French cultural life – October 2019

From Balzac to a big-time bunny, our monthly round up of the arts and culture stories creating a buzz in France

25 September 2019
By Connexion journalist

1.  Balzac’s writing ‘prison’ reopens

The former home of one of France’s greatest writers, Honoré de Balzac, has reopened as a museum following year-long renovation work.

The Paris property, located amid leafy Passy in the 16th arrondissement, was home to the La Comédie Humaine author from 1840 to 1847 and is surprisingly small – he was said to be hiding from creditors and occupied just five rooms, one of which was an office that he called ‘a prison’.

The free-to-visit museum’s showpieces include letters, manuscripts and Balzac’s cane and writing desk, at which he famously drank litres of black coffee while working.

 

2.  Novel approach takes a slide

Autumn’s rentrée heralds not only the literary awards season but also the traditional flurry of novel publishing.

However, production of titles has fallen by 7.6% compared to last year, according to Livres Hebdo. It says a total of 524 novels (336 French, 188 foreign), are expected in French bookstores between mid-August and the end of October.

Statistics from the GfK Institute reveal that the same period in 2018 generated a turnover of €48million – 32% less than in 2012.

Among the most eagerly awaited new reads is Encre sympathique (out October 3), the 29th book by 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Patrick Modiano.

 

3.  Mourning Mocky

France mourned the loss of filmmaker Jean-Pierre Mocky (pictured left) in August and while only cinéphiles outside France might be familiar with his oeuvre, he was much appreciated in his home country – Le Monde called him “perhaps the most inventive, the most prolific, the most anarchic of French film directors”.

Born in Nice to immigrant Polish parents, he directed 60 films. His first, 1959’s Les Drageurs, starred Charles Aznavour and he went on to make many low budget satirical comedies, working with leading actors including Catherine Deneuve and Michel Serrault.

 

4. A change of directorial direction

With his new film, Roubaix, Une Lumière, Arnaud Desplechin has veered away from sprawling relationship dramas (such as the superb A Christmas Tale) into the police thriller realm.

Set in his native town, it examines the grittier side of Nord life as a police chief investigates the grisly murder of an elderly woman. Under suspicion are two young marginal women, one of whom is played by Léa Seydoux, currently filming in altogether glitzier locations for the new James Bond film.

Desplechin says he took inspiration from Roubaix, commissariat central, a pioneering and uncompromising fly-on-the-wall documentary from 2008 about life inside the town’s police station.

 

5. Bunny’s broadcast success

Given that it is aired on French television at 6.25am on weekdays on TF1, it is possible that most Connexion readers will have never heard of Mölang the rabbit and his companion, Piu Piu the chick.

However, this cute bunny is a huge draw in France and beyond. The cartoon series is made by Millimages Studio in Paris and is broadcast in 180 countries around the world, and as well as engrossing its target audience of 3-6 year-olds, the show and its merchandise have also drawn a large teenage fanbase.

Millimages boss Roch Lener bought the rights to the character from its creator Hye-Ji Yoon in 2015, and the series was created by writer and director Marie-Caroline Villand.

Season four, currently in production, will see Mölang and Piu Piu travel through the ages, from prehistory to Louis XIV. Catch it on the TFou show.

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