A: ” Sent anyone to Guillotine lately?
caption is mine-b
A: ” Sent anyone to Guillotine lately?
caption is mine-b
Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country is a story by Guy de Maupassant, which according to Truffaut is the only true cinematic equivalent of the art of the short story. In a few cinematic images Renoir makes the semi-sweet romantic vignette transcend its provincial circumstances. The film begins and ends with a river,a metaphor for ‘the moving finger’ of Nature writing the destinies of two young lovers. Destiny of a girl’s first experience of romance is tearful as the drizzle of rain followed by the river in full spate towards the end. The identical shot bookends the film. It is a kind of Omar Khayyam quatrain in cinematic terms. Indifferent nature must leave the lovers rue over what might have been.
A group of family members spend a day away from the city in the French countryside. An outing to the countryside does something to the jaded spirits of the ironmonger and his family differently. As soon as he gallantly sets down his wife his stolid virtue of the city is changed. It may be as humdrum way of a squeeze surreptitiously to flirt with her. Under the shade of a tree the daughter speaksto her mother of Nature’s effect on her thus introducing the mood for tenderness to which she must succumb eventually. While the men go off to fish, the mother (Jeanne Marken) has a harmless flirtation with a rural “rake,” while the daughter (Sylvia Bataille) has a more serious liaison with a handsome young man (George Saint-Saens). Fourteen years later, the same family vacations at the same spot. The handsome stranger returns, hoping to renew his affair with the daughter; unfortunately, the girl is now married to a dull, insensitive lump. The two former lovers ponder what might have been, then the family heads back to the city. A Day in the Country currently exists only in a 40-minute version
Renoir had planned to film scenes depicting what happened in the years between the two holidays, but he closed down production due to an acute “creative block.” For its American distribution, Day in the Country was bundled together with two other short European films — Joifroi and the controversial The Miracle — as the portmanteau film The Ways of Love.
Une Partie de Campagne (A Day in the Country-1936) is a film
of pure sensation; each blade of grass tickles our face. Adapted from
a story by Guy de Maupassant, Without using a single line of commentary,
Renoir offers us forty-five minutes of a poetic prose whose truth makes
us shudder or gives us goose bumps at certain moments. This film,
the most physical Renoir made, touches us physically.
* Cast: Sylvia Bataille, Jane Marken [Jeanne], Georges Darnoux, Paul Temps, Jean Renoir, Marguerite Renoir, Georges Saint-Saens, Alain Renoir, Full Credits
Black and white film.
(ack: Hal Erickson-all movie guide)
GEORGE CLEMENCEAU (French) (1841 – 1929)
Clemenceau stood for the principles of the French Revolution – authoritarian, democratic, patriotic; he was a 20th Century Jacobin.
The French politician who had the most nicknames (Le Tombeur des Ministères, Le Tigre, Père la Victoire) and fought the most duels, he began his career as a radical deputy and outspoken journalist in continous conflict with catholics, royalists, moderates and Socialists. His greatest moment came in 1917 when P.M. for the second time, elderly and deaf, he still became the symbol and inspiration of the French determination to win the war. In the peace negotiations he tried to get security for France against Germany. Yet was attacked for not being more successful; he was defeated in the Presidential elections of 1920 and retired. He was an independent character:(In 1919 en route for same ceremony, he met Balfour in the lift. Balfour was wearing a top hat and Clemenceau, his battered deer stalker. A puzzled Balfour:”But they told me that I have to wear a silk hat”. Clemenceau replied:”They told me that too”). And a sardonic wit. (Si, seulement je pouvais passer comme Lloyd George parle).
Louis Pasteur, (1822-1895) micro-biologist, chemist,
Son of a tanner his foray into science set him apart from great many who made discoveries in the world of science, practical application of which made modern science as we know today. His contribution to the wellbeing of humanity would place him far above statesmen, rulers, thinkers and military geniuses the world has ever known.
In the earliest times surgery was done by glorified barbers and they were addressed ‘mister’ than with due consideration to art ( as in the case of physicians) it was often possible that the operations often resulted in medical complications and death though operation was not performed over vital organs of the body. Pasteurs study into germs made him apply a new rule for doctors to sanitize their hands before they performed surgery. Now it may sound very commonplace but it was a daring innovation for which Louis Pasteur’s work had prepared him most admirably.
