Twitter account created by an Italian writer, Tommaso Debenedetti, had even announced her win in 2021 – a hoax that misled many. And in the days leading up to her award, online bookmakers ranked her as a favourite.
French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Ernaux as the voice of “the freedom of women and the forgotten [people] of the century”. He tweeted: “Annie Ernaux has been writing the novel of the collective and intimate memory of our country for 50 years.”
Born Annie Duchesne in 1940 in Normandie, Ernaux grew up working-class in a small town, Yvetot, where her parents ran a café–grocery shop. Her mother wanted the best education for her and pushed her to study. Ernaux was destined to become a teacher; she taught literature. She married into a bourgeois(middle-class) family. Her work explores her break with the world she grew up in, as she acquired cultural capital.
Building on the raw material of her diaries, Ernaux’s work reflects on her social trajectory, developing the ideas of “class betrayal” and “social shame”. She excavates how constant self-monitoring (for example, of language), for fear of being stigmatised, can create permanent feelings of social and cultural insecurity. She never spares her parents – nor herself.
Her books provide a mirror to readers who have experienced the same social gap, allowing them to (re)compose their personal and social identity. Her style is labelled “écriture blanche” (which literally translates as “white language”) – a language that doesn’t betray any social trend.
While Ernaux’s books draw on her own experience, sensations and emotions, her stories are never just her own. Her individual experiences represent collective ones – as Macron acknowledged after her win. She’s the author of 24 books, including 18 published in the prestigious Collection Blanche from French publisher house Gallimard.
The Swedish Academy praised her for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”
Ernaux made her literary debut in 1974 with a hard-hitting book, Cleaned Out, a fictionalised account of her own illegal abortion. The opening pages present the narrator, Denise Lesur, waiting in her university room for the outcome of her abortion.
As she wonders how all this happened, she retraces her journey through her rather happy childhood in a regional small town, her brilliant schooling and her entrance to university. Denise is actively supported by an ambitious mother who seeks social advancement for her – but she has the growing feeling of not belonging, of being an outsider.
A Frozen Woman (1981) builds on the same experience, but enlarges the scope to include marriage and maternity. The narrator marries into a bourgeois family; however, the bourgeoisieproves to be conservative and conformist. Marriage leads to domestic subjugation, which the narrator strongly denounces.
The following books, less violent in tone, elaborate on her parents. A Man’s Place (1984), for which Ernaux was awarded the prestigious Prix Renaudot, is dedicated to her working-class father. Ernaux paints his portrait in a series of subtle touches: poverty and a rough life, a move from the countryside to the city, the semi-success of his small business.
A Woman’s Story (1988) traces the different faces and life of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, while exploring her own ambivalence towards her.
Two further books complicate this parental diptych. The first lines of Shame (1997), read as an echo of Camus’s The Outsider: “My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon.” I Remain in Darkness (1997) expands on her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and reflects on her death. It’s the work of a grieving daughter; the title is the last sentence her mother wrote. This book is the diary Ernaux wrote, expressing her pain and emotions on the spot, after each visit to her mother in the aged care home where she died.
Ernaux went on to explore her formative years. She revisited her abortion, this time as memoir rather than fiction, in Happening(2000). She wrote about her abrupt entry into a sexual life, aged 18, in A Girl’s Story (2016). And about the family secret – the death of her sister before she was born – in L’Autre Fille (2011) (The Other Girl).
A critically acclaimed film of Happening, directed by Audrey Diwan, won the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, and premiered at the Alliance Française French Film Festival this year.
In other books, she investigates sexual addiction, desire and its satisfaction. Two narrate a short liaison with A., a Russian man: Simple Passion (1992) – adapted for a 2021 film directed by Danielle Arbid – and Getting Lost (2001). Simple Passion begins with Ernaux reflecting on watching her first pornographic film. That’s how we should write, she concludes – we should aim for “this impression provoked by the scene of the sexual act, this anguish and stupor, a suspension of moral judgement”.
