Saturday, August 31, 2019

Ave, Hélo!

Héloïse Ducoulombier isn't my daughter, although I'd love to have a daughter like her; she is, in point of fact, the daughter of my best French buddy Dominique. She's about to start her final year of high school, and she's already decided that she'd like to pursue a career in filmmaking and audiovisual arts. She just won a filmmaking competition after making a 90-second short about her granddad Pierre, whom I call my French Papa. I've placed the video below; it's in French, but even if you don't understand the language, you'll still be able to hear the poetic lyricism of Hélo's voiceover narration, and you might even catch a few words that will sound familiar to English-speakers. I could try writing a transcript of the voiceover, but it might be easier for me just to email Hélo and ask her for the poem she wrote (update: I just emailed her). Enjoy the film. The opening title card "Prière" means "Prayer," and the closing title card "Merci à mon merveilleux Grand-Père" means, as you've probably already figured out, "Thanks to my marvelous Grandfather." Prière, grand-père, Pierre.

UPDATE: Héloïse has responded by sending me her poem. As I told her in response to her response, I got about 95% of the words, but now that I have her poem, that fills in a few blanks. Here's the poem, along with my quick-and-dirty translation (with explanations for cultural references that might not be familiar):

J’ai tes yeux, ton sang, dans mes veines; il y a
Ton histoire, tes savoirs, tes malheurs, tes joies.
Tu me parles de chanteurs, poètes perdus,
Et de tes parents que je n’ai jamais connus.
Tu me parles des Allemands et de la guerre
Et puis de la tuberculose, du cancer.
Tu me parles d’Athéna, de Bonne-Maman,
De tes quatre fils et de tes petits enfants
Yann, Timothé, Camille, Agathe et Hippolyte.
Tourne-disques et 45 tours crépitent.
Ensemble nous dansons, nous dansons, nous dansons,
Ensemble nous parlons, nous chantons, nous rions.

Profitons du temps qu’il nous reste, sans penser
Au lendemain, aux jours suivants, et aux années.
Emmène-moi sur la terre de ta jeunesse
Respirer, découvrir, aimer avec tendresse
Dépenser nos dollars, nos dirhams et nos euros
Valser, faire renaître les morts du Vrétot.
Et lorsqu’il sera trop tard, je noierai ma peine
Je maudirai ce jour, et je crierai ma haine.
Je larguerai les amarres, mettrai les voiles.
Dans mes yeux bleus, quelques larmes, mais plus d’étoiles.
Mon sourire ne pourra plus être le même,
Sans toi dis-moi, plongerai-je dans le blasphème ?

Un grand-père qui part c’est Vivaldi, Schubert
S’envolant, (l’orage) sur les quatre saisons.
Sans Notre-Dame de Paris, ou Lord Byron
Imaginez pays d’Hugo ou Angleterre.

Promets-moi de ne pas partir sans m’avoir dit
Juste une fois « que tu es belle, ma chérie ».

*** *** ***

I have your eyes, your blood in my veins;
Your history, your knowledge, your misfortunes, your joys
You speak to me of singers, lost poets
And of your parents, whom I never knew
You speak to me of the Germans and of the war
And then of tuberculosis, of cancer
You speak to me of Athena, of Grandma,
Of your four sons and your grandchildren
Yann, Timothé, Agathe, and Hippolyte.*
Turntables and 45s crackle.**
Together we dance, we dance, we dance.
Together we speak, we sing, we laugh.

Let us take advantage of the time remaining to us, without thinking
Of tomorrow, of the days that follow, of the years.
Lead me to the land of your youth
To breathe, to discover, to love with tenderness
To spend our dollars, our dirhams, our euros***
To waltz, to have reborn the dead of Vrétot.****
And when it's too late, I'll drown my sorrow
I'll curse that day, I'll cry out my hate.
I'll toss off the lines, put up the sails.
In my blue eyes, some tears, but no more stars.
My smile can never be the same,
Without you, tell me, will I plunge into blasphemy?

A grandfather who departs is Vivaldi, Schubert
Flying off (the storm of) the four seasons.
Without Notre Dame of Paris, or Lord Byron
Imagine the country of Hugo or England.

Promise not to leave without having said to me
Just once, "How beautiful you are, my dear."

*These are the names of some of the Ducoulombier grandkids of Hélo's generation.
**For you young'uns: a turntable is a record player, from back before streaming music and CDs. Records were made of vinyl and etched with patterns that could be read as sound by the turntable's needle. Records were recorded at different standard speeds, among which were 33.3 rpm and 45 rpm, hence "45s." Not a gun reference!
***A dirham is the currency of the United Arab Emirates. I had to look that one up.
****Le Vrétot was a commune in Normandy, so this is a World War II reference.

You understand the import of the second-to-last stanza: a world without Hélo's grandfather is like France (the country of Victor Hugo) without Notre Dame or England without Lord Byron.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The videography alone does an excellent job of telling the story. I was moved and my French is too rusty to follow the narration.