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Issue 4, 2016


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  • Okay, it seems we are not going to stop talking about this.

  • A promise of freedom

  • Lording it over students

  • Proud but not Protected

  • Massive Misogyny

  • Cat theft and loud noises

  • Kate and Jayne talk diversity with Uncle Grant


  • Fun and fabulous festival with a serious message

  • Don’t swim in the rivers!

  • Features

  • Eating for the Apocalypse with Finn Teppett

    In an effort to stay relevant and interesting, Salient asked Finn to put his body on the aluminium line, and spend one weekend only eating food that could be found in a can.


  • candyland university

    Candy-land University

    Your vision is blurred from the computer-screen and pages of text, that light-headed-when-did-I-last-eat feeling slowly descends, and you realise you still have thousands of words to write. There’s no point going home to eat because: a) you won’t do any more work if you go home, b) time will be lost in transit, and, c) […]


  • digestion web


    Most of us like food, yeah? We need it to survive, and sometimes it’s just too hard to not Instagram a meal out. It’s easy to spend a lot of time talking about nice restaurants and cafés, that great new recipe we just tried, or how damn expensive food can be. But what about what […]


  • can feature copy

    It was very salty and the sauce was gross

    In an effort to stay relevant and interesting, Salient asked Finn to put his body on the aluminium line, and spend one weekend only eating food that could be found in a can. The experience was hard for Finn, the editors received messages of anguish as he faced the meals and endeavoured to keep them down. […]


  • Eating for the Apocalypse with Finn Teppett

    In an effort to stay relevant and interesting, Salient asked Finn to put his body on the aluminium line, and spend one weekend only eating food that could be found in a can.


  • candyland university

    Candy-land University

    Your vision is blurred from the computer-screen and pages of text, that light-headed-when-did-I-last-eat feeling slowly descends, and you realise you still have thousands of words to write. There’s no point going home to eat because: a) you won’t do any more work if you go home, b) time will be lost in transit, and, c) […]


  • digestion web


    Most of us like food, yeah? We need it to survive, and sometimes it’s just too hard to not Instagram a meal out. It’s easy to spend a lot of time talking about nice restaurants and cafés, that great new recipe we just tried, or how damn expensive food can be. But what about what […]


  • can feature copy

    It was very salty and the sauce was gross

    In an effort to stay relevant and interesting, Salient asked Finn to put his body on the aluminium line, and spend one weekend only eating food that could be found in a can. The experience was hard for Finn, the editors received messages of anguish as he faced the meals and endeavoured to keep them down. […]


  • Arts and Science

  • Recipe Books!
    Sushi: Easy Recipes for Making Sushi at Home

    Authors: Emi Kazuko, Fiona Smith, & Elsa Petersen-Schepelern

    Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small



    This is an introductory guide to making sushi and its accompanying dishes. It’s nothing flash, and being more or less uninitiated when I received it as a gift, this cookbook was my starting point for cooking Japanese food. It includes handy diagrams of standard ingredients and techniques for not only sushi making, but Japanese cooking as a whole. The recipes accommodate both adventurous tastes and the more hesitant, beginning with simple cucumber rolls then moving on to recipes with ingredients such as mackerel, pickled plums, and lotus root. The book even provides a few versions for kids. Accompanying recipes also include miso soup, pickles, fresh wasabi paste, and Japanese omelette—all essential if you want really good Japanese meals. If you’ve been wanting to try making Japanese food, or even just branch out in your cooking, this cookbook is a good one for it.


    Moosewood Cookbook

    Author: Mollie Katzen

    Publisher: Ten Speed Press



    Listed as one of the New York Times’ bestselling cookbooks of all time, Moosewood has been at the apex of vegetarian home cooking since 1974, and is as much a part of counter-culture as Woodstock and the Vietnam War protests. It was my Mum’s first cookbook, given to her at the ripe old age of fifteen by my Grandma, who also has a first edition copy. Each recipe is hand lettered and accompanied by kitschy drawings all done by Katzen. The fare is cheap and easy to make; even the staunchest of omnivores will appreciate the Mushroom Moussaka or the Gypsy Soup. Proving its longevity, the 40th anniversary edition is currently available, or you can hunt down a pre-loved copy. Other quirky titles by Katzen include The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes, and Honest Pretzels.


