Un Village Français

A French Village is set in German occupied France, World War II. We are being shown local townspeople being forced to make choices to survive. It is romantic, because there is always love when you are in a traumatic situation. It is not biased and so you see bad Germans and bad French. What is amazing is that the most important thing that you see is people at war. As you watch it, you have to try not to view this from the lens of an educated person who obviously knows what happened during WWII. You must try to behave as ignorantly as the characters are to have an ability to appreciate their choices and empathize with them. Some people you don’t empathize with such as the character Heinrich Müller, who enjoys putting cigarettes out on people. Including the one he loved.

Heinrich and Hortense

Today, I watched the first episode of the third season and was struck by the fact that I felt as I did when I worked in the county government for eight years. In this episode the head of the local government, the prefect (I believe he is called or deputy prefect) is handed a list of Jewish names to round up in the neighborhood. Up until this time, the city of Villenueve was protected and the Jewish people could more or less feel their lives were somewhat safe, although they were unable to run their businesses. In this tiny town, they assumed that the Prime Minister Phillipe Pétain, had the power to protect French Jews from being deported. In this episode we learn that this has now changed. When I worked for the county government our mindset was “What was in the best interests of the children,” until the recession hit. Then it was all about saving money and putting them in the cheapest places. I fought this and all the other changes that were going on until I was put on Administrative Leave for a year and then I finally quit. I quit because their evidence was lies or fabricated stories and I knew I would be fired if I stuck around.  I couldn’t believe that a huge agency like that would be so concerned about me (there were lots of people involved). So while, my personal situation with the government is a far cry from making decisions during World War II, I like putting things into perspective with the here and now.

Marcel Larcher, a communist

When you think of a soldier at war, doing what he or she is told to do, they really don’t have any choices of whether or not they like it. When the “team” loses, suddenly we turn on them, and everyone is punished; whether they really had a choice or not. This is something I keep thinking about as I watch this show. While the character may seem bad, you can recognize a corporate boss; eager to get a promotion. You can see a “company man” who does what he is told. When you are working for corporate America or government, this is how most people behave. Most employees don’t sit down and weigh the consequences of what their boss tells them or how it is going to affect people, business, employees, or the community at large. You just do it because that is what you are told. At the end of the day, you go home to your families and try to forget about what you heard.  I didn’t have a family to go home to, so I went home and thought about my day a little more. That was my problem, I thought too much!

As I have seen a trailer for the seventh and last season, I am aware of the fact that many of these people will be blamed for the choices that they made. Every episode has been and is going to be sad and tragic but that one will be the hardest to endure. The reason is that these characters who have lasted till the seventh season, their lives will have been disrupted to the point of forgetting who they are. Already we are seeing choices that are being made to help a Jewish maid, or a lover, or a business associate who is collaborating to stay alive. They aren’t trying to help a vast number of people though at times they try to get the list, for example, from 20 down to 10.

Daniel Larcher, The Mayor

It is really too bad that most Americans, especially liberals won’t see this TV show. As far as I am aware, the only way you can see it now is if you have MHz Choice which is an international channel you have to pay for and have to know it even exists. I was aware of MHz from PBS when they pretended to collect International Mysteries from around the world. After doing some digging I realized the guy on PBS was lying; all they did was purchase a channel. They had me going though for a while there. American liberals love to blame people and do it so loud that you feel nauseous having to listen to it day after day after day. I feel that most of the time it is very hypocritical and seems to lack in values. I am on the border of the left and right and can never seem to sit on one side.

Jeannine Schwartz

We are in an era now where people are being blamed who had ancestors in the Civil War. They want to take down a statue of a soldier in the South, General Robert E. Lee. He was a man who did his job and because he came from the south, chose this side so he wouldn’t be killing his own family. He was a soldier being asked to lead a team, a side of government. If the south had won, we would want to tear down a statue of General Ulysses S. Grant. I don’t see a need to tear down any statue because I am fond of history. General Lee wasn’t responsible for slavery as Adolph Hitler was responsible for the holocaust. It is apples and oranges; but here in America we are not reasonable people. We allow ignorance to prevail because we feel sorry for them (those in this mindset).

A French Village could teach Americans quite a great deal about having to make choices in a time of war.

Raymond Schwartz

Whether or not they would be able to focus on such a great historical show without finding it racist, I could not say.  The show even shows a shady Jewish character, could Americans handle this? This seems to be the new wave of lying to our children. We educate them with period pieces that have politically correct storylines rather than literal or factual storylines. If North and South, probably one of the last great American TV historical fictions made, were filmed today; it would be such a joke. No doubt they would not be able to create an honest re-make. The actors would complain that they could not do the show because they could not speak the historically accurate lines (which would mean they are terrible actors).

I cannot imagine how tense it must have been to be on the set of A French Village. These actors do not ever come out of character, so that we are able to feel as if we are there; with them. I feel transported into another time and place. I feel tense every moment, wondering what will happen to this person or that. So tense that I had to look it all up online to see who will live and who will die. I just couldn’t keep watching without this sense of relief because it is traumatizing to watch this TV show. I do know what happened and while I try to think like the character, I am not perfect. When you feel like these characters are real people and they actually existed, you know you are hooked and drawn in.

If you have read “The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah, published in 2015, you will no doubt appreciate A French Village. I had read it last summer and so it was fresh in my mind. Two completely different stories as Ms. Hannah’s book was a little more biased. I feel it is important that A French Village created a lack of bias so that you can wonder. So that you could have a discussion after watching the show and think a little more deeply about those times.