The Possession (2002) recounts the end of her liaison with W., and her experience of jealousy. And L’Usage de la photo (The Uses of Photography), co-authored with Marc Marie, comments on 14 photographs taken by the co-authors, who are lovers. Ernaux’s most recent book, Le jeune homme (2022), recounts her relationship with a man 30 years younger than her.
Ernaux has sometimes been branded an obscene author – sexual obscenity adding to the social obscenity of being a “class defector”. She disrupts literary hierarchies, and deliberately writes “below literature” by delving into subjects that might have been considered unworthy of literature (such as abortion, masturbation, new suburbs, or supermarkets).
Regarde les lumières mon amour (2014), for instance, offers a diary of the time she spent in her local Auchan hypermarket. The Years, considered her masterpiece, offers a synthesis, where she “put[s] the world in words”. By referring to objects, words, songs and television programs, over a span of 65 years – combined with notes from her diaries – she captures a truth of her time. “It is both the story of my life and that of thousands of women who were also in search of freedom and emancipation,” she told Agence-France Press in May 2022.
Ernaux is a feminist, fed by Marxism, existentialism and phenomenology. She has enthusiastically observed the effects of the #metoo movement. “Women are no longer willing to let things happen to them,” she has said.
For Ernaux, writing is a political act. She says the Nobel prize is “a very great honour” but also “a great responsibility” – one she was given in order to bear witness, on behalf of “justice and righteousness”.
In May 2022, at the Cannes Film Festival, Ernaux presented Les Années Super 8, a film she co-directed with her son David Ernaux-Briot. It’s a delicate journey into the life of a French family, compiled from home movie images filmed from 1972 to 1981.
And it’s another way of entering Ernaux’s world – our world.
Five churches to visit in Paris while Notre Dame is being repaired
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is not scheduled to reopen to the public until 2024.
In the meantime, here are five other magnificent churches to visit on a trip to Paris.
The church was built on the Île de la Cité on the orders of Louis IX to house the purported Crown of Thorns (later moved to Notre-Dame and, since the 2019 fire, held in the Louvre). High ribbed vaults are supported by slim columns, and overall building supports are via ring anchors, iron reinforcements and external buttresses. The lower chapel, with its many columns, was open to commoners to worship, while the upper chapel was exclusive to the Royal Family.
The chapel is famous for arguably the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world, which filter the light through fifteen windows to divine, kaleidoscopic effects (recitals here are magical). The windows of the nave depict scenes from the Old Testament, while the eastern apse windows depict the New Testament. On the western wall is a large rose window with flamboyant tracery. Also look out for the scenes of the discovery of the relics of Christ being brought to Paris with King Louis IX on the west of the south windows. Epic and illuminating.
Financed by Louis XIII, this Baroque church was built in the Marais between1627 and 1641. Breaking from the Gothic trend, it combined Roman and classical French architectural plans by Jesuit architects Étienne Martellange and François Derand. Architectural influences include the Gesù in Rome (the 1584 Jesuit church with similar but smaller side chapels and a single nave), and Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais (for the bays and columns on the façade), Italian Baroque (the dome above the crossing) and French Gothic style (the height of the dome at 55m/180ft). Cardinal Richelieu celebrated the first Mass here in 1641. Leave through the side exit to discover a cute cobblestoned laneway.
Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is considered one of the oldest churches in Paris, built in 1165 but dating back even earlier in another form. It fuses Romanesque and early Gothic styles and houses a paving stone from the original Roman road from Lutetia (Paris) to Orléans. Intimate and peaceful, it is also a lovely place to just sit quietly or attend a piano recital. Since 1889 it has been an Eastern Catholic Melkite church.