    How to Eat: The Pleasures & Principles of Good Food

    Author: Nigella Lawson

    Publisher: Random House



    Before she became famous for her sultry brand of cooking, Nigella Lawson was a food writer. Her first book, How to Eat, has become a classic for its fusion of cookbook and personal homage to food. In her own words from the introduction: “Cooking is not just about joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving on to the next. It’s about developing an understanding of food […] about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat.” This intimate and flexible relationship with food is what Nigella is all about, and her relaxed, conversational tone is like receiving advice from a kind aunt. She never insists, only suggests, and doesn’t make you feel bad for using tinned tomatoes rather than fresh. Some of the recipes here will be too pricey for a student budget, but there are some delicious and simple dishes too, such as pea risotto, lemon linguine, and apple and walnut crumble.


    Love Your Leftovers: Recipes for the Resourceful Cook

    Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

    Publisher: Bloomsbury



    Ah, lovely Hugh. This latest installment from River Cottage is based around something that should be dear to every savvy student’s heart—leftovers. Leftovers are your friend, especially when it’s exam time and you’ve already spent all your dosh on Domino’s. But I digress. The recipes here range from the “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” to the slightly more advanced but still totally achievable. Potato peel soup! Sauteed cucumbers! (Use up that soggy one that’s been sitting the in the fridge for a little too long). Spaghetti bolognese omelette! (Wow, just wow). As if he couldn’t be any more lovely, Hugh has also included some handy tips, such as: how to make stock (both meat and veggie); the best ways to thicken soup; how to structure an excellent salad; and several different salad dressings, from the simple to the slightly more fancy, so you don’t need to keep buying the icky supermarket stuff. We love you, Hugh.



  • Newtown Festival Interviews

    Being new to Wellington, this year was my first foray to the Newtown festival. Passing through a crowd that reeked (both literally and metaphorically) of what I imagined Wellington would be like, I arrived at the Newtown Ave stage. I was shepherded into Alex’s flat from Groeni, which seemed to have had a previous life as some kind of industrial premises. I was told to talk to as many of them as I could. The conversations with artists and their friends follow.



    We’re Groeni, that’s three members; James who plays guitar and samples, Mike who plays bass and keyboards, and Al who plays drums and sings vocals.

    What do you like about festivals?

    The big ones, you obviously get to play on a massive PA to a different audience you wouldn’t normally get in Wellington. There’s a super cool vibe, more about the party than the music.

    What do you like about Newtown fest?

    Never played at Newtown festival before. I really like the programme this year, there’s heaps of cool bands. It’s not fully a music festival vibe but rather about the community and food as well.

    Describe your music in a few words.

    *Groeni-ng* (ha), dance, soul/folk/soulful/techno.



    I am Blaeke. It’s just a new electronic project that I’ve started. I’ve been in primarily folk bands, so this is a very new thing.

    What do you like about festivals?

    It’s just the atmosphere, everyone is keen to listen to music, and you feel really supported by the musicians around you. Everyone wants to listen and just enjoy themselves. I live in Newtown, I love the community, food, and music.

    What’s been your favourite part of this year’s festival?

    It’s been really cool having a nice space next to the stage and meeting different musicians.

    Describe your music in a few words.

    Melodic, rhythmic, hopefully kind of atmospheric. I guess it’s personal music.



    We’re in Fortunes which is an electronic R&B duo in Melbourne. Barnaby makes beats and Connor sings.

    Have you played in NZ before?

    We actually played here one time, in this lounge which was pretty funny. It turned out be a real intimate gig because the sound control got called real early so we had to turn everything down, and everyone ended up sitting down.

    How are you finding Newtown?

    I like Wellington, I’m always really confused when I’m here though—I never know where I am, but it’s all beautiful.

    What do you think about Newtown fest?

    Connor: Every year is a sunny day, it’s never a bad day.

    Barnaby: Good diversity in the stages; we walked past a jazz stage, a massive ukulele band playing, some spoken word on another stage and then some electronic DJs. It’s a good mix.

    Describe your music in a few words.

    Just R&B basically, leaning towards hip hop, soul.




    My name is Oliver Perryman. For the last few years I’ve been travelling and performing in Europe under the name Fis.

    What you think of Newtown so far?

    It’s quite hot outside and I burn quite easily, so I’m just using SPF shade right now.

    What do you like about festivals?

