Cinematic Mad Love – Fou d’Amour

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The darkest of dark comedies or a strangely seductive decent into insanity? In Mad Love (Fou d’Amour) a comic morality tale and a terrifying depiction of a monstrously deluded man merge. Highly charged and tinged with eroticism, the story of a small town priest’s romantic foibles makes for compulsive viewing.

 Set in an isolated French village with a fecund green landscape, the film begins with the beheading of its protagonist, a priest (Melvil Poupaud). With his head lying untended in a corner away from the bloody guillotine, the priest begins to narrate his story, and what brought him to his death.

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As self-justifying in death as he has been in life, he tells of his arrival in the small town of Albon, apparently transferred after rumors of an untoward sexual dalliance in a less isolated town. As played by Poupaud, above, the priest is a magnet for the unsatisfied women of the town, including a wealthy widow, Armance; a lusty milkmaid, Odette; and several other pliant women. With Armance’s help he starts a soccer club and a theater group, supplementing his priestly and carnal duties to stave off boredom.

As a religious mentor, the priest is sorely lacking in virtue, but he infuses the town with a lively spirit, providing activities both innocent and lustful that engage many of the town-folk.

His secret trysts and non-secular activities are briefly questioned by a priest from a neighboring town and his superior, but any concerns are sloughed off, and the priest’s rather idyllic existence is allowed to continue.

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But then comes the arrival of Rose (Diane Rouxel), a stunningly lovely and innocent young blind woman who joins his theater group. The two initially seem somewhat evenly matched in both their passion and secretiveness; Rose arranges their initial clandestine meetings under the nose of her grandmother. Rose is as much seductress as she is seduced, appearing before the priest naked, clad only in a sheer veil. But, of course, none are so blind as those who will not see, to paraphrase the Old Testament.

123635_-_h_2015As inevitable as the slice of the guillotine, things do not stay idyllic for long. Rose becomes pregnant and the priest becomes unhinged, first abusing Rose, then begging her forgiveness. It is Rose, however who gives the priest his penance, denying him access to her, and leaving the village for a time.

Despite spending a week in the woods waiting for God’s answer to desperate prayers and renouncing some of his more earthly pleasures, when Rose returns to town, ready to give birth, the reason for the priest’s date with the guillotine becomes horrifyingly clear.

While the film’s tone never wavers from the darkly comic tone set by its self-aggrandizing narrator,  it does darken in its penultimate moments, when the priest eliminates the threat to his ministry.

Somewhat surprisingly based on a true story, the film has the look and feel of a fable, from its bucolic village setting to the justice of the priest’s beheading. Although set in the 1950s, this tale could be told anywhere in time,  one of both madness and vanity. Visually, director Phillipe Ramos, who also serves as his own cinematographer, has created images that are steeped in a kind of fairy-tale quality, rich and damp, with stone buildings and dusty stables something that transcend time.

As lyrical and licentious as its narrator, Mad Love is about a delusion that reaches even beyond the grave, its wry sense of humor leading viewers to a complicit involvement in the priest’s twisted confessionary story.

Heartopia: Have a Heart

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SantaClarita_flyer_moresquarishThis Friday, February 9th, Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Main and The City of Santa Clarita are presenting, Heartopia, an exhibition featuring selected works from artist Jennifer Korsen. Heart themed art, cocktails, and an interactive installation –  a fitting celebration of five years of community outreach showcasing past collaborations from Korsen’s What’s in Your Heart Project.
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The event will feature installations, new mixed media work and pieces from the artist’s private collection which will be sold in an online auction hosted by Bid27. There will also be T-shirts and posters for sale featuring the event’s signature pattern, above. The evening’s proceeds will go towards What’s in Your Heart Project, a platform created by Korsen to connect community with charitable organizations inspiring creative expression through art, which began as an exercise with a leadership group of high school girls in South LA.
Korsen says “Heartopia is really different than anything I’ve ever done! It features my largest installation to date, as well as a few other fun interactive installations and surprises. I created an immersive world of hearts, and am highlighting some of my favorite pieces from my collection to raise funds for my community projects. We will have live screen printing from Family Industries and I’m hoping for a really unique and special evening.”
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The event is a fundraiser, and Korsen is auctioning off some of her personal collection to help raise them. “For every $500 in art sales, I will be donating a workshop to a local school or institution that can be chosen by the buyer, if they like. It’s a new way of doing this, but I’m excited to get my work in some new homes and further that by bringing my art to the community as well. It’s kind of like a buy one, give one kind of thing,” she says. “They get original art at a great price and the workshop gets donated to people who would benefit from it. And I get some room in my studio to create more art.”
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The heart shape is the common thread that connects all of Korsen’s work. “I have everything from sculpture to installation to paintings, mixed media pieces and more. I love exploring new mediums and pushing myself to stay creative and find new ways to incorporate my heart. I do a solo show every February, so keeping it fresh is a really fun challenge.”
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She began creating hearts 9 years ago. “I was doing a lot of anatomical collages, and after doing one heart out of some fancy paper it kind of just stuck. I got obsessed and kept doing more and more. I haven’t run out of inspiration yet and I’m hoping I never do!”