Pasteur founded the science of microbiology and proved that most infectious diseases are caused by micro-organisms. This became known as the “germ theory” of disease. The germ theory was the foundation of numerous applications, such as the large scale brewing of beer, wine-making and other antiseptic operations. Another significant discovery facilitated by the germ theory was the nature of contagious diseases. Pasteur’s intuited that if germs were the cause of fermentation, they could just as well be the cause of contagious diseases. This proved to be true for many diseases such as potato blight, silkworm diseases, and anthrax.
After studying the characteristics of germs and viruses that caused diseases, he and others found that laboratory manipulations of the infectious agents can be used to immunize people and animals. This treatment proved to work and saved countless lives and naturally it led the innovation I mentioned in the beginning.
One characteristic that marked Pasteur above great many brilliant chemists was his ability to apply the principles drawn from research into practical applications. For instance his contribution to prevent wine from spoiling helped French wine industry. The French economy was heavily dependent on wine exports and he suggested a simple procedure to help it. Boiling the wine would have altered its flavor. Therefore, Pasteur heated the wine enough to kill most of the microbes present without changing the flavor. Chilling prevented any microbes left from multiplying.
To his great delight, Pasteur found that this process could also prevent milks from turning sour and preserve many other foodstuffs as well. Thus he became the inventor of a new process known as pasteurization which brought him more fame and recognition. Besides this Pasteur also developed vaccines for several diseases including rabies. The discovery of the vaccine for rabies led to the founding of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1888.
On the discipline of rigid and strict experimental tests he commented, “Imagination should give wings to our thoughts but we always need important experimental proof, and when the moment comes to draw conclusions and to understand the gathered observations, imagination must be checked and documented by the factual results of the experiment. Francis Bacon said this earlier but Pasteur said it more eloquently since he took away the fear of death from everyday life. All of these achievements point to singular brilliance and perseverance in Pasteur’s nature. Pasteur’s name lives on in the microbiological research institute in Paris that bears his name, the Institute Pasteur and continues to be today as a center of microbiology and immunology.(www.famousscientists.org/louis-pasteur)
Posted in art, personalities, tagged Auguste Comte, Benjamin Constant, Benny Thomas, feminists, France, Jacques Necker, literary criticism, Lord Byron, Napoleon, pen and ink, wit, woman of letters on June 11, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766 – 1817), daughter of the prominent Swiss banker and statesman Jacques Necker, who was the Director of Finance under King Louis XVI of France could be called a feminist and an emancipated one at that. Her mother equally famous for being the early love of Edward Gibbon,was a leading light of one of the most popular salons of Paris . Mother and daughter had little sympathy for each other. Mme Necker, despite her talents, her beauty and her fondness for philosophic society, was strictly decorous, somewhat reserved, and wanted to bring up her daughter with the discipline of her own childhood. Anne Louise was from her earliest years energetic and boisterous. She began very early to write, though not to publish. Her father’s dismissal from the ministry and the consequent removal of the family from the busy life of Paris were probably beneficial to her.
She married Baron Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein. The husband was 37, the wife 20. Neither of whom had any affection for the other. The baron obtained money and the lady obtained, as a guaranteed ambassadress of a foreign power of consideration, a much higher position at court and in society than she could have secured by marrying almost any Frenchman.
Then in 1788 (a year prior to the French Revolution) she appeared as an author under her own name and became fascinated with the ideas of Rousseau. She was embroiled in political intrigues at this time and equally was she steeped literary criticism and she was highly influential.
She then moved to Coppet, and there gathered round her a considerable number of friends and fellow-refugees, the beginning of the salon which at intervals during the next 25 years made the place so famous. However, in 1793 she made a long visit to England, and established a connection with other emigrants: Talleyrand, Narbonne, Montmorency, Jaucourt and others. In the summer, she returned to Coppet and wrote a pamphlet on the queen’s execution. The next year, her mother died, and the fall of Robespierre opened the way back to Paris. She reopened her salon and for a time was conspicuous in the motley and eccentric society of the Directory. She also published several small works, the chief being the essays Sur l’influence des passions “On the influence of passions” (1796), and Sur la litérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales (1800).