I grew up with a step-father who took political asylum in the United States in 1956. When I wrote a historical fiction about that time period, it was while I was on leave from the government. It was actually perfect timing to have a sense of communist Hungary. I remember a family member telling me that I was actually on house arrest from my job. At the time, I had no idea why I was being paid to stay at home and do nothing. My father raised me to fear Russians and communists. He told us all kinds of horrible stories. I tried not to be completely biased while writing because I knew some of that was his hatred of people who ruined his life and his family’s lives. As I did research, as most historians due, you read the facts and put together your own interpretation of what you see. This is blended together with the biased interpretations of the people who witnessed. I don’t say biased in a bad way either. No one can ever really know the whole story. A French Village seems to be saying this. They are showing you a broader perspective, 75 years later.


Barre Girl at 55; Do you plié?

If you have ever been one of those women, like me, who has sat by the sidelines for years wishing your mom would have let you be in a ballet class, now there is a new fitness craze created just for you! Barre classes are springing up all over the nation designed to, well, what I call nurture your inner ballerina.

It is hardly a ballet class and yet there is just a hint of it. You will do some plié’s and use first and second position (possibly other positions depending on the instructor) and if you have arthritis setting in, like me, will use the barre more than most people. Mostly you will do planks, downward facing dog, put a ball between your thighs or hold onto it with your back leg in the air. You will do side planks, lift your legs up while in the plank and a lot of other difficult maneuvers (if you are 55). None of this would have been too daunting for me as a 20 year old, back in the 80’s when I was already in advanced yoga and had done gymnastics as a child. It’s a dream class come true a little too late but I am not giving up nor should you. Stick with it and you will begin to have some shape again where the sagging has long begun and if you are young, get going as you will have so much fun!

Recently at one of my classes, taught by Krystal at the Phillip Heit Center in New Albany, Ohio, I began to have an idea for some clothing for the class that I felt would be a great idea. A fun little pun to add to the exciting group we already have (mostly older women) and this was based on what I was already noticing in myself. I started to make a design through a larger outfit who does online DIY clothing but it just wasn’t working for me and I don’t like their pricing or their shipping rates. Then by accident of looking for active wear DIY manufacturers, I stumbled upon a locally owned website called CustomizedGirl. Their prices are more amenable and they offer free shipping for $60 and over which isn’t too hard to spend on there! They also offer some artistic icons to choose from which makes your creations come to life and of course you can also download your own artwork as well.

I created a shop called Enlightened Gal (a name I had come up with a while ago) and got cracking yesterday with my puns. The store sells active wear tops, athletic bag, water bottle, and a few more novelty items for someone in a barre or ballet class. My favorite pun is “I owe my body to a barre,” but I also have “Barre Girl” for young girls as I don’t think it would be appropriate for a little girl in ballet class to be talking about her body (not to mention she hasn’t really formed one yet). But I didn’t stop there, I also have “Do you plié?” on the backs of some of my products or as the main line on hats and mugs. The cutest award goes to a gift item called Teddy Plié in which “it” sports a t-shirt that says “Plié with me.” Awww… I know you have to see it.

Check out the line of clothing I have created (at the moment they only have bottoms for young girls, not misses) and note that while I have most items in grey, pink, black, you can change the colors on some of these items when you go to order them. Keep an eye out though for the sizes when you change colors. Not all sizes are available with each color choice. Also, if you are changing an item from pink to black (for example), make sure to change the font color to white or some other bright color so you can actually see it.

Make sure to like us – Enlightened Gal on Facebook.

Haven’t taken a barre class as of yet? Google search it and find out where the nearest one is to you.

Maria Callas

My first time to hear the name Maria Callas was in a movie about her life. This was called “Callas Forever,” (2002) starring Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons. I was intrigued with the personality and captivated by her voice (which was dubbed in). At this point she was long passed (1977 in Paris, France) and there was no chance of seeing her in concert. I began to immerse myself in everything I could find about her. Documentary, video clips of her singing, and I read Arianna Huffington’s book “Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend,” which also came out in 2002. The funny thing is; I don’t really like opera. When I was reading Ms. Huffington’s book, I kept wondering what an aria was. Somehow I missed the part where she had explained that this is what you call an operatic solo.

I have since attended a couple of operas and I have tried listening to other sopranos but I just don’t get the same feelings as I do when I listen to Ms. Callas. It is hard to explain. It seems to be that I am in love with the person, not the genre and the passionate way she projects herself. I get the same feelings when I listen to a gypsy violin, especially when it is played to sound like a bird singing. This is when the violin is transformed to become another entity as if it is shapeshifting. I like other instruments (except the flute) and I appreciate other violinists but not quite as much as a gypsy violin player.

Her story is rather romantic. Father leaves, mother pushing her daughter to sing from the age of three, her great love marries Jacqueline Kennedy. What is also sad is the bracelet that Aristotle Onassis gave to I believe four women, including Ms. Callas and Kennedy, which all said the same thing and looked the same as well. This did not make me think too highly of him as a partner. At the end of Ms. Callas’s life, she died alone. Perhaps her life could become an opera on its own. 

