Exhibition: Art Deco and Paul Poiret

Staff had warned me months ago: “The autumn exhibition will be a grand one again!” Despite the The Hague Gemeente Museum’s Mondriaan exhibition being nominated for an important award, it had totally not impressed nor enchanted me. Security and staff noticed, so asked me to revisit this autumn.

Heeding their advice, I visited the museum’s Art Deco exhibition. Staff and security were right. “Art Deco – Paris” is far more impressive than that Mondriaan exhibition!

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Exhibitions to visit in the Rodin Year

Of course you know his “Thinker”. It is one of the best known sculptures in the world. Perhaps you have seen “The Kiss”, or his “Balzac”, or “Burghers of Calais”. Or you may be familiar with his sketches and drawings? Or his unorthodox private life?

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Prints in Paris – at the Amsterdam van Gogh museum

“From elite to the street”, is the exhibition’s subtitle. For the van Gogh Museum takes you from elitist collector’s rooms to Parisian streets. This new exhibition explains the craze for prints which took Paris by storm during the “fin de siecle”.
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Soon to be admired: mystical landscapes at Paris’ Musée d’Orsay

This spring, the French Musée d’Orsay in Paris intends to surprise and delight with a landscape exhibition. This exhibition could be admired previously at the Ontario Art Gallery, in Canada.
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Alla Francesca will perform at Paris museum

Drat! One of my favorite early music ensembles, which I got to know through the Utrecht Early Music Festival, will perform twice at one of my favorite museums! Unfortunately, I may not be able to attend. Merde! Merde! Merde!

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Book review: Education européenne by Romain Gary

Officially, one cannot win France’s literary Prix Goncourt twice. Romain Gary did. After reading his “La vie devant soi”  with the English reader group, “Education européenne” was suggested by a French member. We never got round to it, so the novel remained unread in the bookcase. However, after the recent Paris attacks, I craved something by an author with a European, or even cosmopolitan pen.

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A near divorce and uneasy marriage

The two of them nearly caused a major diplomatic row. By now, a kind of “entente cordiale” has been reached, though relations are still cool. The lovebirds will remain together – though they belong to different countries.

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Exhibitions: Monet’s Nympheas

This exhibition has yet to open, but an article about it caught my attention. They do not charm everybody, but nearly all of Monet’s 250 water lilies paintings delight me. In fact, it is not just his waterlilies which enthrall.

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Film review: My old lady

Playwright Israel Horovitz not only wrote the scenario, which is based on one of his plays. He also directed this film. Some reviewers call it a “soft-centred piece of movie confectionery, not without charm”. They probably missed quite a few thought-provoking dialogues in “My old lady”.

Mathias, played by Kevin Kline, is walking through sunny Paris, trying to located the apartment his dad left him. He finds it at nr 13 in some street in the Marais. He enters through the large gate, does not bother the concierge, and manages to not only step inside the main building, but also his inherited place.

He wanders through nearly all the rooms of the two-floor apartment taking photos. Only in the last room does he finally find an occupant. It’s a very old lady, played by Maggie Smith, fast asleep. When he wakes her, he not only discovers his apartment has a sprawling garden. Mrs G is a “viager”.

Nearly 45 years earlier, Mathias’ father bought the sprawling place from the widowed Mrs G. According to French tenancy rights, she’s not only allowed to live in the house till she dies. Like his father before him, Mathias actually has to pay her about 2500 Euro per month. On top of this, Mathias’ father only left him a gold watch and nothing else. Mathias sold his NY apartment to fly out to Paris and is now completely, totally broke.

Mrs G being a sly and crafty businesswoman, offers Mathias an upstairs room with breakfast and dinner, in exchange for his gold watch – for the time being. Mathias being a sly and crafty guy, soon has a deal with an antiques dealer, finds an estate agent, and was already negotiating a sale of the house before he ended up in Paris.

But then Mrs G’s daughter Cloé, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, turns up. She also has rooms in this apartment, which after all, is the place where she grew up. And Cloé is far less welcoming than her mother and totally not pleased about having to share one toilet with a stranger.

After the semi-secret which was never mentioned in the family starts to unravel, Mathias starts drinking – seriously. Of course, In the end, a solution is found and the three will outwit the slick project developer. Mathias makes new friends. will stay in Paris longer than he expected, and even gets back the gold watch which was a gift of Mrs G to his father.

But before there is this new future in Paris, there are quite a few shocking revelations. All three main characters have to come to terms with their past. All have to face they made choices in life. These choices damaged other people and relationships.

One of the messages of the play and now film is, that a person may not be aware of causing damage or even never having had the intention to hurt – but that it happens. Another message is, that different people living through a situation, may experience it totally differently. This is not only the case between Mrs G and Mathias, but also between mother and daughter.

Such a message, that it is impossible to lead your life without damaging others, is not a pleasant reality. And there are more: when Mathias moans his four or so manuscripts have never been published and he is broke, Mrs G sharply points out that compared to her, he is very rich. He has another half of life to look forward to, she only has a few more years left.

So to compare this film to a pain au chocolat, gateau mocha, dacquaise, or other French pastry, cake, gateau – is only possible if you watched it, while blotting much of the dialogue, many scenes, and some serious issues it addressed.

There is not only the excellent acting and the surprises and twists in the plot. There are of course beautiful scenes of Paris. Though not all of the film was shot in the now frightfully expensive Marais area, if you once visited Paris – even only for a day or weekend – this film will recapture much of the holiday mood.

There is the Seine, Notre Dame, the parks, the Rue Sevigné and many other places in and near the Marais, which are such a pleasant presence in the background. If you’ve yet to visit and discover Paris: on a sunny day, it’s a grand old lady and really looks like this. Parisians too, are quite kind once you get to know them – and can be as sly and coy as Mrs G. So go and watch the film for a lesson or two about human relationships, as well as a pre- or after-taste of seductive Paris.

“My Old Lady”, directed and written by Israel Horovitch; Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, 2014 .