I look for plusses everywhere these days.

I was very happy at the weekend. I have a small-ish collection of movies, for a computer geek who stores everything worth anything onto hard disk. Of that small collection, a disproportionate number of them are in French.

I find that Hollywood films (and, by extension, British films) are mostly pretty rubbish, but have found over the years that French cinema has produced some brilliant storylines. I always used to buy films with their original soundtrack, but with English subtitles – dubbing was not for me because part of the process was to pick up snippets of the language to take away with me. My knowledge of French was enough to set me on the right track, and with the help of subtitles the films made sense to me. Even if subtitles aren’t massively accurate. True to form, many of the films were useful just for picking up small phrases and later using them over in France.

But with my eyes not being so good, my collection of French cinema has remained untouched for the last few years. Until last weekend.

I was home alone, my wife away visiting family, so had some time on my hands. So, on Saturday I watched what is probably my favourite film ever, in any language, one called Le Bonheur est dans le Pré (which Google translates as Happiness is in the Field, and who can argue with Google?)

I’m not big on actors, but this film contains one of my favourites, Michel Serrault. You might have heard of him from La Cage aux Folles.

But I’m not going to go into detail about either the film, or the actor. I have them as ideas for future posts, so don’t want to spoil the surprise! Suffice it to say that I got through the film, my eyes and ears kept the pace, and I could follow what was going on.

On a roll, on Sunday, I watched Robert de Niro (and Jean Reno, another favourite) in Ronin. This film is mostly in English, with a scattering of French, so a bit easier. It helps that it is set in Paris and Arles, both of which have happy memories. Again, I passed with flying colours, although I could feel the late night yesterday!

More on Music

I posted on my musical tastes here. Reading it back, it is as much about my politics as my musical tastes. I re-read it, and it contains some omissions.

I am a child of the Eighties, which means I just saw the tail-end on punk music. I always loved the speed of the beat. Of course, a lot of punk was as much about politics as music. I suspect the musicians thought that too. (!)

This speedy beat also had me listening to the Pogues and Shane MacGowan. London-Irish, of the time, and again politically charged. Former British colonies tend to do very well for political material! And, of course, it’s still going on in Northern Ireland, where sectarian politics still reigns. That, in turn, unlocked the door to Irish folk music – you know, tin whistles and fiddles. Plus Irish artists like Christy Moore. And, of course, you can’t listen  to the music – I can’t – without wanting to know about Irish history, why these people sing what they sing. Ironically, the city I left, Liverpool, has an enormous Irish scene. This has even fostered visits to Ireland on holidays – if you’re considering it, get out of the cities of Dublin and Cork, get out into the countryside and find the real Ireland.

Super-fast music. A million miles away from my slower, chilled-out reggae, although I must also admit to enjoying ska, another Jamaican invention. One of the beauties of Youtube is that I can listen to a lot of the old ska tracks by the Jamaican record labels, probably never before released outside of the island.

There are other artists that I haven’t yet mentioned, more “poppy”. Not particularly meaningful, just music I enjoy. Paul Heaton, in all his forms. I was very much the right age for The Housemartins, and I remember they played Cardiff Uni when I was there. The Manic Street Preachers too – they are from the Welsh valleys, so I saw them a few times in Cardiff before they became massive. They’re still going and in fact played at Southampton, around twenty miles away from me here, just a few months ago. I was sorely tempted, but in the end decided against remortgaging the house so I could buy the ticket – the CDs will have to do.

Then, of course, there’s George. Back to my Beatle roots. In fact, the Beatle era stifled George, I think, and he came out with this rich vein of music post-Beatles, much of which I now own. I can admire Paul McCartney’s gift for writing catchy poppy tunes, but for me there is no comparison. And, of course, this sets off a whole new trail. From George, to the Wilburys, to Orbison…

How to conclude? I’m not one of these people who say that “music is my life”, and I’ll certainly never get 10/10 in the Popmaster quiz, but I think music can supplement life, and enhance it. I have my loves and my hates, as I’m sure we all do, and a lot of it is just noise, as I’m sure mine is to other people.