My favorite fairy tale moment (though it is said to be true), in Ms. Huffington’s book was a time when Ms. Callas had been practicing on the terrace of her mother’s home. Suddenly a man’s voice could be heard, with an equally gifted sound, singing from behind a hedge or was it a tree in the distance. Evidently she never did meet this person but the singing took place a few times and with a particular song which I do not recall.

When I was a young girl, my best friend used to play classical music records at the highest volume so that they could permeate our environment and I was forced to immerse myself in a genre that, at that time, I did not appreciate. Most kids our age were doing this with head banging music, which neither of us liked. Now, I find myself doing this with Ms. Callas’s music. If it is not loud one cannot hear it upstairs while on the computer.

One documentary that I saw, Maria Callas: The Callas Conversations, had interviews with various journalists. In order to sing opera, one has to become something of a linguist and she spoke quite a few languages besides her native Greek dialect. One can learn so much about the art of speaking a language by watching Ms. Callas talk. When she was speaking to a British journalist in English, she was in a very conservative room and she was more subdued or composed in her body language. A lot like my grandma used to say “Sit up straight, legs crossed, hands folded in the lap like a lady.” She even spoke with a British accent (and an American one with another interview on YouTube here in the US). When she was speaking to an French journalist, the room had a more dramatic look to it and suddenly her command of this language was accentuated with hand gestures and a stronger voice. This is quite a talent to envy. 

From what I understand, she was a difficult woman to deal with. At the same time, one can imagine that because her life was a never ending drama, it must have been hard to leave the stage. Today, we talk about famous women being divas. At the same when I hear about this, I wonder how appropriate it is for the person, or shall I say are they just doing it on purpose. There are also famous women who aren’t divas, including great singers. When we make a word out to be a given, it loses its luster.

If you haven’t had a chance to immerse yourself in the aria’s of Ms. Callas, make it a point to do so. She had a lot of critics, just as most famous people do and so it might not be to your liking. If you are not a fan of opera, you might find yourself opening up to a new sound in your home.

Isabelle Huppert – She’s Not Smug

I’ve just finished watching the 2016 film “Things to Come,” and before this I had seen the movie “Elle,” a few months ago. Both were made (or released) in the same year, starring Isabelle Huppert. She has always seemed to me to be a very smug actress and yet I feel drawn to her. I find her characters deeply moving. No matter that she always seems to portray the perfect psychopath, it feels as if she is on the verge of an aneurism. Most Americans would call her characters intellectual snobs. Partly because she is not funny, unlike Woody Allen who can make a discussion in philosophy seem like a night at a comedy club.  Also because she is a woman and while we try to pretend we are modern here, we just can’t handle the honesty portrayed by characters in French movies in general. We pretend to observe and honor freedom of speech in our constitution but only if people say what is popular for the times. In truth, there is no room for a good debate in America which is probably why the traditional “salons” of Paris never existed here. Once we made very good and intelligently written movies, now we have opted for special effects and pop culture actors who speak in slang because a cerebral film would not be considered a “date night” film.

It is interesting though because when I see Isabelle on screen, I think smug. When I went to look up images of her for this article, I saw something quite different. Real life photos and still movie shots don’t really show a smug woman at all unlike Kristen Scott Thomas, who I find extremely annoying to watch on screen. Ms. Scott-Thomas seems incapable of enjoying the company of women and seems like the kind of woman who would never be married but you would always find her with a betrothed man.  Isabelle’s photos instead show a woman in constant thought. Whether this be wondering what to make for supper or hoping the photo shoot will end so she can pick up her cat at the vets; I could not say. In my imagination she is thinking about the conversation she had last night at a dinner party.

And yet this woman, who appears very strong and powerful on screen, is a very petite woman. I had never actually realized this before but in “Things to Come,” it seemed more obvious. She also sports a ponytail and very casual clothing worn in a very chic and stylish way. French women can carry off the cute girl look of someone in their 20’s because they don’t seem fixated on plastic surgery and often seem so young anyway. The irony of French films is that what you see is not what you get. In this film she was not quite her typical character though. She portrayed a married housewife albeit a professor at a university, but one who still came home to cook and clean while the husband sat in a traditional male role, even though they were equals in academia. I suppose though as she cannot sit still for one minute, he probably gave up and observed a male stereotype or in our generation, expected it. I say she wasn’t typical because there were no bizarre moments where her character does something that one might think but never do.

It was actually very difficult for me to see her in Elle. A character played by Isabelle Huppert being raped? This is not possible. So it makes absolute sense that the part she plays isn’t really about being raped, it is about opening up to an untapped perversion. I imagine most Americans probably saw it as France’s version of Thelma and Louise. I silently laughed at the end because I supposed this would be the case. Perhaps I am too harsh but since most people don’t allow introspection when it comes to art, and it would be anti-feminist to dare to say a rape scene was actually foreplay for what was to come. When you watch the movie like an Isabelle Huppert fan, you can’t possibly take the rape seriously. To me it was not much different than the butter scene in “Last Tango in Paris,” except they did play the Elle scene up a bit to give it a flare for the dramatic; probably to compete for an American audience. The film won a Golden Globe, as did Ms. Huppert and she was nominated for an Oscar.

As I mentioned previously Isabelle Huppert’s characters just can’t sit still. There is constant motion, not like a dance but someone with Severe Anxiety who needs to calm their mind. After watching the film, “Things to Come” this evening, I found myself jumping up to wash dishes I had earlier hoped to leave for tomorrow. Before I did this, I vacuumed the living room floor. Her energy can be very addicting.

