An Impossible Love: Un Amour Impossible

I will not put this movie (French 2018), in “The Arts” section because it is a psychological drama that hits on the topic of sexual abuse, narcissism and women being left alone for several generations; much like Antonia’s Line (Netherlands, 1995). The film starts out in the 1950’s post WWII France. If you are a great film lover, as I am, you will know when you see the cover and the title, it just hits you – I must watch this film. What really piqued my interest was the title “An Impossible Love,” which hit home for me. I saw other things in the description that I ignored at first until it came up on the screen. I love the way Catherine Corsini handles abuse of a child in this film. Extremely subtle. The topic does not even come up until much later in the film. The child’s older lover tells the mother, not to let her daughter visit the father anymore. The shock on the mother’s face, to realize a man she has loved for 16 years, but who has rejected her all the same, is now sexually abusing their daughter. The shock to finally take in the missing pieces of this puzzle “Rachel” has created, her fantasy that he was a great lover, that they had something special together, suddenly unravels before her eyes. Virginie Efira (with the help of the cameraman), gives a somatic demonstration of soul searching, confusion, awareness and reality in just a few seconds of this film.

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Winter Garden – An Homage to Kristin Hannah

We three Leos’ have read your books which were handed down from one to another. First, it was Lia, who once was a little toddler that crossed the border from Hungary in 1956 with mommy and daddy. She was sick and they were granted passage on a plane to get her to America more quickly, I believe from an Austrian camp. Then it was her mother, Marika neni who read it next. Marika neni has told me her story many times of coming to this country. She was a woman I grew up with, who was like an aunt but more of a sister to my stepfather. Lia was our babysitter in my formative years. Marika neni and my stepfather met at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey, when a group of refugees decided on Wheeling for their new home.

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The Perfect Host; not a Perfect Movie

The Perfect Host stars David Hyde Pierce as Warwick Wilson, in an outstanding performance as a first-class creep. He has gone a long way from Niles on Frasier, our first cerebral goofball to see on television. As a psychotherapist, I always reveled in that show and the intellectually snobbery between he and his brother. In this role as Warwick, he has stepped into a new dimension (perhaps he has done this in another role, but this is my first time to see him in this type of character portrayal) and mesmerized me the entire time. The dissociative identity disorder idea was flabby in the storyline but made sense, nonetheless. He could have been schizophrenic as well, but I think the writer wanted to portray DID instead.

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The Dawn of a New Era – Out of the Darkness Comes a Light

Red River Gorge: Stanton, KY

In this past year, the world has been at war with a virus. Everyone has been included: nurses, psychotherapists, doctors, lawyers, no one has been excluded from the fear that has besieged us. Being with our clients and patients we are in the same boat and this has challenged us to be strong in the face of fear. There was no where in the world we could run to; to get away. We all had to face what was happening individually and as a collective. We all handled this in our own way. A way that made us feel comfortable with our beliefs, our culture, our environment and what we knew to be right.

It has been a time when our faith in ourselves, others, and our spiritual beliefs have been put to the test. Some people have been afraid, so very afraid that violence ensued. Other people went into hiding hoping for the best. Some people felt a need to stand up to this fear and assert their privilege as a human being. No one was wrong because they were being true to themselves. Mistakes were made that will have to be paid for in the long term. This year will begin to show its true colors, in the future that is to come. An awareness after we have had time to sit back, discover the lessons and realize what price was paid for our actions. At the moment, everyone feels that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

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L’Apparition – France 2018

I am a huge fan of the Song of Bernadette with Jennifer Jones (1943). In fact, that movie changed my life spiritually. More recently, I read the non-fiction by Franz Werfel and this moved me even more – his story was included; another miracle from the Lady of Lourdes.  I am also a psychotherapist for a living and if a movie is made correctly, I can figure it out from the get go. If you have ever watched the Poirot series by Agatha Christie, recall the scene where he is watching a play with his side kick, Inspector Hastings. Poirot is telling Hastings what will happen but it doesn’t and he is confused why it was written that way. That is me in a nutshell. This was written correctly (spoiler alert!) but the ending was way over the top and unnecessary. It was almost like an American film where they have to make everyone feel good. The ending closed up character plot lines but this could have been done in a dialogue – perhaps with his wife. She needed her husband back!

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Balthazar: French TV – Sexy Cop Show

Raphael Balthazar played by Tomer Sisley, an Israeli-French male, has become my new fascination. I am going to spoil it for you though, but this has not been indicated in the series (at all). My suspicion is and maybe you will prove me wrong, maybe they will, but I think he is the one who killed his wife. At the end of Season 2; there were too many weird things at the ending segment that suddenly made me quite curious. His friend was dead, he was a ghost talking to him and they finally told us another clue – it had to be a doctor. Red Herring of a TV show? We shall find out in Season 3; as Acorn TV has indicated there will be one. Hard to tell with foreign TV.

