28/11/2010

Viktor Lazlo, "Pleurer des Rivières"

Most French-language covers of American pop standards are weak or downright suck - mainly because our language, while beautiful, is much less musical and rhythmic than English. Still, there are exceptions now and then. Viktor Lazlo's version of Cry Me A River (French title, Pleurer des Rivières, is an almost literal translation of the original) is one of them: classy, slick and sensual. Also, the lyrics are quite good - but you'll have to trust me on this one, since I lack the time to do a translation. :D



En cours de lecture/Currently Reading


(This post is bilingual; scroll down for the English version)

Après une longue bouderie dont je serais bien incapable de préciser l'origine, je retrouve enfin le roman policier - le "rompol" comme elle dirait - avec Coule la Seine, de Fred Vargas. Il s'agit d'un bref recueil de trois nouvelles (bien) illustrées par un certain Baudouin. Je finis en ce moment la première, Salut et Liberté, une histoire très enlevée qui met le commissaire Adamsberg au prises avec un étrange tailleur et un assassin épistolier. Je ne suis pas vraiment fan de Fred Vargas, mais c'est un auteur très intéressant du point de vue traditionaliste qui est le mien, puisqu'elle a réussi à s'attirer les faveurs du public et de la critique alors même qu'elle oeuvre dans un genre - le roman d'énigme, retoqué à la mode Vargas - que beaucoup considèrent moribond et démodé. Mieux, personne ne semble s'en aviser. Pourtant, Vargas reconnaîtapprécier Agatha Christie et Sherlock Holmes, et peu goûter la fiction criminelle moderne, notamment sous sa forme politiquement et socialement engagée à la Manchette et suivants. Aussi, il y a en elle - n'en déplaise à François Guérif - plus qu'un peu de Pierre Véry. Et puis n'oublions pas que le premier essai de la dame - qu'elle ne semble plus trop assumer - remporta le Prix du Festival de Cognac à une époque où son promoteur, les Editions du Masque, étaient très orientés "whodunit". Bref, comme elle a de plus une faiblesse qui m'est très sympathique pour les intrigues baroques (parfois trop, comme dans le désastreux* Sous les vents de Neptune) c'est un auteur que je suis de loin en loin, et il ne me déplairait pas qu'elle fasse des émules.


After a long period of sulkiness whose cause eludes me, I'm finally returning to mystery fiction by reading "Coule la Seine" by Fred Vargas, a collection of three short stories rather well illustrated by one Baudouin. I'm now finishing the first story, Salut et Liberté (Salute and Freedom) a nice piece that pits Commissaire Adamsberg against an odd tailor and a murderer with a taste for (anonymous) letters. I'm not really a Vargas fan, but I find her case to be quite interesting from my traditionalist point of view as she managed to get massive critical and commercial success by writing books of a kind - traditional mystery, Vargas-style - that is usually seen as outdated and moribund. Even more fascinating is that nobody seems to notice how traditional she is; yet Vargas admits a liking for Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and, conversely, a lack of feeling for modern crime fiction, especially of the social/political kind initiated by Manchette. Also, she has a lot in common with Pierre Véry and her first foray in the genre was greeted with the Cognac Prize at a time when the publisher associated with this award, Le Masque, specialized into traditional mysteries. And since she has a very sympathetic fondness for baroque plots (with results that are not always happy; think of the disastrous* Sous Les Vents de Neptune) she is an author I've set my eyes upon, and I hope her success generates some emulation.

* Une opinion minoritaire, j'en suis conscient/I'm aware that it is a minority opinion.