My favorite film, released in 2000, was “Merci Pour Le Chocolat.” I have seen this twice because it is somewhat humorous to me. Film Noir often has an element of grotesque; a point in which you want to turn your head. With Merci, it was reminiscent of a Hitchcock type film, such as “Rear Window,” so it is important to see every moment. The Gothic house that looks like it lives in a graveyard and the piano playing which seems to unlock a deep wound in the soul of her husband. He is more like a victim of the Narcissist: helpless, passive, inane, the piano is almost like the strings for a puppet. Actually he plays the piano almost like a patient at a psychiatric ward (a scene from many movies where they are in one).

If you get a chance, watch a few of her films and see what you think. Just don’t expect Geena Davis or Susan Sarandon. Ms. Huppert is in a rich, strongly written, well-acted, league of her own – pun intended.

Frida Kahlo – Legendary Artist

Art should be regarded as a spiritual experience for when you find a piece that you like, it is speaking to your soul. When I first met a Frida Kahlo, I was in a university class that had to do with Women in Art (I don’t recall the specific title).  Our professor showed us a piece of her work and I asked the teacher if she had been in some type of an accident and explained what I saw in the photo of the painting. She told us a little about the history of Frida Kahlo and I felt stung. Until that moment, my experience was usually to look at paintings in a museum and admire them. While I had been to many art museums and had my favorites, I had never been this moved by art.

Since then, I have begun to look at art differently. I have begun to focus on the picture and think about the symbols, the way they are arranged, and what the artist might have felt. I have also seen the movie of Frida by Selma Hayek, read the biography by Hayden Herrera, had a friend copy a painting by Frida so that I could have my own genuine recreation and I have had friends give me books and old magazine articles that are about the artist and her paintings. When you research someone to this depth, you become one with the artist.

Frida Kahlo painted portraits and recreated interpretations of her life on canvas the way we journal in a diary now. The intensity of her work began after she was in a “bus” accident in Mexico at the age of 18. To explain, a bus in the 1920’s in Mexico was similar to a hay wagon with benches nailed along the sides.  This old fashioned mechanism collided with a streetcar which threw her and others from the bus and caused her to have many almost fatal injuries. She spent much of her life in body casts, laid out on a bed. She also underwent many surgeries for this over the years before she died at 47. Frida was a survivor and from her bed she began to paint, not for the first time but in a new way.

The first opportunity she was able to get out of her bed, it was the same time that Diego Rivera, a well-known Mexican painter, was working on a mural nearby her home. They met and eventually married. Señor Rivera  was known for his philandering but she knew this and asked, not for his fidelity but for his loyalty. He accepted. Their marriage was full of liaisons; hers with both men and women. They lived in two homes joined by a bridge so that each had their own space. Unfortunately, it was here where Señor Rivera went a bit too far with his affairs and slept with her sister Cristina. Between this and her on-going setbacks to give birth to their child, which her doctors had explained would be impossible; their marriage began to go downhill. They continued to remain together though, until her end.

Both Señora Kahlo and Señor Rivera, were very passionate about communism as well. This was incorporated in their art work depicting laborers in Mexico. Their beliefs were controversial, even then but they fought continuously to try and bring this philosophy to their country.

It is quite doubtful that Señora Kahlo and I would have been friends had we met during that time. When you are captivated by a piece of work, it is not about likes or dislikes of personal opinions.  Art stands alone, though it captures that person’s beliefs and feelings, what you gain from this is not always going to be the same. I was intrigued by her work as a woman, as a survivor, her bravery, her determination and will. All of these qualities I saw on the canvas and all of these adjectives she would probably have brushed aside indignantly. People like this do not want accolades for anything except their work, not their essence of being.

What I became fascinated with, when I learned about Señora Kahlo’s history, was her homage to ancestry through her clothing. While she was both Hungarian and Mexican, she only knew of her Spanish cultural ways. Her father’s Hungarian parents immigrated to Germany before sending their son to Mexico as a young man. While in Mexico, he married her mother and never returned to his homeland. She only had an idea of what her grandparents looked like. The way Señora Kahlo dressed herself was not indicative of the times in Mexico and so when she travelled with her husband, it was often seen as odd or eccentric. Now it is how one would recognize her through photos, though her work is quite obvious once you have had the opportunity to view a few pieces. As a woman she made a statement. Quite literally she was a work to behold. A piece of art always in progress.

While travelling in Mexico, I noticed that far too many shopkeepers hold vigil to her in their windows; along with homage to their religious symbols as well. Even in America, many Mexican restaurateurs will display her reproductions around their diners. Frida Kahlo is a legend. If you have not had the chance to explore her work, I invite you to research the name and see where it leads you.

A Guide to Watching Foreign Films

Of course it doesn’t hurt to grow up in a European-American family. Where the world that revolves around you speaks another language, has different values, talks about the old country and you begin to look at America as a second home. Watching foreign films for me has always felt as if I were welcomed as one of theirs who got away. That I was getting a sneak peek into a home that existed but that I had never lived in, yet it felt like it belonged to me. There was a sense of familiarity about it.  Déjà vu.