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Monsieur and Madame Adelman

Monsieur and Madame Adelman, a movie (Kanopy/Roku), starts off with the ending. It is predictable that Madame is going to tell someone at the funeral her life story. This is the last time you can be pretty sure of what is going to happen, well, until the

ending that explains the ending. At this point, the characters personalities have been built and so one can trust the obvious. As she begins to tell her story, which begins in the 1970’s, it seems as if this will be a typical love story. You can imagine this, though from the onset, Madame comes across as a cynical woman. She is begging you to pay attention. What comes across to the viewer are exceptional performances from Doria Tillier and Nicolas Bedos (he also wrote the score for the film, directed it and they both wrote the screenplay). Or did she, while he supervised? This is an inside joke from the film.

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Un Village Français

A French Village is set in German occupied France, World War II. We are being shown local townspeople being forced to make choices to survive. It is romantic, because there is always love when you are in a traumatic situation. It is not biased and so you see bad Germans and bad French. What is amazing is that the most important thing that you see is people at war. As you watch it, you have to try not to view this from the lens of an educated person who obviously knows what happened during WWII. You must try to behave as ignorantly as the characters are to have an ability to appreciate their choices and empathize with them. Some people you don’t empathize with such as the character Heinrich Müller, who enjoys putting cigarettes out on people. Including the one he loved.

Heinrich and Hortense

Today, I watched the first episode of the third season and was struck by the fact that I felt as I did when I worked in the county government for eight years. In this episode the head of the local government, the prefect (I believe he is called or deputy prefect) is handed a list of Jewish names to round up in the neighborhood. Up until this time, the city of Villenueve was protected and the Jewish people could more or less feel their lives were somewhat safe, although they were unable to run their businesses. In this tiny town, they assumed that the Prime Minister Phillipe Pétain, had the power to protect French Jews from being deported. In this episode we learn that this has now changed. When I worked for the county government our mindset was “What was in the best interests of the children,” until the recession hit. Then it was all about saving money and putting them in the cheapest places. I fought this and all the other changes that were going on until I was put on Administrative Leave for a year and then I finally quit. I quit because their evidence was lies or fabricated stories and I knew I would be fired if I stuck around.  I couldn’t believe that a huge agency like that would be so concerned about me (there were lots of people involved). So while, my personal situation with the government is a far cry from making decisions during World War II, I like putting things into perspective with the here and now.

Marcel Larcher, a communist

When you think of a soldier at war, doing what he or she is told to do, they really don’t have any choices of whether or not they like it. When the “team” loses, suddenly we turn on them, and everyone is punished; whether they really had a choice or not. This is something I keep thinking about as I watch this show. While the character may seem bad, you can recognize a corporate boss; eager to get a promotion. You can see a “company man” who does what he is told. When you are working for corporate America or government, this is how most people behave. Most employees don’t sit down and weigh the consequences of what their boss tells them or how it is going to affect people, business, employees, or the community at large. You just do it because that is what you are told. At the end of the day, you go home to your families and try to forget about what you heard.  I didn’t have a family to go home to, so I went home and thought about my day a little more. That was my problem, I thought too much!

As I have seen a trailer for the seventh and last season, I am aware of the fact that many of these people will be blamed for the choices that they made. Every episode has been and is going to be sad and tragic but that one will be the hardest to endure. The reason is that these characters who have lasted till the seventh season, their lives will have been disrupted to the point of forgetting who they are. Already we are seeing choices that are being made to help a Jewish maid, or a lover, or a business associate who is collaborating to stay alive. They aren’t trying to help a vast number of people though at times they try to get the list, for example, from 20 down to 10.

Daniel Larcher, The Mayor

It is really too bad that most Americans, especially liberals won’t see this TV show. As far as I am aware, the only way you can see it now is if you have MHz Choice which is an international channel you have to pay for and have to know it even exists. I was aware of MHz from PBS when they pretended to collect International Mysteries from around the world. After doing some digging I realized the guy on PBS was lying; all they did was purchase a channel. They had me going though for a while there. American liberals love to blame people and do it so loud that you feel nauseous having to listen to it day after day after day. I feel that most of the time it is very hypocritical and seems to lack in values. I am on the border of the left and right and can never seem to sit on one side.