24/11/2010

Taken (Pierre Morel, 2008)

Peu de films français peuvent se targuer d'avoir engrangé 150 millions de dollars au box-office américain, ce qui suffit à assurer à Taken une place dans l'histoire du cinéma que ses qualités intrinsèques auraient été bien en peine de lui valoir. Non qu'il s'agisse d'un mauvais film, mais c'est pour l'essentiel un produit de série, aux ambitions très terre-à-terre: produire un cocktail de sensations fortes assez efficacement doté pour ne pas laisser au spectateur le temps de réfléchir. Pari dans l'ensemble réussi, pour peu que le spectateur accepte de jouer le jeu et d'oublier que l'histoire est un tissu platement filmé et à peine cohérent de situations et de personnages vus et revus cent fois. Liam Neeson y est pour beaucoup et si vous doutiez encore qu'il soit un grand acteur, alors c'est le film que vous devez voir, car il tire le maximum du matériau qui lui est donné, et arrive presque à rendre crédible son personnage de super-agent-à-la-retraite-mais-toujours-redoutable. D'autres auraient joué la carte du second degré ou assuré le service minimum; Neeson lui y va à fond, sans nuances, et ça marche. Chapeau l'artiste!



Very few French films can be said to have grossed over 140.000.000 $ on the American market, so that feat alone makes sure Taken has a place in the history of cinema - a place that its own qualities would've had difficulty to secure. Not that it is a very bad film, but it is essentially a cookie-cutter product whose ambitions are fairly down to earth: to embark the viewer on a roller-coaster ride so fast and eventful that no time is left for thinking. This objective is mostly met, assuming the viewer is good-natured enough not to notice how the whole thing is a poorly-directed rehashing of situations and characters seen a hundred times before. Liam Neeson is the film's main (sole?) driving force and if you still have doubts regarding his acting abilities then Taken is the film you need to see as he makes the most of what he is given (not much) and makes his retired-merciless-and-almost-indestructible-special-agent almost credible. Others might have played it tongue-in-cheek or opted for minimal service but Neeson goes for the jugular, without caring too much for nuances - and it works. Chapeau l'artiste!

23/11/2010

There Are Still Changes Being Made

As you can see, I've changed the background image - less bookish, less colorful, but more personal. According to the website from which I borrowed the picture (I hope they don't mind) this is Villa Adrienne in Antibes - and I can't help but thinking it would've made a wonderful setting for a Golden Age mystery; a fitting illustration for this blog then.


Holding On

Ed Gorman is right: Elizabeth Sanxay Holding is one of the greats. Not only her books are awesome, but they make awesome movies, too:


Some auteurists will say that you can't go wrong with Max Ophuls behind the camera, and James Mason before it was certainly a plus, but the excellence of the film also rests on a nice script that is quite faithful to its source, including the decidedly amoral ending (a flagrant violation of the Hays Code; God only knows how it escaped the censor's ire)

Has anyone seen the remake starring Tilda Swinton?

22/11/2010

There Are Some Changes Being Made, Ctd.

I just offered the Villa Rose a facelift, and I dare to say it was much needed - I hated the old template and had long wanted to drop it. I also imported the tiny archives from The Small Back Room and added some new features and links. This is of course a work in progress. Let me know how you like the new version so far.



There Are Some Changes Being Made

When The Villa Rose opened its doors, three years and fourteen days ago, I didn't think it would live that long. My previous blogging experience had been short-lived for the same reasons I thought would plague this one: a lack of regularity in posting and a natural shyness keeping me from marketing myself, meaning that I would be my sole reader. I was right to worry about the former - more on that later - but wrong about the latter, and I'd like to thank the few but faithful readers who kept reading and encouraging me over the years. 

Now to the point. As you may know, I own two other blogs - three actually, but the third was never officially launched, so it doesn't count. Mayhem Parva is supposed to be a French-language version of this blog, whereas The Small Back Room's aim is to collect my film criticism. Both are pretty somnolent, because of my recurring bouts of writer's block and the simple fact that managing three blogs, while a bed of roses in theory, proves to be quite difficult in practice. Since I've decided in the meantime to launch yet another blog devoted to my creative writing, I thought it might be a good idea to merge all those dealing with my "random thoughts" into a new, and I hope improved, Villa Rose. No, you won't have to update your bookmarks: this blog remains the same, at the same address. The only difference is that it will be bilingual, and, while remaining a mystery blog first, will occasionally deal with non-mystery matters such as film or the other kinds of books I read.

If you have any complaint, question or suggestion about these changes, feel free to voice it in the comments, or drop me a line - I love mail.