Foreign film observation began at home, not with my family but with Kukla, Fran and Ollie. This was a children’s program that featured the puppets Kukla and Ollie and their friend Fran who would host a film from around the world each week. There is a website to learn more about this but unfortunately very difficult to get the actual films. Hello Netflix?!? This would certainly be a great program for you to buy.  Since Kukla, Fran and Ollie was an American program, all the characters were dubbed with British English from what I recall. I didn’t realize it was dubbing as a child, I just though everyone spoke English with a cute accent. There may have been a couple of programs with subtitles but I can’t recall.  I do remember circus bears on the loose, a Cinderella story with a bird that would say “Koo-koo-ri-koo, Who is the one for you?” and other wonderful adventures that kids would get themselves into.

As an adult, I had quite forgotten about foreign films for a few years and then, while managing a records and tapes (i.e., VHS and cassettes) store in Los Angeles (this was the onset of Compact Discs too), I suddenly re-acquainted myself with the genre once more. You’ve probably heard this phrase said for other reasons but I will use it here for this “Once you go foreign, you will never turn to American ever again.” Settle down and grab your Cadbury, Lindt or Toblerone (a reason to never eat American chocolate again) and enjoy the show!

1. Subtitles are not that difficult. If you are literate you will get used to it. If you like tennis, you already know how to bob; only now it is vertical instead of horizontal.

2. Foreign films are intellectual and a realistic view of life. It helps to look within as you view the characters that resonate with your own feelings, strengths and weaknesses. If you are pissed off at the character there is something within you that is just like them and this bothers you. If you are so passionate about the lovers that you feel ill inside when they are kept apart by the end and are depressed for several days after, that’s not entertainment folks, that is the mark of a great film.

3. There are no happy endings because the world is not a happy place. No one lives happily ever after and no one says that tireless bs that you see in cookie cutter films here. Yet at the end of a foreign film, you will be thinking about the ending for days and weeks on end, still wondering “What if?” just like the one film the U.S. got right in “Gone With the Wind.” If a film isn’t bugging you for some time after, it wasn’t worth it.

4. When they are funny, it is sarcastic humor. Life is never funny when you have had your village annihilated by Hitler or your country was taken over by communists or the British or someone who had power during those years in question. So you laugh because you can’t cry anymore or because you know that this is a memory that will be replaced in the future, or you nod your head in some form of cultural agreement.

5. When it is really dark, the writer has pulled out some psychological button that you have thought about but never dared to speak in public. These are the best moments because you almost feel a sense of guilt that someone else was thinking it too. You can almost feel a kinship but it is too perverse to even smile. If someone sees this on your face, they will know your deepest secrets.

6. The French could be called perverse but the Chinese have upped it to a degree you won’t even see in a pornographic film. I’ve had to turn it off because it was hitting the ick zone in a way that well, wasn’t in my bureau for psychological buttons but it could be in yours. The French tried even harder with Nymphomania 2 but since I only read the abstract on Wikipedia and decided Part I was enough for me, I couldn’t be too sure.

7. India has it all, film, musical, romance and absolutely NO SEX. Yet you get so caught up in the story, you actually forget that the lovers never once touched anything except their hands – if that. That is good storytelling. It is quite rich in family values and I think they are a must to watch for all virgins as the female leads are all very good role models. Yes, it is all about weddings but the brides all deserve to wear white, even if that isn’t their custom. They all gain a deep amount of respect which is really the point.

8. Hungary has mostly been poor depressing people up until this past decade. They have begun to bring in some modern storylines, some good, some depressing because you can see how much the country has been ruined by capitalism and the other word one dares not say. The older films however, really teach you a lot about all those years of history, how people survived. So don’t get squeamish when you see a horse being butchered in the street and morsels handed out to kids to take home to their parents (in their bare hands). You really get a sense that this is what it is like to live so desperately in tough times.

9. The Spanish have Pedro Almodóvar who has directed some hilariously dark comedies or as the French say Film Noir. Penelope Cruz appears to be his muse and while she could be said to be the most beautiful woman in the world (now topped by Fahriye Evcen from Turkey or shall I say Feride in Lovebird), I’ve seen Ms. Cruz get really really ugly and that is acting! I am not talking about looking dirty but having bleached teeth when she smiles either. I am talking unrecognizable as in “Don’t Move.” If you watch the extras in a take home film, they have her act out different moods while sitting on a stool and it is here that you are able to see how a real actress performs, without costume and script. “Don’t Move,” is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen Ms. Cruz in a movie, even though she is portrayed as a really ugly woman. The character’s personality, especially at the end, it is quite moving.

10. The Turks really love to mess with your mind by making you feel such love for the couple that you feel they have stabbed your own heart at the end because they never end up together. I think it must be a sin to show true love on film and they have to get around it this way.  I’ve recently found myself turned on to their films since Netflix is my new foreign film delivery service. At first I thought everyone in the family had the last name of Bey. It took me awhile to realize the women weren’t called this and then to see that the neighbors who were called this were not their brothers. I assume it means Mr. as in Monsieur or Herr or Señor.   This is the great thing about foreign films; you learn a new language – at least a few words that would give you some understanding when you travel abroad.

11. The Italians have Sophia and Gina and well, now they have Luca Zingaretti. As a young girl I looked up to these beautiful women, now I am the older woman and I am more focused on the handsome older men. Inspector Montalbano is like Bruno Cremer in Maigret (with a better body, though Bruno was sexy) or John Thaw in Inspector Morse (still anal but not a heavy drinker). These are the kind of men who you hope inhabit your local police force but are pretty sure they don’t. The Italians remind you that the mafia is still alive and Italian-Americans aren’t faking Italian (except that ridiculous reality show). They probably talk more with their hands in NYC then Rome and more on the streets than in the professional world.