In 1646 Anne of Austria laid the cornerstone of this beautiful parish church that was built for the field workers to plans by Christophe Gamard, and later by Daniel Gittard. Saint-Sulpice was built on the site of a thirteenth-century Romanesque church and is the second largest church in Paris, located close to the Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank. The floor
plan resembled Notre-Dame and flying buttresses support the choir. The theatrical elegance is in the façade, with two towers, a double portico and monumental classical columns by Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni (aka Jean-Nicolas Sevran), a Florenceborn architect, decorator and set designer whose father was French. His inspirations included St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Inside you’ll find original murals by Romantic master Eugène Delacroix, including ‘Jason Wrestling with the Angel’ and ‘Heliodorus Driven from the Temple’. The church featured in the 2003 film The Da Vinci Code.
Perched majestically on top of the Montmartre hill is Paris’ most iconic and romantic architectural building, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. In Roman times, a temple for Mars and Mercury stood here, and when you visit you’ll understand why the spot is so special – at the highest point in Paris, it’s literally the closest place you can get to the planets, and to God. Not to mention the exceptionally inspiring vistas in all directions.
Construction of Sacré-Coeur began in 1871 after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War the previous year. The Parisians were gloomy (or else drunk!) and the basilica was a symbol of repentance to God and of hope for a better future. Finance came from the faithful whose names are engraved in the walls.
The original architect was Paul Abadie, whose plans were inspired by a multi-domed seventeenth century Romanesque cathedral he had restored in the south of France, in Perigueux (Dordogne), Saint-Front, whose influences included Hagia Sofia in Constantinople/Instanbul (c.537), San Marco in Venice (consecrated in 832) and possibly India’s Taj Mahal.
The neo-romano-byzantine building has a square plan with four cupolas and a dome, while its most standout feature is the luminous white colour of the basilica created from the Château-Landon stones that naturally wash themselves and expel pollution when in contact with water. Other external features to look out for include a triple-arched portico, elegant equestrian bronze statues of French national saints Joan of Arc and King Louis IX, and the 19 tonne ‘Savoyarde’ bell that arrived in 1895 from Annecy, dragged by twenty-one horses. Inside, the floor plan is typical of a basilica in the shape of a Greek cross, with the dome sitting over the crossing. The choir loft is exceptionally large and features an awe-inspiring ceiling mosaic of Christ, to whom the basilica is dedicated. Luc-Olivier Merson’s all engulfing artwork depicts Christ, arms spread open and wearing a white robe through which glows a golden heart. The choice of blue and gold in the mosaic is one of the building’s Islamic architecture influences, as are the double domes and arcades of trefoil arches, as pointed out by Diana Darke in her book Stealing from the Saracens. The basilica was completed with several other architects such as Lucien Magne (1905-1916). While almost completed in 1914, it was not consecrated until 1919, as a result of the First World War. Climb the bell tower for an incredible panorama of Paris, but even from the steps in front there’s a terrific view, particularly spectacular at sunset.
Excerpt from The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Paris (Ruby Boukabou, White Owl Books)
Love, horror, and manic hunger all intersect in Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s dark, cannibalistic film Delicatessen (1991). Situated in a dishevelled building in post-apocalyptic France, a group of tenants rely on the murderous butcher Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), who hires new workers to murder and sell as human meat. When Louison (Dominique Pinon), an unemployed entertainer, takes up a new apartment to work for Clapet, he disrupts these savage traditions and alters the lives of everyone in strange and surreal ways. While Delicatessen remains both dark and playful, it brings into question the limits of the ethical being and showcases the role that poverty and desperation play in influencing one’s own moral compass.
Colours, rhythms, and onomatopoeic sounds are all employed as powerful mise-en-scène elements in Jeunet and Caro’s labyrinthine film. The film’s initial scenes are soaked in a red maroon palette, reflecting the cannibalistic colours of meat and blood. Varying shades of garnet, russet and sienna permeate through the clothing, corridors, furniture, and bedroom walls of every room. The synchronised rhythms of cello-playing, dusting mats, knitting, bicycle-pumping, painting, and breathing further emphasise how the residents are interconnected to a dangerous extent, and consequently dependent on each other for survival. As a result, the dilapidated building metamorphosises into a living, breathing being, and each resident becomes a cog in a murderous machine.