The event takes place February 9th, 7 – 11 pm at The Main, 24266 Main Street in Newhall.

Genie Davis, Photos: Fanny Chu 

C’est Magnifique: Two Tres French Classics

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Are you looking for a little Gaelic love? Then you can’t go wrong with a stop at either Dominique’s Kitchen, above, a favorite near the sea in Redondo Beach; or a visit to either Normandie Bakery and Cafe Josette, or Chef Josette on Melrose, two delightful mid-city locations.

Starting at the beach, Dominique’s Kitchen offers a homey blend of traditional French dishes and a cozy, candlelit dinner setting.

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Paris-trained chef Dominique Theval serves generous and affordable portions of dishes he creates daily from scratch. We began with a popular starter at the restaurant, a white bean salad with kale, lemon juice and olive oil topped with parmesan cheese slivers,  and accompanied by several crisp, house-made crostini for dipping. Both lemon and garlic made the white beans zing. It was a vibrantly tasty accompaniment to our European bottled beers, along with the delightful, airy house-made French baguette, served cut up and warm, fresh from the oven.

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A small but elegant wine and beer list adds to the dining pleasure.

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We also sampled what is perhaps the restaurant’s prize appetizer, a classic escargot imported from Bourgogne, France. The snails are baked in a succulent garlic butter. Chewy, hearty, and rich –  the dish is served in-shell.

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For our entrees, we chose a pasta and a fish dish.  One of the most popular pasta dishes is the thick and creamy lobster ravioli in a rich lobster and champagne reduction. The dish was crowned with an unlikely combination of broccoli florets and pecans, which worked exceptionally well.

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We also went with an impressively ample organic Scottish salmon, served atop an Italian white bean stew with tomatoes, black olives, and basil. The filet was elegantly prepared with a juicy garlic and olive oil infusion. Also on the menu are roasted chicken, a Prime cut of steak, a delicate sole, and an array of pasta dishes including a very French version of macaroni and cheese. Cheese fondue is also offered.

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There are a number of lovingly prepared desserts on the menu as well; for us the standout was the white and dark Belgian chocolate mousse, a lovely mix of chocolate flavors; although the light and fluffy lime panna cotta with pineapple mint compote was also a sound choice.

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One good Gallic experience deserves another, and we also dined at one of the dynamic Josette LeBlonde’s eponymous cafes. We visited her original Cafe Josette location, which abuts the Normandie Bakery, where beautiful desserts, breads, and authentic French foods are made and served. The dining location here is resolutely casual, with sidewalk tables brightening an otherwise semi-industrial neighborhood. Her Melrose location is dressier and sleeker, but still a friendly, warm, and welcoming cafe.

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She creates perfectly made delicate chocolate and pain au raisin croissants, macaroons, such as her savory tomato basil or pea flavors, and more traditional flavors such as raspberry, strawberry, pistachio, and delectable caramel. Her signature crème brulé, meringues, and velvety Passion cake are astonishingly lovely.

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Moving beyond pastry, she’s renowned for her pâtés. Versions she creates include everything from pork and duck to vegetarian pâté.

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Her menu features favorites such as escargot, merguez, coq au vine and bourguignon.

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Her mergez may be the most unusual dish on the menu, one which may not be familiar to many in Los Angeles. It’s a spicy red beef or mutton-based sausage that originated in North African cuisine. But there are also  seafood pasta, chicken crepes, French onion soup, quiche, and a carefully-curated selection of cheeses and pâtés on the menu, along with those incredible desserts.

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We had a  zucchini quiche,  crisp and perfect, cheesy but not heavy, with a light, lemony couscous and rosemary onion potatoes on the side.  We also had a smooth, satisfying eggs Benedict made with perfect, tender salmon.

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And yes, here, too, there was escargot, fragrant with butter, parsley, garlic, and Pernod.

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Perhaps best of all was a vegetarian pate, light and redolent of tarragon, and served along with a more traditional duck liver pate.

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The chocolate mousse was rich, dark, and topped with chocolate shavings. We took home a brioche and a croissant: both ooh la la worthy indeed.

So – there’s no need to go to Paris for terrific French food. We have several authentically magnifique destinations right here in SoCal.

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Dominique’s Kitchen – 522 S Pacific Coast Hwy, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Chef Josette Bistro  – 3022 S Cochran Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90016 and 707 N Stanley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke and Genie Davis