12. The Brits are hands down the easiest to understand because we speak their language – or do we? Nope, you have to learn the slang and the accent. “If truth be told,” a fag is a cigarette, getting pissed means you are drunk, serviettes are napkins, napkins are diapers, a boot is the trunk of your car, and so on. Try the British “Mars” bars too, much more richer and delightful. Stay away from the “All Sorts” though if you can’t stand licorice like me. By far they have the best TV shows that capture forensic episodes with real people not cute models. You have to add any film with Bill Nighy to your list; sexy and hilarious for a too skinny guy. There are lots of other old blokes over there that play character actors better than our big stars here. When you see them appear on a film (and once you get to know them you can get excited with only the opening credits) you know you are in for a treat. Great actors like this know how to carry a film and how to pick one too.

13. The women in foreign films are real people. I mean you feel like they are your neighbors and this is what gives you the sense that you are welcomed into the story. You know these women and men, it seems you have met them before. Sure there are the outstanding looking beauties but generally they aren’t playing the outstanding looking beauty in the film. Often, they will take a less gorgeous lady and dress her up and suddenly she is the most beautiful woman in the world. It is the character that makes her or him very lovely, not the costume though. When I think of Bruno Cremer in Maigret, we are looking at a slightly obese man with a huge mole on his face, yet the character he is playing respects women, dresses sharp, smokes a pipe – which is quite debonair, is loyal to his wife and the most intelligent man on the show (that is the funny part which you have to see it to get it). We are so stuck on size 3 waists here and no one really has this except models and actresses, people you will never meet. The majority of the women in foreign films are an average sized woman of a size 8-12.

14. If you find that the movie is going along very slowly and seems almost boring, just trust the director. This is building a scene for a particular purpose or a character or a culture. If you are patient, it will all make sense and by the end of the film you are going to really appreciate those opening scenes because it will all begin to come together. Sometimes the beginning can be really weird too with a lot of confusing scenes, trying to introduce so much in a short space. Again, stay still, trust the director, it is going somewhere good. I often find this is a clue that something better will come.

15. You will be so moved by foreign films that your tears will fall for the first time for a reason that you know will change your life forever.

Women of Exceptional Taste

Women of exceptional taste in todays society are multi-faceted. They are sophisticated, successful in a career, have good taste in clothing, don’t use plastic surgery (if over 40), are involved in various philanthropic efforts and are admired by women around the world. Some of these women speak more than one language a commendable trait.  Many of them have children or grandchildren as well and this is an aside. What is remarkable about our generation is that these type of women can now choose not to have children or wait until they are ready to have children.

Judi DenchJudi Dench began her profession in 1957 and has been on stage, TV and movies in the United Kingdom, as well as a crossover or two in the U.S.




Catherine Deneuve has delighted French audiences since 1957 as well. She was once considered the most beautiful woman of the world and yet all the women here are in this category.



Amal Clooney is an International Forensic Attorney that has been in practice since 2000.





The Duchess of Cambridge came to our attention around 2007 though it was in 2011 when she began to hold her title. She is involved in a great many philanthropic adventures but of particular interest is mental health.






Helen Mirren began her career on stage, TV and film in 1966, in the United Kingdom. Like Ms. Dench, has crossed over into U.S. films as well.




Penelope Cruz began a career in Spain in 1989. She has been a model, as well as acting on television and film. Her work has also crossed over into the United States. She is thought to be the muse for the Director, Pedro Almodóvar


Meryl Streep has been an American actress since 1971 and has crossed over into films around the world, not speaking the language but being known for an ability to take on various accents.



Salma Hayek is from Mexico and has been involved as an actress, producer, and model. She produced the “Ugly Betty” TV series in the United States and starred as well as produced the film “Frida.” You can find her in both Spanish and English roles.



Queen Noor Of Jordan. An American woman who once reigned until her husband, Hussein of Jordan died (1978-1999).





Isabel Allende is an Author from Chile who has brought us a couple of dozen novels. One of these novels, “The House of Spirits,” was brought to the screen in the United States in 1982.



These are merely a sample of women of exceptional taste from around the world. Certainly a great many more that are not well known but who forge careers and are worthy of great merit here yet may not be seen in the public eye. A couple of the women noted here would not even be known had they not married a “celebrity,” and yet their careers are what brought them into view of that person of interest.


For Women Over 40

This is the age of the Crone. The older, wiser woman begins to emerge around the age of forty. Own up to this and enjoy the best part of your life! This is what I want to say here but it is going to sound a bit confusing when I now turn the conversation over to talking about your body. The aging process brings a whole new set of obstacles to face. This is the time in your life when you no longer look the same as your body begins to let loose and an end to the cycle as a tight and firm young woman is over.  It is a time when all those crazy symptoms of menopause start showing up as you are transitioning through this final stage of womanhood. Some women have stated that their mood swings can go from being a saint to a demon in the span of a day. This does end eventually though and it shouldn’t define you. Instead, this time period should force you to realize how important it is to set boundaries, if you don’t already.  At the same time, women report feeling much more confident at this stage in their life.  There is less of concern about how others think of you. Think of this as a time to have fun, despite the new health problems that are beginning to emerge and the changes in your body.