It was during these years that Mme de Staël was the muse and sounding board for movers and shakers of ideas that were gathering momentum. Narbonne’s place had been supplanted by Benjamin Constant, whom she first met at Coppet in 1794, and who had a very great influence over her, as in return she had over him. Both personal and political reasons threw her into opposition to Bonaparte. Her own preference for a moderate republic or a constitutional monarchy was quite sincere, and, even if it had not been so, her own character and Napoleon’s were too much alike in some points to admit of their getting on together. ( Napoleon said about her, according to the Memoirs of Mme. de Remusat, that she “teaches people to think who never thought before, or who had forgotten how to think.”) In 1797 she separated formally from her husband.
Napoleon was irked by her opposition to him. She was directed not to reside within 40 leagues of Paris, and after considerable delay she determined to go to Germany.
During her German travels her father died.
She had bought property in America and thought of moving there, but she was determined to publish De l’Allemagne in Paris. Straining under French censorship, she wrote to the emperor a provoking and perhaps undignified letter and as a result the whole edition of her book (ten thousand copies) was condemned as not French.
She retired once more to Coppet, where she was not at first interfered with, and she found consolation in a young officer of Swiss origin named Albert de Rocca, twenty-three years her junior, whom she married privately in 1811.
Napoleon’s spies were closing in and her friends Mathieu de Montmorency and Mme Récamier were exiled for the crime of seeing her.
On 23 May 1811 she left Coppet almost secretly, and journeyed to Vienna. There she obtained an Austrian passport to the frontier, and after some fears and trouble, receiving a Russian passport in Galicia, she at last escaped from Napoleon’s omnipotent eyes and far reach.
She journeyed slowly through Russia and Finland to Sweden, making a stay at Saint Petersburg, spent the winter in Stockholm, and then set out for England. Here she received a brilliant reception and was much lionized during the season of 1813. She published De l’Allemagne in the autumn.
She was in Paris when the news of Napoleon’s landing arrived and at once fled to Coppet. And it is certain that she had no affection for the Bourbons. In October, after Waterloo, she set out for Italy for the benefit of her second husband, Rocca, who was dying of consumption.
Her daughter married Duke Victor de Broglie on 20 February 1816, at Pisa, and became the wife and mother of French statesmen of distinction. The whole family returned to Coppet in June, and Lord Byron now frequently visited Mme de Staël there. Despite her increasing ill-health she returned to Paris for the winter of 1816-1817, and her salon was much frequented. But she had already become confined to her room if not to her bed. She died on 14 July, and Rocca survived her little more than six months.
Auguste Comte included Madame Stael in his Calendar of Great Men. In a book with the same name, Comte’s disciple Frederic Harrison wrote about Stael and her works: “In Delphine a woman, for the first time since the Revolution, reopened the romance of the heart which was in vogue in the century preceding. Comte would daily recite the sentence from Delphine, ‘There is nothing real in the world but love.’ [Pos. Pol. iv. 44). Our thoughts and our acts, he said, can only give us happiness through results: and results are not often in our own control. Feeling is entirely within our power; and it gives us a direct source of happiness, which nothing outside can take away.‘ Her works, Harrison wrote, “precede the works of Scott, Byron, Shelley, and partly of Chateaubriand, their historical importance is great in the development of modern romanticism, of the romance of the heart, the delight in nature, and in the art, antiquities, and history of Europe.”( ack: wikipedia)
Anecdotes of Madame Staël and Mme. Recamier
Germaine de Staël, the French writer called on Napoleon Bonaparte one day and insisted on seeing him. His orderly told her that the Citizen-General was in his bath. “That is unimportant,” she exclaimed, “Genius has no sex.”
When Napoleon told Madame De Staël those women had no business being interested in politics, she replied, “In a country where women have been decapitated, it is only natural for other women to ask why?”
Seated between the beautiful Mme. Recamier and the plain Mme. de Staël, the astronomer Lalande said, “How happy I am to find myself between beauty and wit.”
“And without possessing either,” came her prompt reply.