    Over in Europe they tend to be really well organised, so from an artist point of view you get looked after really nicely. Because the festivals I play in Europe receive funding from the government, they’re also able to bring many unmatched artists together in the same place.

    Explain your music in a few words.

    Experimental, electronic music played on big sound systems to provide a physical meditative listening experience.


    Sui Zhen

    I’m Becky Sui Zhen and I perform as Sui Zhen. This is my first time visiting and playing in New Zealand.

    How are you finding Newton festival so far?

    I got to see a woman belly dancing, and everyone was eating icecream. It seems like a very community-based festival. I like the mixture of people – it seems to have a diverse audience watching the Newtown stage as well.

    Describe your music in a few words.

    Japanese-city-lounge-pop with lyrics and melody at it’s core and lots of 808s.


    Newtown festival is unlike any festival I’ve been to before. Beneath the vibrant atmosphere was a sublime selection of music, made by some clever and thoughtful people not to rake in the cash, but to share the love of music with some of the most outrageous and weird folk of Wellington.



  • What happens when an artist dies? Do we keep their texts?

    Panel Discussion: When Artists Die (Thursday, March 10, City Gallery Wellington)

    Panelists: Marie Shannon (partner of the late Julian Dashper), gallerist Gary Langsford, curator Kendrah Morgan, commentator Jim Barr, Len Lye Foundation director Evan Webb, and chaired by City Gallery chief curator Robert Leonard.

    (In association with Julian Dashper & Friends, on till the 15th of May 2016)


    Julian Dashper is a New Zealand art hero. He is an artist’s artist. He passed in 2009, aged 49, leaving a huge body of work to his partner Marie Shannon and their son. His status, alongside the City Gallery’s exhibition of his work—Julian Daspher & Friends, was the provocation for chief curator Robert Leonard to host the poignant conversation.

    Marie Shannon spoke about organising and simultaneously restoring the studio of Julian, so as to catalogue his valuable work, but also with the need for it to stay the same—a memorial of sorts. Her perspective was personal, a reflection on both methods of cataloging, and methods of grieving. These are echoed in her work What I Am Looking At, currently showing at the City Gallery and the Dowse.

    The audience asked about artists letters: is it right for personal communications to be kept, published, and shown posthumously? I thought it would be an easy question, but apparently, it is more complex. There are many fields to consider: the art market, as well as its relationship to research—art history, archiving, and preservation. Jim Barr spoke of communications, between him and significant artist friends, that he has donated to Te Papa, which were particularly scathing and ruthless in content. He suggested that there is potential that an artist’s writing, personal or not, could be considered an artwork for art history’s sake. Are letters different than Facebook? Perhaps a perfectly chosen GIF is the new drawing in the margins. I wonder whether screenshots of carefully chosen emoticons will be the new ‘artist letter’, the ‘artist’s texts’.

    The climax might have been the enthralling debate between Jim Barr (patron and art blogger) and Evan Webb (Len Lye Foundation director) about whether an artwork was in fact an artist’s work if they hadn’t made it. It was, surprisingly, not what I had expected going into a panel discussion around what happens when artists die. It seemed to be a critique of the Len Lye Foundations’ work in recreating Lye’s artwork from spectualive sketches and drawings made decades before. The question of whether it was ethical to make artist’s work after death, was left hanging, after a stalemate between the panelists.

    I find it interesting, in the same way it is interesting that people are infected by the Kardashian Kondition, that the market and culture becomes obsessed by artists to the point that a letter to their friend becomes important history. Maybe it is important. Maybe it is context that can provide insight into how artists were thinking politically or culturally. Or maybe it is just superfluous personal debris… in the end the market decides what becomes cultural capital. According to the one gallerist on the panel Gary Langsford, if the market wants Len Lye’s pants, then Len Lye’s pants they will have.

    On every topic, including the more personal ones, it was hard for the panel to reach a consensus. The artist, the person, isn’t around anymore. So there is no way we could ever know whether their intention was lived up to or not. Which crumpled piece of paper was art, and which was a crumpled piece of paper. Some people might think they have the answers, but in the end the decisions made after an artists living years, are no longer theirs, and cannot be claimed as one. It would be silly to believe that they could ever be the perfect decisions, or anything more than a replica of what they may have done. Like any death, we just make the decisions we can—right or wrong.