Allow this stage of your life to emerge and blossom. Go with the flow rather than resist it. As they say, “The more you resist, the more it persists.” Women don’t put up with as much in this stage of their life because they are experienced and understand life better. Divorces can occur at this time.  Even if you are okay with your spouse or partner, you might still feel you are on the verge of discovery. This is a time of self-awareness that pales in comparison to that of a twenty-something wondering about God for the first time. If it is time to leave your partner, know that it is okay to be alone for a while and just enjoy finding yourself. If it is not time to leave the partner, go on a women’s retreat for a few weeks. Many of you have been craving some time to yourself for quite a number of years now. Give yourself a break! In this final stage of your awakening process it is important to cherish this time in your life, embrace your inner self, allow exploration and creativity, and don’t say, “I can’t do that because I don’t know how.” You are a wiser woman now and you will be surprised at what you can do when you allow yourself.

If you take time to love yourself, you will embrace the aging process, as it is nothing more than another phase in life. It astonishes me the number of women who continue to get plastic surgery when it is quite obvious that it looks ridiculous. How many cartoonish women is it going to take before these women get the message? Unless it is for medical reasons and your insurance is paying, leave your body alone. If you work on your body through exercise and eating right, you are going to look like a normal woman who is getting old. Older women do look beautiful when they flow with the aging process rather than resist it. American women are afraid of this change and often times you see women who have given up and look old or we see celebrities going under the knife and/or using Botox. Being old is not a curse. I watch a lot of foreign TV and films and I can tell you that Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Juliette Binoche look as lovely and as spirited as ever. Some allow themselves to gain a little weight and enjoy eating the fine foods they couldn’t afford in their twenties. All of these women enjoy successful film careers, though I believe Ms. Loren is now writing and focusing more on being a grandmother. I find it is much more important to find role models who embrace the aging process rather than those who don’t. It helps getting through this stage when you aren’t fighting it every step of the way. Embrace your femininity.

If you are like me and it took you a while to realize you need to reclaim your power and make some different choices in life with men, it isn’t too late. As I mentioned, foreign films have lots of movies about women over forty. None of them have to do with plastic surgery but instead are about adventures and starting over and realizing their power. There are some wonderful films that depict older women as they are and in stories that only we can relate to. Films can help give you ideas, give you something to think about. There are magazines for women over forty as well. Of course there is AARP, but I also took advantage of More magazine for some time. Foreign magazines are wonderful guides to consider when it comes to travel and opportunities you haven’t thought of. Magazines on specific countries, such as France, are available at Barnes and Noble.

When I went to the universities I attended, there were plenty of women and men there older than me. Don’t be afraid to go back to college and get a degree. Getting my master’s degree at the age of thirty-eight was the most rewarding moment in my life second only to holding my son in my arms for the first time. I can’t tell you how happy I felt and how proud I was at that time in my life. Every time I look up at the degree on my office wall, I still have a feeling of excitement. Need money? One place to consider looking for scholarships for women is AAUW (American Association of University Women) which is the largest organization to offer scholarships to women and favors women choosing non-traditional careers.

There are also other things you can be doing. Learn a new language and travel to that country to speak it or continue your fluency. Travel with a volunteer program where you do work in another country. I work with lots of women over forty who seek advice from me on how to start over. It is so much fun seeing the delight in their eyes when they begin talking about what they are passionate about. As they do, I offer hints and suddenly, they are off like a race horse. They already know deep in their hearts what they want; it just helps to get a little validation, even permission from another, that it is okay to do these things.

Explore religion and/or a religious calling. Many women and men, after their partners die, consider this as a profession. It is also a place to go for a retreat and soul searching. Many religions offer inexpensive ways to go away for a while and contemplate your future, spiritually and otherwise. This can be a beautiful moment in your life.

Whatever you choose to do, naturally you will see your body changing more and more each year. You will be forced to set boundaries with people that you never imagined before, such as making bathroom breaks more of a necessity wherever you travel. Keep some tissues in your purse, if you have never carried them before, as they come in handy for many things other than sneezing. Traveling with anti-diarrhea medicine or antacids is a must. Make people aware that you are going through menopause so they don’t become alarmed when you pull out a mini-fan or go into a rage about something unexpected. Of course you may not have these particular symptoms at all and if you do, it might be minimal; it is not the same for every woman.

You are becoming your grandmother but you will look much differently than she did. While you still share her standards and grace, your style is much more modern. Instead of wearing an apron, you are wearing a backpack or “fanny pack” and hiking with your grandkids or taking them off to the zoo. There is so much to teach them and so many stories to share. Don’t allow them to use technology when they are with you. Make the most of your time together, just as you did or wanted to do with your own grandma. Don’t focus on them teaching you how to use the computer. Focus on teaching them about life by getting out of the house and exploring the world with them.

Become an artist. Were you held back from this world because it didn’t bring in money or you had no time for it? Get a camera or an easel or sit down with pen and paper and allow the creativity to come out. How about joining the theater and being on stage rather than in the audience? Create a fantasy garden in your backyard that is the envy of the neighborhood. There isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to. Take classes in your chosen art field or join a club. You will meet new people of like minds and you won’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself or hiding out in the corner of your safe new world.

