Parlez-vous Francais?

The Alliance Francais French Film Festival has arrived in Perth. I’ve decided to see a selection of the movies and began this afternoon with an adaptation of a Victor Hugo novel. The movie is L’homme qui rit or The Man Who Laughs. It’s set somewhere in time before the Revolution , even before the Enlightenment, and stars that ubiquitous French actor, Gerard Depardieu. The lesser known actors playing the roles of Gwynplaine  (the disfigured laughing man), and Dea, (the blind girl whom he rescues as a child),  beautifully embody the tragic lovers of the tale. The film alludes to the decadent society of pre-revolutionary France but could be set anywhere in any time. In a persistently understated manner it powerfully evokes the value of love as the thing which will ultimately carry the soul beyond whatever mortal torments may be experienced in life. Although the focus is on the impoverished of the country, represented in the strolling players and their audiences,  in the person of the Duchess, a self-described lost entity, we  see how love can also reach through to  allow at least pause for reflection, even in one so far gone.

The themes are as relevant today as they were in Victor Hugo’s time and also in the age before that in which he has set his story. At its end, Ursus (Depardieu’s character) who has told us he’s never cried for anything, despite the appalling conditions experienced by his peers all around him, stands silently weeping as he witnesses the death of Dea. Gwynplaine  soon follows her. Ursus weeps for the loss of innocence. But his tears are also for joy in recognising that love will finally triumph.

It’s a beautiful film. I strongly recommend it.

The other story which brought tears to my own eyes during the last few days is a true one (and all the worse for being so). In the Maldives a fifteen year old girl (about Dea’s age) has been brutalised by her father and other males in her family almost all her life. Constantly raped and abused, when her situation became public knowledge she was immediately condemned for acts of fornication and condemned to receive 100 lashes to be administered before all in her community. This is a situation of almost inconceivable obscenity and yet is entirely in conformity with the country’s laws. Organisations including Amnesty and Avaaz are marshalling the outrage of all sensible people in a program to produce millions of signatures in petition to the Maldivean government to repeal this sentence and the law which allowed it. I pray they will be successful.

The bestiality of one section of society in its acts against another section is as present in our contemporary world as it was in Victor Hugo’s and, to the shame of humankind, has ever been since the beginning of history.

I went to see a film for entertainment. And I was entertained because of the beauty of the story. But the horror lying beyond the entertainment makes me also cry silent tears.


If we haul on the rope, will it be enough to bring the sun above the horizon,

Will this be a day to die and rise, a day when love will be abroad.

Ruari Jack Hughes


Ain’t Love Grand?!

She’s back! After three days of stooging around on my own, my lady is home. She’s been away at a conference about stuff on which she is some sort of wizard and about which I couldn’t even begin to comment. Computer stuff — something I’ve decided you either have in your blood or you don’t. I most definitely don’t.

It’s interesting how you get involved with another person and you know it’s right. There’s something which connects you and you can’t really define it or put any explanation to why this one rather than the million or more others out there who are reasonably available no matter what age you are, what you look like or any other criterion which you may think matters. We all call it love largely for want of more imagination since the word is so hopelessly debased in current usage. Still, it’s a word that’s been around a long time and I reckon it does fairly well to get the idea across about how there is this someone in your life that you can’t imagine not being there and you still surviving. Well, not for too long anyway.

But while all that’s said, there’s still this strange business that we never fully know the other one. No matter how long you’ve been together (in our case it’s a very long time), how many places you’ve been to, how many things you’ve done, how many arguments you’ve had, how many times you’ve forgotten why you even had the argument, how many times you’ve slept together (and how many of those times were after you had sex), there is still a mystery. Maybe that’s what keeps you together. That ultimate unknowability of the other. The fascination of someone who isn’t you, has a separate being and personality, a unique take on the world.

For very many years I have known that every day brings forth something new. Almost never do I pull the sheets up and nod off to dreamland without recognising that today I had a new experience unlike any before. Or I learnt a new fact. Or the one I love revealed yet another facet of herself that I hadn’t seen previously. It’s quite wonderful and apparently it’s an endless possibility. So I’m very glad she’s back.

Here’s a poem to finish, and since it’s about love, it had to be a sonnet, Right?

Can it be Different Now?

Know that you were loved
In the break of day
When sunlight had moved
The shadows from where you lay
And as the night fell
Scattering stars in its wake
Like the casting of a spell
Love was there for you to take.

Can it be different now?
Only the years have passed by
Day and night are the same
Can anything here disallow
The moon to rise or the sun to lie
Or love to echo the sound of your name?

Ruari Jack Hughes

That’s What Friends Are For

Just shared a BBQ dinner at our place with two of my closest friends. I’ve known Robin for 45 years and Alan for not much less. Yet it’s not like we see each other often (though that may change since they’ve recently moved to the same suburb). It’s not the frequency of contact however, that makes some people the sort of friends who you feel are a part of your life and always will be. There’s little to distinguish these true friends from family. You can go sometimes for years without seeing each other and then pick up the conversation as if it was just a day or two since you were last talking. There’s a level of affection that’s more than just ‘friendly’. Friends in this category of relationship are the ones who give back to you. Every time you see them (or even just think about them) there is the knowledge that you have been confirmed as who you are. Your sense of yourself is reinforced in the recognition that you are someone important to the other. It is of course, another form of love.


An epigram for the day:


Love is always there

In our lives and in our hopes

Making all things well

Ruari Jack Hughes