Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It's late, so another video tonight: "Le tourbillon de la vie," sung by Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim.

My mom rented this movie for me the summer after my freshman year of college--I had a year's worth of French under my belt, so she thought it was something I ought to see.

"I saw this movie once, years ago, and I don't remember anything about it," my mom said as she put the disc into the DVD player, "except that at one point Jeanne Moreau sings a little song with a guitar."

After watching the movie, I understood what my mother meant. Because this song is unforgettable.

It is a perfect two minutes of film--all the more so because of its imperfections. Moreau sings the wrong lyrics at one point, and later she dips her head so her mouth nearly moves out of frame. But I love that Truffaut chose to use this take, rather than one that seemed less natural and spontaneous.

I'm posting this today because Jeanne Moreau is my new favorite actress and so this song has been running through my head. And also, I think it goes well with the Brel song I posted yesterday, for reasons that I am having a hard time articulating. Well, so "le tourbillon de la vie" means "the whirlpool of life," and the lyrics describe a never-ending cycle of an on-again off-again relationship. And even if you don't know French, you can hear that the music of it is circular too, going round and round. Because it's a perfect moment, you imagine you could go on listening to it forever, its endless circularity.

And the Brel "Valse à Mille Temps" is a circular song too--it's about a dance, the waltz, where you whirl around and around; the music churns and repeats; the lyrics have to do with the cycle of growing up and falling in love; Brel performs it while spinning on a merry-go-round. (In the American musical Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris, this song got translated as "We're On a Carousel.") So I get a similar feeling when listening to both these songs--like there is some wisdom buried within them, though they may seem like mere little ditties on a first hearing. And I've been wondering why these circular chansons affect me so deeply, and feel so profound.

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