  • The Bachelor NZ, Season Two


    One man. 23 women. One mansion. True love. Mike Puru. The Bachelor NZ is back on our screens. A year after Art Green and Matilda Rice found love, or maybe got paid to keep being in each other’s Instagram posts, we are finally blessed to witness another man make women compete for his attention on television, for roses, until one of them, ultimately, receives something an aging Michael Hill has personally crafted in his tiny old man hands.

    Looking more like the host of The Bachelor than he does the actual bachelor, 32 year old Jordan Mauger is the complete opposite of previous bachelor Art Green—except not really because he is still a white man. A filmmaker and producer, Jordan would rather spend the day on the family farm than drag you around Ponsonby doing paleo food tastings. He is a true Cantabrian and he loves stubbies. Jordan is in fact so average that one of the women is rumoured to have remarked behind his back, “I could just find any guy like him out in the club any night I want.” However he also has a Delorean with the number plate MJ FOX, which propels him far and beyond Art Green standards, though admittedly that bar was very low (he was a dick AND he did blackface). I honestly just want to see more shots of the Delorean. The ten seconds of Jordan driving down a stretch of empty country road was not enough for me.

    To say The Bachelor is problematic viewing is a definite understatement. Out of 23 bachelorettes, only four of them are women of colour—Metz, Harmony, Naz, and Catherine—two of whom are eliminated within the first two episodes (though blogger/fashion designer Claudia at one point states that being brunette “makes me look Hawaiian, but I’m not Hawaiian!”). Metz and Naz are by far the most interesting, with Naz being framed as the show’s villain from early on, probably because she is a woman who possesses strength and confidence. Every time she appears there is a sharp sound of a knife being drawn. It’s not great. There are a handful of very pale brunette women, the most interesting thing about any of them being that one of them is named Storm. The rest of the bachelorettes are a sea of blonde white women, an indistinguishable blur of beige forms, all repeating things like “Jordan looks really good” and “I definitely want to spend more time with Jordan” as they sit huddled around glasses of white wine, fake laughing.

    How many wait staff are employed for these ‘cocktail parties’? How long is the bar open? Is there a drink limit? At the end of the first night Harmony definitely reached it, and the bachelorettes allowed her an entire couch to roll around on as they stood on the other side of the pool looking down their noses at her. She may have gone home first, but she got a lot of free drinks out of it and that’s commendable.

    After two episodes it is already clear that 33 year old retirement village worker and Scrabble enthusiast Rebecca will win the damn thing. Not only did she throw out a Star Wars reference when they first met in the driveway, but, according to renowned source of journalistic integrity, she’s writing her thesis on romance in reality television. What an incredible research opportunity. Here’s hoping the last episode ends with her and Jordan speeding into the sunset at 88mph, disappearing in a blaze of fire, travelling back in time to whenever the antiquated gender norms of The Bachelor were considered okay.


  • Clowning at Perfection

    A review of Fringe Festival performance, Perhaps, Perhaps… Quizás


    If you managed to see this show, you can understand why Gabriela Munoz won the two most highly regarded Fringe awards: Outstanding Performer and Best in Fringe! Perhaps, Perhaps… Quizás is a solo clown performance all the way from Mexico, first performed in New York 2010, that has since traveled worldwide.

    As the audience filed into the Propellor stage at BATS, before us, behind a white mesh canopy and sitting at a ladies vanity, was the curious clown, Greta. Munoz rendering of Greta is visually reminiscent of Marie Antoinette meets Helena Bonham Carter meets Alice in Wonderland—with her own quirky twist. Greta wears a puffy, disheveled wedding dress, complete with satin knickers and pantyhose. Her hair is frizzy and teased. Her face is powdered white, with contrasting dark profound eyebrows. The brows alone were worth watching for an hour! Munoz had an exquisite range of facial expressions. She engaged and entertained from the get-go, holding our attention without dialogue.

    The audience joined the beloved Greta on her quest to find a man to marry—all without the use of dialogue. She has prepared the entire wedding; from the ring, the cake, and the ceremony. All she is missing is someone to marry (and a celebrant). This is where the audience comes into play. Munoz interacts with the audience superbly. She finds the balance between teasing audience members and accepting their offers. We follow the poignant and hilarious narrative of Greta and her selected audience member’s wedding day, and the quirky mishaps and playfulness around these peculiar marriage rituals.