Madame de Pompadour
The mistress of Louis XV of whom Carlyle wrote, ‘of whom it is not proper to speak without necessity’ was however an exceptional woman. After Encyclopaedia was banned without her active intervention the Enlightenment as a movement could not have got its potential as it did. She was on friendly terms with Voltaire and his circle of friends.
In one of the supper parties at Trianon the Duc de la Valliere wondered loudly what gunpowder was made of. ‘It seems so funny that we spend our time killing partridges, and being killed ourselves on the frontier, and really have no idea how it happens.’
Madame Pompadour didn’t miss her chance and she asked, ‘yes and face powder? What is it made of?’ She turning to the king and asked, “Now if you hadn’t banned the Encyclopaedia, Sire, we could have found out in a moment.’
The king presently asked for a copy from his library. After an amusing evening he relented and allowed the subscribers to have their copies, though he kept the ban for public in place.
Mme de Coislin
Mme de Coislin was a rival who after her success in snatching the king’s favour did not forget to rub it in whenever she had a chance. During a game of brelan Mme de Coislin had a winning hand and she said to Mme de Pompadour, ‘I take the lot.’ Scooping the cards she gloated, ’I’ve a handful of kings.’
Madame de Maintenon
Madame de Maintenon the mistress of the Sun King once told her confessor that it tired her very much to make love with the king twice a day and asked it she was obliged to go on doing so. The confessor wrote down her question for his bishop to decide and he replied as a wife she must submit. The king was five years younger to her and she was 75.
Once two mistresses of the Sun King came across each other at Queen’s staircase at Versailles. Marquise de Maintenon called out to Marquise de Montespan and said, “You are going down, Madame, and I am going up.”
Years later Marquise de Maintenon was asked what was her secret of her influence over Louis XIV and she replied, “I always send him away despondent but never in despair.”
Posted in personalities, tagged Arras, Battle of Sedan, Danton, France, Gladstone of the sans-culottes, napoleon I, pen portraits, reign of terror, Robespierre brothers, the glory factor, the Incorruptible on January 2, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)
Trained as an advocate and elected to the Estates General in 1789 by Artois he joined the left wing and became darling of the mob. He was looked up as a savior for the wrong reason and killed for having lost to the march of events that had outwitted the Moderate and Extreme factions alike. He was Gladstone of sans culottes. Like the liberal Prime Minister across the channel the mob liked the cant. But how long?
His life is a fitting example how man is a pawn in the hands of events,- saint and the devil alike.
In 1791 Robespierre carried the motion that no member of the present Assembly should be eligible for the next, and was appointed public accuser. Next followed the flight of the Royal family to Varennes (June 21) but were stopped and brought back. Events moved swiftly. Among these we follow Lafayette’s last effort to control the right of insurrection on the Champ-de-Mars (July 17), the abject terror of Robespierre, his hysterical appeal to the Club, the theatrical oath taken by every member to defend his life, and his conduct home in triumph by the mob at the close of the Constituent Assembly (September 30). The Girondist leaders were for sparing the lives of the royal couple.
He was elected first deputy for Paris to the national Convention, where the bitter attacks upon him by the Girondists threw him into closer union with Danton. Robespierre vigorously opposed the Girondist idea of a special appeal to the people on the king’s death, and Louis’s execution on January 21, 1793, opened up the final stages of the struggle, which ended in a complete triumph of the Jacobins on June 2.
The first Committee of Public Safety was decreed in April 1793, and Robespierre, elected in July, was now one of the actual rulers of France (along with the rest of the Twelve). Next came the dark intrigues and desperate struggles that sent Hébert and his friends to the guillotine in March 1794, and Danton and Camille Desmoulins in April. The next three months Robespierre reigned supreme. He nominated all the members of the Government Committees, placed his men in all places of influence in the commune of Paris, and assumed complete control of the Revolutionary Tribunal.
However, as his power increased, his popularity waned.
Reign of Terror followed next while public finance and government generally drifted to ruin, and Saint-Just demanded the creation of a dictatorship in the person of Robespierre. On July 26, the dictator delivered a long harangue complaining that he was being accused of crimes unjustly. The Convention, after at first obediently passing his decrees, next rescinded them and referred his proposals to the committees. That night at the Jacobin Club his party again triumphed. At the Convention the following day, Saint-Just could not obtain a hearing, and Robespierre was vehemently attacked (the 9th of Thermidor). A deputy proposed his arrest; at the fatal word Robespierre’s power came to an end.