Additionally, Jeunet and Caro’s subtle introduction of contrasting colours helps the viewer notice transitions that take place throughout the film. Colours also introduce new ideas and themes. Newcomer Louison arrives in a mustard-yellow jumper, which acts as a subtle subversion from the meat-saturated tones found in everything else. The colour yellow also reiterates his role as an entertainer to the audience, bringing joy and happiness to an anger-filled world of reddish tones. Furthermore, Clapet’s daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), yearns to be more connected to the outsider and begins wearing blue. Blue is rarely seen in the film, only reflected in the stark turquoise glow of the television, symbolising the outside world far away from Julie’s gruesome reality. Indeed, as Julie starts to question the brutalist reality of her father’s business and begins to form opposite morals, she begins wearing blue as the opposite to her usual red.
The ambiguous conflict in Delicatessen, paired with subdued dialogue, distorted camera angles and eerie landscapes creates a nightmarish and unpredictable experience for the viewer. However, underneath the aesthetics of this murderously playful film lies a deeper moral conflict, affecting each and every character. While the tenants are aware of Clapet’s gruesome actions, and this unspoken knowledge causes widespread pessimism and dread, they still submit to eating their neighbours as a means of survival. This creates a dark balancing act between reproaching Clapet’s actions to retain one’s own moral compass and submitting to them for food. This severe conflict of morals results in complete anarchy between the residents: mischief, stealing, arguments and physical violence flourish as morals and values start to decay, mirroring the decayed building itself.
While situated far from reality, Delicatessen recalls the widespread poverty and famine before the French Revolution of 1789. It challenges the viewer to consider the sacrifices made in desperate times. Do Clapet’s actions reflect his lack of morals and compassion? Or are they simply an unfortunate by-product formed from the depths of poverty? Jeunet and Caro invite the viewer to consider whether a moral compass could even be sustained by those living in widespread starvation in a post-apocalyptic world.
Delicatessen questions the affordability of a moral compass in times of desperation. While the film’s setting evokes images of war, famine and ruin, it may also remind the contemporary viewer of the pressures to constantly make ethical choices, and the inner conflict one feels when they can’t afford to be more ‘ethical’. In modern times, slow fashion and eco-friendly products have been largely praised by society for environmental purposes, but remain far too expensive for the everyday consumer, who continues to buy fast fashion and plastic items because it is simply more affordable. By utilising colour, sound and scenes of conflict and tension, Delicatessen explores the expensive pressure to be ethical in an apocalyptic extreme.
Olivia De Santis is a student of Introductory French at The Australian National University (ANU).
My next vacances en France. First stop… Loulabelle in Lyon!
Recently I have started thinking about what my next vacances in France will look like and about my list of places to visit that I haven’t yet been to. The top of that list is Lyon.
A little while back I chatted to fabulous pastry chef based in Versailles Molly Wilkinson in LFF episode 47 and I saw on her Instagram that she went to Lyon for the weekend. I was suddenly struck by how far away we are here in Australia with the thought of popping across to Lyon for the weekend not really being a possibility, but it also made me more determined than ever to get back to international travel!
So why Lyon? Well for regular listeners to the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast you will know I have inherited much of my love of France from my dear Papa. I even chatted to my dad in LFF episode 29 about some of his fave places to visit in France. One that he often mentions to me that he would love to return to is Lyon and I know I have always loved every place he has recommended!
So Lyon is the capital of both the Rhône département and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpesrégion, in the east-central part of France. It is set on a hill where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet. It is the third largest city in France, after Paris and Marseille and is divided into arrondissements just like Paris. Whilst it’s France’s second most popular city to visit, after Paris of course, it never feels cramped or crowded according to everyone I know who has been there. There has been a colony on the site since BC times which was expanded by the Romans, but the city flourished through the Renaissance period and by the 17th century it was the silk making capital of Europe.