    Unfortunately the season has closed, however if you ever get the chance to watch this performance, you must! She is one talented human who has perfected the art of being a clown.


  • Review: The ACB with Honora Lee

    Jane Waddel and her creative team delivered a sensitive, heart-warming, and animated adaption of The ACB with Honora Lee, a 2012 novel by New Zealand’s adored author Kate De Goldi. The narrative follows granddaughter Perry’s blossoming relationship with her rather forgetful grandmother. Through the eyes of Perry, a nine year old girl, the audience gains insight into the colourful naivety and curious wisdom she possesses.

    The show begins with petite Perry sprawled on the ground scribbling a picture of a bumblebee. Lauren Gibson (Perry) captures the essence of the nine year old girl extremely well. She is thoughtful, energetic, and eccentric; with bubbling mannerisms and ideas. Similarly, Ginette McDonald as grandmother Honora Lee, gave a strong, truthful performance. Stroppy and stubborn, or bossy and boisterous, her unconventional Granny qualities and passion for the alphabet made her character all the more charismatic. It takes acting skill and talent to embody the characters in such lights.

    The transitions between scene, gave colour and humor. They were lively and buoyant; punctuated by the sound (John McKay) of felt-tip pens sketching on a pad with AV projections (Blackburn and Longstaff) of live drawings. Overheard between the scenes was the voice of young Perry humming or imitating an onomatopoeic sound, such as buzzing like a bee or spewing, the way children do.

    Shelia Horton’s costume design was simple and effective; a visual representation of the changing seasons. The shift from summer garments to winter scarves and jackets was seamless.

    The play epitomized a very New Zealand-esque, non-confrontational attitude towards serious issues such as death and grieving, dementia and growing old. Perry’s character embodied a fresh, ingenuous outlook on this ingrained cultural attitude. Particularly in the Santa Lucia rest home scenes, where the sadness and heartache of the characters were layered with humour.





    Developer: Superhot Team

    Publisher: Superhot Team, IMGN.PRO

    Platform: PC (Windows, OS X, Linux), Xbox One


    First created as part of a game jam back in 2013 and funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Superhot could have easily been another overly ambitious indie project that failed to live up to expectations. Instead it steps out of that dark shadow and achieves much of what it set out to do, but not before it fucks with your head.

    The core concept behind Superhot is that “time only moves when you move,” an idea that is so simple you wonder why nobody has tried it before. Essentially, you are placed in a permanent bullet time, enabling you to plan out a method of attack right down to individual gunshots while avoiding enemy fire. The enemies are relentless in their pursuit of you, and with only a single hit point, one misstep could see you eating a fatal bullet.

    You have typical FPS weapons at your disposal (pistol, shotgun, and semi-auto rifle), plus katanas, baseball bats, and even improvised weapons. The core mechanic allows you to pull off some ridiculous manoeuvres. Never before has punching an enemy, grabbing their gun, and then blowing their head off been so satisfying. A minimalist cyberpunk-inspired environment complements the mechanics and makes the game easy to pick up. If it’s red, it’s an enemy; if it’s black, use it as a weapon. Once you’ve completed a level, a voice over repeats “SUPERHOT” while a replay of your run without the time delays is shown. It’s impossible to not feel like a badass once you’re done.

    With all this in mind, little can prepare you for the mind-fuckery that is the campaign. There appears to be a trend running that sees games utilising a postmodern metanarrative, which toy with the player’s expectations of what a game can do. Many of these games are set within a simulated operating system that, for one reason or another, does not want you to play the game. Superhot is no exception, complete with DOS-style menus and some creative ASCII art. For the sake of spoilers I won’t delve further into the specifics of the story, but let’s just say there’s a reason people are calling Superhot “the most innovative shooter […] in years,” and it’s not the one you’re thinking of.

    The campaign is definitely interesting, but there is one issue that simply cannot be overlooked: for a skilled player, it is barely two hours long. With a current price tag of $34.99, the value proposition is not particularly compelling. I am interested in metanarrative and did find the campaign quite satisfying, but I died an awful lot during my campaign run which artificially extended my total playtime. Some games can do an awful lot in just two hours, but Superhot falls short.

    Never fear, for once you complete the campaign there are plenty of challenges and an endless mode to keep you occupied, which can prove to be quite fun. You can even upload and share replays using the game’s Killstagram service, a fun little extra that may well teach you ways to play the game you never thought possible.

