September 4th, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Georgie and I had a relaxing Labor Day Weekend (by our standards--). This meant getting up a half-hour earlier than we normally do on working days on Saturday in order to drive to Madison for the Farmer's Market. We had planned to meet friends there, and indeed a number did show up for the 9:00AM (ish) rendesvous: Henry Osier, Sari Stiles, and John and Carol Ferraro all made it. Sari, Carol and John were all new to the Market, so we had fun going around with them and pointing out the vendors we particularly like. As expected, this is High Season for the Market, and we bought many good things, inlcuding cheese from Bleu Mont, fresh trout fillets, corn, tomatoes, smoked pork, grass fed beef, lamb, and of course croissants from L'Etoile's cafe operation (delicious, as always!).

After packing our purchases in the cooler, we went our separate ways, leaving the others to explore Madison as they would, since we had comitted to visit my parents at the nursing home in Wyocena.

It was a very pleasant drive up to the small village in Coumbia County where the Health Care Facility was located. We visited with them for an hour or so before shoving off to put our groceries in cold storage. I hope our visit gave Dad and Mama some comfort, since it's apparent that they are not very happy there, despite the fact that it's probably about as good as a nursing home can be. They have a large double room and have their own TV and refrigerator, and the staff seems pleasant and careful, although of course they are not as numerous as might be desired. The thing that bugs my father the most is that the state canceled his driver's licence on his doctor's recommendation, so they are pretty much stuck there. Not that they ever really went anywhere when they lived at home, but I think it's partly the principle of the thing.

We got home late afternoon, and had bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches for supper using the Market tomatos--yum! In the evening, we watched "Pan's Labyrinth" (previously reviewed in this journal) on DVD and reaffirmed our opinion of how good it was, noticing some subtleties we had missed on first watching at the theatre. We did not know that the movie was about to win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form). In my opinion, the award was well deserved.

Sunday, we slept in, and found that very refreshing. About noon, we went out to the Waukesha County Fairgrounds (aka Expo Center) for the second day of the Wisconsin Highland Games. This event has been going on for a few years, but this was the first time we had gotten out to it. All in all, a nice little Highland Games, with a slightly broader spectrum of participation than the more traditional Milwaukee Highland Games that go on first weekend in June. Notable was the presence of the local Society for Creative Anachronism, which put on some entertaining demonstrations of fighting during the day. There were a nice variety of vendors, with a bit more emphasis on gear (swords and knives) than the Milwaukee Games, which has more clothing and music. Nevertheless, my major purchase was a lovely Irish wool shawl/capelet for Georgie. Since I like swords and such, I was intersted to see that, while there were some good deals to be had on workmanlike swords, such as reproduction basket-hilted broadswords, with the exception of traditional Scottish pattern dirks and skean dhus, most of the daggers, ect., were purely decorative--the kind of things with elaborately decorated pot-metal hilts.
There was also a good variety of ethnic and non-ethnic foods, including, we were glad to see, the Infamous Welsh Cookie Company--we bought two dozen.

I used to say, back in the day when Wisconsin's football team was uniformly at the bottom of the Big Ten but still filled the stadium every weekend, was what the University was doing was throwing a party for 80,000 with a football game as part of the entertainment. It seems this way with Highland Games as well. We had a pretty good ethnic fair going on, while off to one side the judges and participants went about the serious business of Scottish and Irish Heavy Athletics largely ignored by the crowd. (The SCA fighting got a bigger audience at any given time.) I think this is because most of the events are done at a very deliberate pace; a weight is thrown or tossed, measurements paced off, repeat. Once you've seen a bit of the more outre events such as tossing the caber or the sheaf toss, it's not very exciting unless you are really interested in the nuances of the hammer throw versus throwing the weight for distance. Most Highland Games in these parts don't include events like the Kilted Mile footrace, and Sword Dancing is a separate competition if there is a Dance Contest. I would like to see some of the Heavy Athletics men doing the Sword Dance--I bet many of them could, and seeing man of that size do it would be impressive.

We went home and dined on the trout we had bought at the Farmer's Market (delicious!). After dinner, we had an invitation to an Open House for the new residence of our friends Kevin and Julie Dixon-Seidel, at 84th and Rogers in West Allis. After a year of shopping for a new home, they found one with a lot of really nice features, and we were glad to help "warm" it for them.

Monday morning we slept a bit late, but got up and around in time to do a few chores before going to the Oriental Theater for the 1:00PM showing of "Moliere." A detailed review will follow, but this movie attempts to do for France's preeeminient playwrite what "Shakespeare In Love" did for Shakespeare: humanize him, and shed some fictional light on his early career. The film is a very enjoyable romantic comedy, and one does not really need to know anything about Moliere's work in order to enjoy it.

Monday evening, we relaxed with books and sewing preparing for the return of work on Tuesday.


This 2007 romantic comedy very loosely based on the life of France's great comic playwrite, should not be confused with the 1978 biopic, which is rather more historically accurate.

Bits of Moliere's life do form a framework for the action of the movie: he was the well-educated son of a well-off middle-class family who went off to work in the theatre, and did spend thirteen years in the provinces perfecting his craft before returning to Paris to a successful career enjoying the patronage of the royal family.

Although it is true that Moliere's company had a notable lack of success before decamping for rural France, there is no indication he was ever arrested for debt, and he was certainly never bought out of prison to become the indentured acting coach of a social-climbing bourgeoisie, the events that begin the plot of this movie. In fact, Monsieur Jordain (Fabrice Luchini) and his long-suffering wife, Elmire (Laura Morante) are the real stars of the piece, although Moliere (Romain Duris) quickly falls into the role of the clever servant who helps sort out the family's domestic issues. Chief among these is Jourdain's social ambition. A wealthy commoner, he not only aspires to court connections, but has also conceived an inappropriate infatuation with the young, handsome, and heartless Marquise Célimène (Ludivine Segnier). He has tried to buy influence through the greedy and impoverished nobleman Dorante (Edouard Baer) who uses Jourdain and his money shamelessly, and hopes to marry his son to Jourdain's money--er, daughter. Jourdain hopes to attract the Marquise's attention by performing a vigniette of his own composition, and dragoons Moliere to help him prepare for it. Of course he can't tell his wife what he is up to, so introduces the actor into the house in priest's garb as a tutor for a younger daughter, under the name "M. Tartuffe". once there, he becomes reomantically involved with the neglected Elmire, and tangled up in plots to avoid having the elder daughter married off lovelessly to gain Dorante's son's title. Moliere is also instrumental in opening Jourdain's eyes about the Marquise and returning his affection to his wife.

Laura Morante as Elmire Jourdain is beautiful and dignified as a woman who believes she has outlived love, then finds passion being uncomfortably rekindled. Her lack of ability to manage her own life makes her a bit unlikely as Moliere's muse and font of wisdom, but it seems to work in their scenes together, which are both tender and elegant.

Romain Duris is fun to watch as Moliere, and is an impressive physical actor. The scene wherein he is giving acting lessions to Jourdain and not only mimics "a horse" but different BREEDS of horses is really well done. (The historical Moliere had a genuine natural talent for mimicry from an early age; however, I think his teaching techniques are a bit advanced for the times--.)

The plot is fun and one does not need to know Moliere's canon in order to enjoy it, but of course it enhances things if you do: Jourdain is the kind of personality that gave rise to satire characters such as Orgon in "Tartuffe," and bits occur that Moliere "later uses" (and of course are actually borrowed from) plays such as "Tartuffe," "Les Précieuses Ridicules" (The Affected Young Ladies)", and "Les Fourberies de Scapin" (Scapin's Deceits).

In French, with English subtitles.