Lyon is the most important educational centre outside Paris with a highly respected university and the prestigious Paul Bocuse School of Cuisinebased there as well. That’s where another of our Loulabelle’s guests Jean Marc Villard taught for many years. I did a cooking day with Jean Marc on a beautiful September day some years ago pre-COVID and I recall him saying how wonderful Lyon was. Another recommendation for me! Not that I need any convincing!
So Lyon is also full of wonderful French culture that is reflected in the riches of the local museums. Music and drama festivals are held every year in June in the Roman theatre at Fourvière. So much to see and do! It is a thriving hub of culture and learning.
I have found a fabulously useful app with an interactive map of something very particular to Lyon. Through the part of Lyon known as Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon and two other districts close to the rivers, are around 500 or so traboules. The word traboule comes from the Latin trans ambulare, meaning “to cross”, and the first of them may have been built as early as the 4th century. A traboule is a petite passageway, around three feet wide which criss-cross the city. They at times open out into interior courtyards of private houses and they contain a world of quirky windows, Gothic galleries, ancient wells and even a spiral staircase carved out of stone. They are a miracle of medieval engineering. For centuries they were used by people to fetch water from the river and then by craftsmen and traders to transport their goods. By the 18th century they were invaluable to what had become the city’s silk industry. During the second world war in German occupied France, the traboules were used by the resistance as many of the secret passageways were unknown to anyone not a local and so they were a great way to get around the city undetected.
Some of the traboules cut right through a house or, in the case of the longer traboules, a whole city block, linking one street with another. If you know where to go, it is possible to walk around the Vieux Lyon area, as well as the Croix-Rousse and the Presqu’ile parts of town via the traboules, avoiding the crowds — and sheltered from the rain too. And that’s where my “Traboule App” will come in handy when I eventually get there!
Now, traboules are found in other French cities, but in most cases, unless you happen to live in a house that has one, you won’t know they are there. Lyon is different. About 80 of its traboules are open to the public. Residents living around a traboule must agree to keep it open to the public between 8 am and 7 pm. But like the traboules themselves, the agreement is a two-way street. Visitors are expected to be quiet and respect the fact that the apartments surrounding the fascinating old passages are private homes.
Lyon is a gastronomic centre. Just a quick glance at the city’stourist website shows dozens of gourmet tours and wine tours! Sandwiched between Burgundy to the North and The Rhone Valley to the South, it probably comes as no surprise that the wine offerings in Lyon are quite remarkable. When I visit, I’m going to take the opportunity to head out and visit a winery or two. Vineyards surrounding Lyon have varieties from Beaujolais to a Cote de Rhone and many others. Wine lovers and also wine professionals use Lyon as a base for their expeditions. I’ll be renting a car to get around more easily and like I did in Provence, I may also pre-organise a wine tour.
If like me you are obsessed by French food and plan more of a food pilgrimage to Lyon, you must stop at the covered market Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Apparently it is a “foodies” heaven! Guided tasting tours are available there which sounds like a good idea to me as finding the hidden gems in a place like this can be tricky when travelling without complete fluency of the language and also if you don’t have loads of time in the town.
So, Lyon being one of the strongholds of French gastronomy, has its specialties served in the Bouchons Lyonnais, the famous Lyon-style local restaurants and a visit is not complete without trying some “Cochonnaille”! This word is often used in the area of Lyon to refer to pork products, which are more commonly named “Charcuterie” in other parts of France.
L’Affaire Louis’ Trio were a 3 piece band from Lyon. The band which formed in 1982 by two brothers and another friend was awarded the prize for best newcomers at the Victoires de la Musique. They stayed together until 1997. Two of the band members have since passed away but their music lives on.
A specialty of the Lyon region is pink praline, or pralines rose. They are almonds coated with caramelized and coloured sugar. I found a terrific 5- ingredient French pralines recipe to make this wonderful gourmet pleasure – a crisp pink treat. Apparently it takes 20 minutes from start to finish!
Every month, Sacreblue! highlights some Francophone films from the SBS catalogue. These movies will be available for the whole month for free on SBS On Demand!