    Superhot is indeed an innovative shooter, a simple idea that can feel stretched out but is nevertheless a cool exploration of what the shooter genre is capable of. It’s definitely worth a look, but you might want to wait for a sal-


    …eh, sorry about that.


  • Ravenous Man Dreams of the Deep

    When I was younger, I went water skiing with my family. I wasn’t particularly good at it, spending more time with my head underwater than I did standing up. But, despite this constant failure, I quite enjoyed myself, until all of a sudden something touched my legs. Looking back, this was probably a piece of seaweed or a small fish, but at the time it was Cthulu himself reaching out to drag me into the depths. My parents had to drag me back onboard in an almost catatonic state.

    This experience is exactly what it feels like to listen to the new Mermaidens album, Undergrowth: a sense of unexplained danger, a threatening invisible leviathan that you, the listener, are treading just above.

    Despite the band’s short life span, their sound has changed immensely. Originally comprised of two guitars and a drummer, one could argue that this dish was palatable to a wider audience. But being palatable isn’t excellence. After switching a guitar for a bass, the Mermaidens sound has become a lot more fleshed out—flesh being the best term of use as it invokes images of fish markets, headless creatures being dragged from the depths and put on display. But, these beasts have been cooked to perfection. They are the kind of meal you remember; one that you look back on and judge all other meals against. The tracks “Undergrowth” and intro piece “Under The Mountain II”, are perhaps the best example of this. They have many mouthfuls on offer: tempo shifts and crisp guitar riffs that are buried in feedback, clean and airy vocals that are drenched in reverb and echo, each with an innate sense of beauty that’s obscured, hidden. All of this is just waiting for you to enjoy.

    This is definitely one of my more metaphorical reviews, and with good reason. Undergrowth is steeped in imagery, with continuous themes of crawling, pulling, and escaping. Lines like, “the water is closing/over our heads” (from title track “Undergrowth”) add to the visceral depth of the instrumentals, and create morphing, evolving images as all the best psych rock does—although, I’m wary to label this psych.

    All together, the opposing elements—the dark and brooding environment with glimmers of light floating above—are a very enjoyable listen. If you feel like listening to the best underwater-salem-witch-trials-heavy-psych-alternative-rock that not only Wellington, but New Zealand, has to offer; this is by far the best place to start.

    Five fish on this plate.

    (Full disclosure: I worked with Lily, the bassist of the band, last year and was sent a promo copy of the album to review. However, in the interest of being impartial, I decided to write this review drunk.)



  • French Film 101

    “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”—Jean-Luc Godard, 1991.


    The Alliance Française French Film Festival has been running over the past couple of weeks, so we thought it would be worthwhile to run a review section on the beauty that is French film. Including a 2015/16 entry Marguerite, to the 1999 French comedy Le Dîner de Cons and its American counterpart Dinner for Schmucks, this week’s section showcases the class, prestige, and sometimes absurdity, that French cinema possesses.

    Noted for having a particularly strong film industry, France is the birthplace of many great directors, traditions and movements. Household names include Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, André Bazin, and Agnés Varda; all of whom were founders of the French New Wave. A movement (although never formally organised as such) which rejected traditional literary practices of novelists, and emphasised self-conscious, youthful, and experimental filmmaking.

    Considering this, here are our top suggestions for watching French films:

    1. Subtitles are your friend. Although it may seem obvious, turning subtitles on for a film in a foreign language is always a good first step (no, this doesn’t make you special). This way you can become familiar with the French accent and pronunciation before watching films without your training wheels.
    1. Make it a routine! It may seem daunting to watch a film in a foreign language, but we can assure you that once you start you’ll be hooked. You could try watching one French film in place of one English film every week. Think of it as d’une pierre, deux coups (killing two birds with one stone).
    1. Start with animated films. Because who doesn’t love a great kids flick? The synopsis and characters are generally easier to follow in these films (French cinema is renowned for having complex plots and character development). Try The Painting (2011).


    Films of note:

    Pierrot le Fou (1965), Breathless (1960), Orphée (1950), Jules and Jim (1962), Caché (2005), Summer Hours (2008)



    Director: Xavier Giannoli



    Directed by Xavier Giannoli, Marguerite is the nightmare story of every singer. The wealthy protagonist, Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot), is an atrocious singer, but continues to perform in ever grander venues, ignorant of her terrific lack of talent.

