09 November 2005

Surfing along

Well, at long last, our internet situation seems to have finally stabilized. This morning we received the new modem--the year-old ADSL modem from Wanadoo (the internet provider that works with France Télécom) was not compatible with the new provider's technology. There were some problems with the installation, but--I'm proud to say--I called the help line and never had to ask if the operator spoke English. It wasn't an easy conversation by any means, but I survived and got everything straightened out. So, now we're surfing the internet at 100 mbps and not paying per-minute charges!

The other big piece of big news is that the riots seem to winding down. Since a state of emergency was declared yesterday, mayors were allowed to declare curfews for their communities. This seems to have had a good effect, especially in the Parisian banlieues, since there was significantly less damage done last night than the previous couple. Thankfully, our quarter and our arrondisement continue to remain largely unaffected. The Héliport de Paris is just a little ways west of us, so we have heard a lot of helicoptors flying out to the banlieues. Here's hoping that the violence ends soon and that the government finally follows through on their promises to improve conditions in the banlieues.

My research continues to come along nicely. The current focus is on René Clair's A Nous, la Liberté!--if you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend it! It is, without a doubt, one of Clair's masterpieces. If you don't take my word for it, take Charlie Chaplin's--he liked the film so much that he plagiarized it in making one of his classics, Modern Times. (For all those interested in author's rights--Clair refused to sue Chaplin, since he was so flattered that his idol would steal his ideas. The production company, then under the direction of Goebbels and the Nazi Party, had other ideas; but without Clair's support, the case came to nothing.)

A Nous, la Liberté is of interest to me for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important is the collaborative process. Auric (the central figure of my dissertation) received second billing in the film--above everyone except Clair himself, who was the director, producer, and screenwriter. It's clear all the way from Clair's first version of the scénario that music is crucial to his conception of the film. According to some sources, Auric was on set for everyday of shooting! I still have my doubts about that, but I'm not ready to rule it out (the music budget is unusually high, I can confirm that Auric was definitely on set for the first day of shooting, and "an orchestra" seems to have been on set for most days).

The music also played a significant role in the publicity for the film. Four songs (in terms of genre, the film is somewhere between a silent film and a musical) were published in sheet music editions, and all four were also released on 78rpm discs; all of this before the film's release, mind you. A few months after the film's release, three of the songs were so popular that the editor published dance-band versions!

So...the next question I'm working out is--exactly what was Auric's role in the creation of the film?

PS. If anyone out there has copies of those 78s from A Nous, la Liberté!, let me know!

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