When a friend said he was coming by with a French movie star named Fabrice Luchini, I gave it a mental shrug. Fabrice who? Must be some minor player.
Then I mentioned it to a couple of French friends. One got all dreamy. “Oh but he’s my FAVORITE actor!”, she gushed. The other woman’s eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Can I hide in the bushes?” she pleaded. “I just want to catch a glimpse of him!”
Then, as Ron and I were were walking in town, my sharp-eyed husband spotted a current movie poster: “Alceste à Bicylette”, starring Fabrice Luchini. So of course I immediately bought a ticket.
It turned out to be a little jewel of a film. Need to practice your French? It’s just out on DVD. It’s a charming movie with two famous actors who play two famous actors who are thinking of doing a French Moliére play together. It’s funny and light, a commentary on the shallowness of the film industry and celebrity, plus a lesson in betrayal. By the way, before I see a French movie, I find it helps to read up on the story ahead of time, to give me some context for the French. In this case, reading a summary of the Moliere play would not be bad idea either, as the play parallels the story in the movie. The Molière dialog in the movie rolls along at a pretty fast clip. When I told Fabrice I had a bit of trouble with that part, he laughed. "Don't worry, many of the French have a hard time understanding the Molière!" he said.
Fabrice was wonderful in the movie. The middle-aged actor turns out to be extremely well-known in France (though not beyond, as he claims not to speak a word of English). He’s a guy with an interesting backstory--the son of Italian immigrants who was discovered while working in a hair salon. The French love him because he’s a quirky comedian with a love of the classics and the French language. In person he is as intense and lively as one might expect, and I can see that his everyman appearance has probably served him well.
So that’s my brush with French fame. Now if you'll excuse me I’d better go see if I can extract my friend from the hedge.
You can order Alceste à bicyclette on Amazon.com in the states. The Anglo release is called Cycling with Molière and is sold, at a better price, at this site (neither specifies, however, if it's a zone 1 or 2 DVD, however, so unless you have a dual player, ask them before buying).
RECIPE: Arugula Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
At the end of tomato season, I tend to run out of ideas faster than tomatoes. So I was happy to find this arugula pasta recipe, topped with tomatoes. I now can't find where I got the recipe, though I think it was in Better Homes & Gardens (which also has a great on-line recipe site at bhg.com, by the way).
I love the peppery arugula, called roquette in French and "rocket" in the UK. I can buy bunches of it either sauvage or cultivée from our local farmer at the market. You can add basil or other herbs to the pesto if you like. I tweaked the pesto by adding toasted pecans in place of pine nuts, and it was quite tasty.
For the pesto, enough for four servings:
- 4 cups (packed) arugula leaves
- 1/4 cup pecans, toasted
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in the blender except the oil and the salt and pepper, and pulse it. Then add the oil in a slow steady stream with blender running. Taste and add seasonings.
Toss the pesto with hot linguine, drained (save a little pasta liquid to thin it) or any other skinny pasta. Top with chopped tomatoes (roasted, lightly sauteed in olive oil, or just as they are) and chunks of fresh mozzarella.
In the COMMENTS: Our readers recommend some good books on art for us this week. Linda loved Strapless, by Deborah Davis, which tells the story of Madame X in the famous Sargent painting. Mark recommends A Bright Oasis: The Paintings of Richard E. Miller.