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A letter from Radio France

Radio FranceRadio France has quite a few devotees in the San Francisco Bay Area, among them the noted filmmaker Veronica Selver. You can listen to the service live, or you can download podcasts via your iPhone, as does Veronica. It helps if you understand French, of course. If not,  she sent us this summary of some recent shows.

L’Avventura, a weekly show on cinema, with Laure Adler, hostess (The July 22 and July 29 shows as a typical format)

The show opens with the same passage from l’Avventura each
week, Italian dialogue and music. In depth interview with a filmmaker and extensive quotes
from the film(s) discussed. Examples:

An interview with Elia Seleiman, a Palestinian filmmaker whopresented his latest film at Cannes, Elia Suleiman speaks in English with a French translator. Laure Adler always contextualizes the present work within the body of work of the filmmaker.

An interview with Pedro Costa, a Portuguese filmmakerspeaking French. He is a documentarian  who talks about his process in shooting, and his interest in revealing community, a creative community in the instance of his latest film, a recording session with the actress/singer Jeanne Balibar and her musicians. Together Laure Adler and he reflect on the differencebetween fact and fiction in cinema.

An interview with a first-time filmmaker in her mid-sixties, a writer who is turning to film to tell the story of her early upbringing and imprisonment in Cambodia in 1950 for eight months by the Viet Minh. She returns to the village in Cambodia to film.

Also some shorter notices about  restored films and re-releases, for example “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” with a description of the film and its place in Tati’s work. Also two restored films coming out this summer by Dino Risi. Laure Adler’s descriptions are poetic, literate and well-versed in film language.

The last ten minutes of the show are called Plan Sequence (Shots and Scenes) in which another hostess takes newly released DVDs and analyzes a sequence within a film. She describes the lighting, the set, the sounds, camera moves, fast zoom backs, close-up on eyes (while we hear thescene in the background) and she analyzes meaning, bringing in Freud andWittgenstein in discussing Douglas Sirk’s “Magnificent Obsession” and an overview of Frederick Wiseman’s work and vision while describing the opening scene of “Titicut Follies.”

Une vie, une oeuvre, a weekly show that features a life (une vie) and the life’s work of that person (une oeuvre). Each week the show is put together by another team, because each show is a one-hour documentary with experts and excerpts of work, an in-depth look at someone’s life and work.

The show on Mussorsky was called “Unfinished Score.” It combined his life, (his Russian soul)   the history of Russia at the time (Russian nationalism), contemporaneous composers, extensive musical passages,  discussed by musicians, composers, writers, historians, a great show.

A show on Robert Altman called “Fertile Chaos” with long film quotes, critics, actors, film historians, Altman in interviews, his place in American cinema.

A show on Luther, his radical approach to man’s relationship with God, his influence on the American psyche and history, with a running score by Philip Glass and much high roller preaching, along with a number of interviews with historians of religion and various members of the clergy. These are extremely well-made hour-long radio documentaries.

Les lundis de l’histoire , the Monday history show, with a different theme each week, usually attached to a recent publication as well as a current event. These are generally round-table discussions with authors, historians, university professors, as many women as men, by the way, a consistent and surprising balance of men and women experts.

Recent shows: One opens with a quote from “Hamlet”, announcinga new translation in two volumes of Shakespeare’s historical dramas, with a discussion of how in the 16th and 17th centuries drama superceded historians in bringing the past to the public.

Also a good time to talk about Shakespeare since summer festivals around France are presenting a number of Shakespeare plays. A discussion of how Shakespeare influenced post-World War Two French theater, how his approach to history suited the post-war mood. And finally, talk about the challenges of translating Shakespeare with the editors of the La Pléiade bilingual edition of his plays.

Another July show was on travel books, given the summer holiday season. One guest wrote a book on Parisian train stations in the 19th century, the creation of French railroads and their impact on French society. Another guest was a professor of sociology who authored several books on the automobile and the place of cars in Paris and throughout France, and a last
guest was a Yale professor , John Merriman, who wrote “ The Dynamite Club”about anarchist terrorist groups in Paris at the end of the 19th century.

Another show centered around the 65th anniversary of D-Day, and focused on France at the end of World War Two, with several authors who have written about French resistance and French collaboration during the war and the on-going legacy of both in France.

Les vendredis de la philosophie, philosophy on Fridays, an hour-long show with guests around themes, often chosen, once again, because of recent publications on a given subject.

Recent shows:  a long and fascinating exploration of leisure time, what it once meant, its association with privilege, its changing status as work became a social value, the current perception of free time, what is its purpose, how is it spent. The guest are a painter, a publisher who specializes in books on the subject of leisure, and a philosophy professor at a French university.

Another show on 17th century French moralists, who were not moralists in the conventionally used sense of the word today. The round-table consists of three university professors whose expertise are those authors (La Rochefoucault, La Bruyère, La Fontaine) pulling in Montaigne, Nietzsche, Derrida, Proust, Camus – very heady and really very interesting, even without having read any of the authors and philosophers they discuss!

A show on walking, for which the host left the studio and went on an hour-long walk with the author of a recent book, Walking: A Philosophy. The book as it is described looks at many different writings on and approaches to walking, from Nietzcshe to Ghandi, with a discussion of
Thoreau, who was the first to have written a philosophical work on walking. The author, Frédéric Gros, is a philosophy professor in Paris and a Foucault specialist. He is also a major walker, day-long walks over days, the vibrations of the landscape as a reward for the effort of walking,  and he talks about the intrinsic and distinct values of both urban and country walks. It’s an inspiring hour!

Les matins de France-Culture is a daily two-hour  morning news show  (7a.m. – 9 a.m.) with regular commentators. Matthew Lasar might show up every Wednesday with the latest media-related news, Samantha Powers might be each Tuesday on an approach to war zones, Edward Said, were he alive, would present the Palestinian perspective on Israel-Palestinian matters, there is a regular economist, a cultural critic, a journalist reporting from New York and Washington D.C. with the latest in American concerns, a great array of journalists, activists, commentators, visiting guests, a good way to start the day.


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One Response to A letter from Radio France

  1. JJuggle October 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    I am learning French and am a regular Radio France listener. I’ve télécharged the Radio France Info app and listen while I work. I understand precious little but what I do understand is precious to me.

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