Jeannine Schwartz

We are in an era now where people are being blamed who had ancestors in the Civil War. They want to take down a statue of a soldier in the South, General Robert E. Lee. He was a man who did his job and because he came from the south, chose this side so he wouldn’t be killing his own family. He was a soldier being asked to lead a team, a side of government. If the south had won, we would want to tear down a statue of General Ulysses S. Grant. I don’t see a need to tear down any statue because I am fond of history. General Lee wasn’t responsible for slavery as Adolph Hitler was responsible for the holocaust. It is apples and oranges; but here in America we are not reasonable people. We allow ignorance to prevail because we feel sorry for them (those in this mindset).

A French Village could teach Americans quite a great deal about having to make choices in a time of war.

Raymond Schwartz

Whether or not they would be able to focus on such a great historical show without finding it racist, I could not say.  The show even shows a shady Jewish character, could Americans handle this? This seems to be the new wave of lying to our children. We educate them with period pieces that have politically correct storylines rather than literal or factual storylines. If North and South, probably one of the last great American TV historical fictions made, were filmed today; it would be such a joke. No doubt they would not be able to create an honest re-make. The actors would complain that they could not do the show because they could not speak the historically accurate lines (which would mean they are terrible actors).

I cannot imagine how tense it must have been to be on the set of A French Village. These actors do not ever come out of character, so that we are able to feel as if we are there; with them. I feel transported into another time and place. I feel tense every moment, wondering what will happen to this person or that. So tense that I had to look it all up online to see who will live and who will die. I just couldn’t keep watching without this sense of relief because it is traumatizing to watch this TV show. I do know what happened and while I try to think like the character, I am not perfect. When you feel like these characters are real people and they actually existed, you know you are hooked and drawn in.

If you have read “The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah, published in 2015, you will no doubt appreciate A French Village. I had read it last summer and so it was fresh in my mind. Two completely different stories as Ms. Hannah’s book was a little more biased. I feel it is important that A French Village created a lack of bias so that you can wonder. So that you could have a discussion after watching the show and think a little more deeply about those times.

I grew up with a step-father who took political asylum in the United States in 1956. When I wrote a historical fiction about that time period, it was while I was on leave from the government. It was actually perfect timing to have a sense of communist Hungary. I remember a family member telling me that I was actually on house arrest from my job. At the time, I had no idea why I was being paid to stay at home and do nothing. My father raised me to fear Russians and communists. He told us all kinds of horrible stories. I tried not to be completely biased while writing because I knew some of that was his hatred of people who ruined his life and his family’s lives. As I did research, as most historians due, you read the facts and put together your own interpretation of what you see. This is blended together with the biased interpretations of the people who witnessed. I don’t say biased in a bad way either. No one can ever really know the whole story. A French Village seems to be saying this. They are showing you a broader perspective, 75 years later.

Isabelle Huppert – She’s Not Smug

I’ve just finished watching the 2016 film “Things to Come,” and before this I had seen the movie “Elle,” a few months ago. Both were made (or released) in the same year, starring Isabelle Huppert. She has always seemed to me to be a very smug actress and yet I feel drawn to her. I find her characters deeply moving. No matter that she always seems to portray the perfect psychopath, it feels as if she is on the verge of an aneurism. Most Americans would call her characters intellectual snobs. Partly because she is not funny, unlike Woody Allen who can make a discussion in philosophy seem like a night at a comedy club.  Also because she is a woman and while we try to pretend we are modern here, we just can’t handle the honesty portrayed by characters in French movies in general. We pretend to observe and honor freedom of speech in our constitution but only if people say what is popular for the times. In truth, there is no room for a good debate in America which is probably why the traditional “salons” of Paris never existed here. Once we made very good and intelligently written movies, now we have opted for special effects and pop culture actors who speak in slang because a cerebral film would not be considered a “date night” film.

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A Guide to Watching Foreign Films

Of course it doesn’t hurt to grow up in a European-American family. Where the world that revolves around you speaks another language, has different values, talks about the old country and you begin to look at America as a second home. Watching foreign films for me has always felt as if I were welcomed; as one of theirs who got away. That I was getting a sneak peek into a home that existed but that I had never lived in; yet it felt like it belonged to me. There was a sense of familiarity about it.  Déjà vu.

Foreign film observation began at home, not with my family but with Kukla, Fran and Ollie. This was a children’s program that featured the puppets Kukla and Ollie and their friend Fran who would host a film from around the world each week. There is a website to learn more about this but unfortunately very difficult to get the actual films. Hello Netflix?!? This would certainly be a great program for you to buy.  Since Kukla, Fran and Ollie was an American program, all the characters were dubbed with British English from what I recall. I didn’t realize it was dubbing as a child, I just though everyone spoke English with a cute accent. There may have been a couple of programs with subtitles but I can’t recall.  I do remember circus bears on the loose, a Cinderella story with a bird that would say “Koo-koo-ri-koo, Who is the one for you?” and other wonderful adventures that kids would get themselves into.

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