Here is our October selection, we hope that you enjoy them!
Manon of the Springs / Manon des Sources (1986)
Director: Claude Berri
Cast: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart, Hippolyte Girardot, Margarita Lozano, Yvonne Gamy, Jean Bouchaud, Elisabeth Depardieu, Gabriel Bacquier, Armand Meffre
A beautiful, young shepherdess (Emmanuelle Béart) living in the idyllic Provencal countryside determines to take revenge on the men responsible for the death of her father.
Manon des Sources (1986) it is the second of two films adapted from the 1966 two-volume novel by Marcel Pagnol, who wrote it based on his own earlier film of the same title. It is the sequel to Jean de Florette.
Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are ranked No. 60 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema” in 2010
César Award for Best Actor – Daniel Auteuil, 1987
César Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Emmanuelle Béart, 1987
Best Foreign Language Film, National Board of Review, 1987
A Very Long Engagement / Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Jean-Pierre Becker, Dominique Bettenfeld, Clovis Cornillac, Marion Cotillard, Jodie Foster, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Albert Dupontel, André Dussollier, Ticky Holgado, Tchéky Karyo, Jérôme Kircher, Denis Lavant, François Levantal, Chantal Neuwirth, Dominique Pinon, Jean-Paul Rouve, Julie Depardieu, Michel Vuillermoz, Bouli Lanners, Rufus, Michel Chalmeau, Maud Rayer, Philippe Duquesne, Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Mathilde’s fiancé Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) is court-martialled in the trenches and driven out into no-man’s land to die in World War I, but Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) insists he’s still alive. Despite her polio, she sets out to find him in this sweeping romantic adventure.
The film is based on the 1991 novel of the same name by Sébastien Japrisot.
Reviews & Awards:
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. The film has an average rating of 7.40/10 on Rotten Tomatoes.
The website’s critical consensus:
A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.
30th César Awards (France)
Won: Best Supporting Actress (Marion Cotillard)
Won: Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel)
Won: Best Costume Design (Madeline Fontaine)
Won: Best Production Design (Aline Bonetto)
Won: Most Promising Actor (Gaspard Ulliel)
Nominated: Best Actress (Audrey Tautou)
Nominated: Best Director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Nominated: Best Editing (Hervé Schneid)
Nominated: Best Film
Nominated: Best Music (Angelo Badalamenti)
Nominated: Best Sound (Vincent Arnardi, Gérard Hardy and Jean Umansky)
Nominated: Best Writing (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant)
London’s Favourite French Film 2006 (United Kingdom)
Won: Best Film
77th Academy Awards (USA)
Nominated: Best Art Direction (Aline Bonetto)
Nominated: Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel)
BAFTA Awards (UK)
Nominated: BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language
While often translated as “back to school,” la rentrée encompasses far more than pens and paper and new outfits. Here to unpack why la rentrée is exciting even to those French in no way connected to the school system is Anna Polonyi, a writer and teacher based in Nantes.
Manu Chao | New single ‘Me Provoca Te Ver’ with Chalart58
In the midst of a never-ending world tour (which currently finds him in Nordic countries), Franco-Spanish artistManu Chao has found time to release a new song called ‘Me Provoca Te Ver’ withChalart58 from Barcelona and trombonistJosep Blanes.
In the new track, reggae is to the fore with a mix of keyboards, drum rolls and a totally Jamaican rhythm, to which is added the contribution of Josep Blanes with a trombone solo to round out the track. The good vibrations that Manu Chao transmits with his voice are even stronger in the video, which can be seen on the YouTube channel of label La Panchita Records. In it, we see the three musicians together in a room which is overflowing with friendship and camaraderie.
At the same time, it’s an opportunity for “el Chapulín” (Manu Chao’s nickname) to remind us that he released the albumInna Reggae Style on vinyl back in July. It features all the tracks written with Chalart58 between 2017 and 2022, as well as single recorded withSeñor Wilson, Josep Blanes & High Paw and Cedric Myton.