He fled to the Common Hall, whereupon the Convention declared him an outlaw. The National Guard under Barras turned out to protect the Convention, and Robespierre had his lower jaw broken by a shot fired by a gendarme. The next day (July 28, the 10th of Thermidor), he was sent to the guillotine along with Saint-Just, Couthon, and nineteen others.
The reign of terror created its recoil and death of Robespierre was its result.Only with the advent of Napoleon the Republic became stable and it since then had one article of faith ‘glory’ that in practice would prove as a poison chalice.
Revolution and Napoleon
External threat from several European states in a way brought the citizens already heady with revolutionary fervor to fight as one. French Revolutionary Wars of 1792-1802 could be said as the baptism of fire that brought the fledgling Republic to manhood. In 1793 France suffered severe reverses at first. They were driven out of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), and serious revolts flared in the west and south of France. One of these, at Toulon, was the first serious taste of action for an unknown young artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte.
It had a positive effect on the course of the Revolution. What undermined the Incorruptible Robespierre but lack of fresh ideas? He had none except bloodletting that went on. Meanwhile Napoleon’s success in defeating the European coalition gave the Republic a new hope.
The aim of European coalition was to restore the French Monarchy and there were besides the external threat, France faced simultaneously civil war and counterrevolutionary guerillas between royalists and republicans. Their success in the military campaigns in 1794 brought a change in the public mood, and sealed the fate of Maximilian Robespierre. Royalists tried to seize power in Paris but were crushed by Napoleon in 1795. A new constitution placed executive power in a Directory of five members. The war and schisms in the Directory led to disputes that were settled by coups d’état, chiefly those of 1797 and in 1799, in which Napoleon abolished the Directory and declared himself leader of France. He would crown himself as the emperor in 1804 after he defended France brilliantly in the second coalition war, the treaty of Amiens in 1802 is generally considered to be the point of transition between the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
The First French Republic, starting from a position precariously near occupation and collapse, had defeated all its enemies and produced a revolutionary army that would take the other powers years to emulate. With the conquest of the left bank of the Rhine and domination of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, the Republic had achieved nearly all the territorial goals that had eluded the Valois and Bourbon monarchs for centuries.
This glory factor however shortchanged the true spirit of the Revolution from being absorbed into the body politics. Napoleon’s empire was a distraction which would explain the debacle of Sedan 1871. Bismarck was adamant to cut the French Army to size and prove their talk of glory was hollow. It happened in the Franco-Prussian war and finally played out in 1940 when the army of Hitler walked over in six weeks to Paris.
The Dreyfus Affair in its time shook the French nation: political parties, families alike were drawn into it either for or against. So much heat and passion that it caused was an indication of the clay feet of the Third Republic. The whole edifice would ultimately collapse in 1940 where the Republic would go down infamously. (It took only six weeks in the May-July for her to crumble before the invading German army.)
In order to understand L’affaire Dreyfus we need to look into the Panama scandal of 1888 where the issue was not about so much about the corrupt politicians or newspaper publishers but the Jews who were among the promoters. ( In the press the scheme was touted as some sort of Titanic that would not sink. Those who were in high positions and opinion makers drove gullible backers to invest in it. When the scandal finally burst into headlines it was found three of promoters were Jews.) Immediately a wave of anti-semitism broke out.
Well Capt.Alfred Dreyfus was a Jew. In 1894 this 35 year old probationary officer on the Genera Staff was found guilty by court martial of treason. The charge was that he had turned over military secrets to a foreign power. He was dishonorably discharged and was sent on life imprisonment in Devil’s island.