    Set in Paris during the roaring 20s, with gorgeous costuming and elaborate set-design, Marguerite is based on the notoriously awful career of Florence Foster Jenkins, who was an American socialite and amateur opera soprano. The episodic film follows Jenkins’ story faithfully, with an unexpected plot-twist. The film introduces an element of naivety that Jenkins perhaps did not have (Jenkins carefully made sure not to invite critics to her performances, while Marguerite invites them wholeheartedly). The film progresses in its cringe-worthy glory as no one, including her ambivalent husband (André Marcon), has the courage to break the fantasy of Marguerite’s talents.

    Satirical of the allowances given to the rich, Giannoli creates an absolute farce, questioning the line between loyalty and betrayal. Marguerite’s self-delusion astounds, and its perseverance against impossible odds amuses and horrifies. Class pretensions are pointedly played upon, tragedy strikes. All in all, this film was a pleasure to watch.

    For those of you who, like me, need the English subtitles, rest assured that the experience is not lessened—you can still tell that the singing is awful! The only retraction is that, like a lot of French films, it’s a little slower than mainstream cinema.


    Français ou Américain?

    A review of Le Dîner de Cons


    Director: Francis Veber



    Many of you will have heard of Dinner for Schmucks (2010), since it stars Paul Rudd and Steve Carell. Unfortunately not many of you will have heard of Le Dîner de Cons (1998), the original French film it was based on, despite the protagonists being played by equally famous actors—Thierry Lhermitte and Jacques Villeret. And, you may not know that its first incarnation was a stage play written by the same French director, Francis Veber.

    Le Dîner de Cons is magnificent from the opening credits, with a whimsical song that is full of puns on the word con: which can mean anything from c*nt to fool, and about everything in between. The film creates a mood of exasperation and utter disbelief at the sheer stupidity of some people, as well as the suspicion that no one could be so stupid without doing it on purpose. It must be a con! Here the film brings in an element of English wordplay as well.

    Le Dîner de Cons follows the efforts of a group of businessmen to find the densest people imaginable, who they invite to a weekly dinner and talk about their strange pastimes. Each member seeks to introduce a champion imbecile, and after dinner the ‘most idiotic’ is judged. Hilarity ensues when an avid participant, Monsieur Brochant, is tipped off to a particularly eccentric matchstick artist, the bumbling but good-natured Pignon. Hoodwinked into joining the dinner, Pignon is left alone with Brochant at home after a golfing accident renders Brochant incapable of attending. The blundering Mr. Pignon eagerly stays to care for the injured Brochant, even though he causes more trouble.

    Francis Veber delivers a marvellous plot, managing to consistently create situations that provoke laughter, astonishment, and sickening wrenches of frustration. Pignon, incompetent as ever, manages to make a final gaffe as his one success is unintentionally foiled, leaving the audience crying with laughter at the end of the film. Truly, the last word “con!” is correct.

    Meanwhile, Dinner for Schmucks takes the concept and strips it of wittiness, mystery, and malicious joy. The dinner itself is a feature of the film, the subplot of marriage woes becomes a ‘McGuffin’ (a plot enabling device that the protagonist pursues with little or no narrative explanation—so it’s basically just for laughs), and the ending is happy. Brochant’s character is made more sympathetic, and instead of being a regular contestant he is a first-time participant, trying to win the competition, rather than playing for fun. Other changes are made to the plot, leaving characters benign and out of touch with the deadpan severity of the original film. The schadenfreude element (the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others) is softened, the cruelty of humanity glossed over, the hilarity Americanised and just not as good.

    Even with subtitles, Le Dîner de Cons was a hyena-cackle inducing film. Dinner for Schmucks? I could barely watch until the end, it was so cringe-worthy. The humour is so different! The French, who appreciate cleverness and sarcastic, droll, mocking humour, do not self-deprecate themselves in jokes (in general).

    In contrast, American humour can’t be too mean, aggressive, ironic, or satirical, especially when the butt of the joke totally lacks self-awareness. Situations and statements are made hyperbolic to emphasise their falseness, or enhance their absurdity.

    Puns. The French language offers so much more opportunity with wordplay!

    Convinced yet? If not, go watch Le Dîner de Cons. You’ll learn what ROFL really means.



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