When it comes to fashion, you want to develop your own style as an older woman. This is hard to do when we are in a bleak fashion period where quality is shunned and it is hard to find pieces that we feel comfortable with. Trying to look like you are still twenty is out because it makes you look foolish. Finding clothes meant for older women isn’t easy when stores cater to young women. Abandon the idea of trying to wear pants that sit on your hips because your hips probably aren’t there anymore. The good news is there are many comfortable shoe styles available so that you won’t have to wear the orthopedic shoes of the 50s. The Beehive hair style your mother had is out so you don’t need to go to the hairdresser every week to put goop in your hair. Now you can wear your hair long if you like and let it go gray. Cut down on the makeup because the more you use, the older it makes you look. Eventually, the oils will find the wrinkles and the lip colors will climb away from the lips. Experiment with less and wear none when you are at home doing yard work or when you are out in nature.

Sunscreen, moisturizer, and lip balm are essential ingredients in taking care of yourself. Look for the natural or organic formulas, which love any face. Wear dresses and skirts instead of pants because they are much more comfortable and so much more feminine. With the changes that your body is going through, skirts and dresses hide so many things when you choose a style that is relaxed rather than fit. Pants can be so restricting, especially when your thighs are getting a little too close together. Be free and comfortable and show the world how wonderful it is to be an older woman.

Thought for the Older Woman: You are never alone in this world when you are in the company of others of like minds.

StyleWe Clothing

I haven’t actually purchased anything from this website but I have looked at some of their choices a few times. I am not sure about the quality of the clothing, the difficulty of not having an actual storefront to walk in. I have chosen some photos here to give you a sampling of what is on offer. The clothing is versatile in the sense that they have outfits that could be appropriate for different age ranges. The sizes are a crap shoot between 0-12, so it is frustrating because you are going to open pages and find that it only goes to 8. I don’t see any way of choosing your size from the top. These are considered designer clothes at an average person’s prices but keep in mind some prices are a little steep.

An evening out, an anniversary party, a wedding, the theater. Or perhaps you will don your Irish stepping shoes and get in line!






A modern work dress with a good length to it for a manager or the owner of a company.






A throwback to Chanel, a little too short for a work dress but tasteful all the same. This makes me think of a secretary or Administrative Assistant.






While I don’t like the color, the style is elegant and offers quite a bit of movement. The length is ideal. Definitely a dress for a CEO.




Blue is definitely not sullen here with these bold stripes to bring attention, creating a high waistline and graceful movements. For the upwardly mobile gal.




A fun blouse for a creative office place and paired with a nice pair of trousers can be comfortable and easy for movement.





The caption on the site does not say what the heal height is which always gets my goat, though these do seem modest. With the right dress, you will be the envy of the room. They show them in a dark blue color as well.




A working girls shoes with a comfortable height for someone who is walking around the office trying to keep the team together. They can also be used for a day out shopping, luncheon with some friends or even a daytime wedding.



A darling little evening clutch, though you’ll have to wear it over your shoulder as the flowers aren’t ideal for holding in your hands.

Spanish TV Series Review: The Time in Between

Adriana Ugarte delivers a remarkable performance as a respectable seamstress, spy and loyal confidante to her select group of friends; in the Spanish TV Series now on Netflix entitled “The Time in Between.” Ms. Ugarte plays “Sira,” who maintains strict boundaries and does not cede to the style of Mata Hari. The costumes for this World War II period piece get an A- and this is only because of the shoes which are about 3” too high for the 1940’s. I have noticed this happening more frequently with historical fiction, especially from Spain. The TV Series “Velvet,” also showed some of their major characters in heels that were not appropriate heights for the 1950’s time period either.

The story revolves around Sira, a poor girl from Spain on the eve of the Spanish coup of 1936, which of course is about to be on the eve of World War II as well. She runs off to Morocco with the boy who would take her heart away from the good boy next door. Naturally, we all know he is a player and the character of Ramiro does not disappoint. While in Morocco she meets Rosalinda Fox, a British lady who is the mistress of a Spanish foreign minister. Naturally, while everyone in this TV Series is German, British, Portuguese and Moroccan, they all of course speak Spanish. I find this hilarious when I watch foreign programs but of course we do this too. Half-way through this 17 episode bundle, Rosalinda encourages her to become a spy on behalf of the Brits, using her storefront – which will be moved to Madrid – as a hovel for German ladies gossip. The storyline is rich and the characters addicting. The leading ladies Ms. Ugarte and Hannah New (Rosalinda) are adorable, young and vivacious. Ms. Ugarte could be the next Penelope Cruz coming on to the scene.  I don’t doubt that America will rip her up from her native roots and put her in Hollywood as soon as they can. I hope that unlike Sira, she will not be tempted into this new life and will stay devoted and loyal to her country. Ms. Cruz and Selma Hayek have drifted over to English speaking roles but I find that the characters we give them pale in comparison to the respect they achieve at home.

Naturally you should also pay attention to the fitted suits, thick quality fabrics they are made from, the hats for every occasion, gloves, purses and ball gowns. Other than her peasant clothes (so to speak), there wasn’t one outfit that she wore that I wouldn’t kill to wear. The turbans I could do without as they look especially tight and cumbersome, yet they are elegant at the same time. I could see wearing these clothes in today’s society, if we were still elegant fashionable women – though, the only place fitting these days would be Buckingham Palace or the Oscars; none of which, I dare say, I will ever see an invitation.

If you are a big fan of women’s history and enjoy learning about different era’s through fiction, you will appreciate and adore this series. It is a more honest way of showing a strong woman with some integrity.