The sole piece of evidence produced by prosecution was so flimsy that the War minister had to use some illegal skullduggery to procure conviction of the Jewish captain. Before his trial by the military court he was convicted hundred times over by the Parisian press. In separate interviews to two of the leading newspapers in France, Le Figaro and Le Matin the War Minister categorically (without a shred of solid evidence) stated of Dreyfus’s guilt. French press in those days was as bad as the muckraking press of today. Think of the News of the World scandal that is going around these days. It was infested with venality and crass partisanship of publishers that gave the news a twist to suit their own self-intersts. (Any reader of Balzac would note the press was as black as they were depicted in his novels.) Commented the Catholic daily La Croix,’Dreyfus is an agent of international Jewry which has decided to ruin the French people’. Before the four day trial was completed General Mercier in the War Ministry cooked up a secret file and presented it to the Judges which was illegal since defence were not informed. The intention was clear: Dreyfus must be declared guilty by legal process!
Having succeeded the hapless officer was publicly humiliated and sent to Devil’s Island where the oppressive heat of the day and night was apt to wear out the health of any man. Dreyful at the start were confined for twenty-four hours in a small hut and ankle strapped in double chains to an iron bar across the foot of his cot. There was no way of escaping the remote island off the coast of South America but was a torture calculated to finish off the Jew!
Six months after the trial Major Georges Picquart took charge of the head of the counter-espionage of the Deuxieme Bureau. He was entrusted with the task of looking into the motives and the Major Picquart could not find any. Besides he found quiet a few evidences to attest to the miscarriage of justice. When the Rightist elements got wind of suspicion the question asked was,’ Of what significance was the life and honor of one individual compared to that of la patrie? There were many whose moral values were more universal and all embracing than what the Right faction had appropriated to themselves. (Somewhat like the Right wing in America who look down on the liberals.) Among the radical Republican politicians there was Georges Clemenceau, socialist (Jean Jaures) and writers such as Emil Zola, Anatole France and a poet Charles Peguy and intellectuals.
In the ensuing years of the trial of Dreyfus the identity of the real trial began circulating and the suspicion fell on Major Esterhazy. Col. Picquart found his handwriting identical to the single incriminating evidence of the bordereau (which carried itemized new weapons acquired by the army.)
Owing to clamor for justice and fair play the Dreyfus case was again heard at the court where Major Esterhazy wanted his name to be cleared. On January 11, 1898 the judges heard him and in a matter of three minutes was unanimously acquitted.
Colonel Picquart who stubbornly had unearthed whatever evidence he could to prove the miscarriage of justice was arrested the next day.
On the following day Emile Zola wrote a scathing letter addressed to the President and it was published in Clemenceau’s paper L’Aurore.
Just when the powers that be thought L’affaire Dreyfus was put to rest one of the leading novelists of the day had raked it up again.
Zola at this time was at the height of his fame and his penchant for causing controversy was no whit lessened. He was acclaimed in and abroad and he was not to be silenced. He was rich and famous and had no need for publicity. Yet he put his all on the line for an ideal. In J’ accuse! he accused the generals by name and for the despicable frame-up and for letting the real traitor go scot-free. His language was violent and frontal attack of the government, savage. In closing he dared the Army or the government to haul him before the courts for defamation.
The challenge was picked up and the government moved to prosecute Zola. Their line of attack was to avoid opening the Dreyfus case but only on the part where he had accused the Army had ordered acquittal of Esterhazy. The sensational case lasted two weeks and the jury took less than an hour to find the writer guilty. He was given a year in prison and fine of 3000 francs. Worse still the mob went on a rampage ‘Death to Zola, Death to the Jews! so went the cry. They wanted to lynch him.
Three days later Colonel Picquart was dismissed. Quietly the verdict against Zola was quashed on technical grounds. A new trial was ordered but Zola made good of his escape to London.
Note: on hindsight we can say that the whole wheels of the government had come unstuck and the Army, the Press, the Church were dancing around the crater of a volcano.
Jean Jaures a great human being and a socialist of brilliant mind was shot dead while he was sitting in his customary seat at at a cafe, Le Croissant. It was just as the first world war broke out. His assassin was a Right winger who suspected he may speak out against the general mobilization following the declaration of the war. The heat of the partisanship that so viciously polarised the Right and the left and manifested during the Dreyfus affair had claimed another victim. Clemenceau will go on to become a great arbiter and voice in the international politics for the French nation.
(ack: the Collapse of the Third Republic-William S. Shirer)