posted on January 25, 2008 05:07
'Un vague à l'âme' say the French in their wonderfully poetic way with expressions of feelings. A vagueness in the soul? Or a wave, like a spell of bad weather or the sea breaking on the shores of the soul? Anyway, it's what the French call the blues - not the type of music, but the type of feeling.
There's a Parisian way for everything, including feeling blue. After work you wander round town, listlessly down some boulevard or other. In a café or brasserie, tourists speak slow, loud English to streetwise waiters and you hope they don't recognise you as one of them.
The metro is full of tired, sad-eyed office workers going home; the Parisian working rhythm is metro-boulot-dodo (metro-job-sleep). In each station, drunks bed down on benches. Everyone seems down on their luck, daydreaming.
A famous scene in Louis Malle's 'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud' (Lift To The Scaffold) captures the vague à l'âme perfectly. You may know it: Jeanne Moreau traipses along la rue, dawdling in front of shop windows and weaving around strolling couples. The soundtrack - sad, worn-out trumpeting - is by Miles Davis, from the period when he held court in Saint-Germain, once the jazz strip of Paris but now a rosary of boutique after boutique.
Both the film and soundtrack are marvellous. Here's the scene we were talking about: