Sois belle et tais-toi
When I was looking for a videographer in 2006 to record the art openings I was having, Susie Hollands of Ivy Paris (now Vingt Paris) suggested Elena Rossini, an Italian in Paris who was filmmaker, director, and editor. Elena wound up doing several great videos of the vernissages here, and includes one on her website:
I would go to her apartment and sit in on the editing process and was always impressed by her exquisite taste and intelligence, and thrilled with the finished product.
But all good things come to an end (and an end of one thing is the beginning of another) so that Elena became more and more involved in her own projects and less available for extracurricular ones like mine. A few years ago she started speaking of a film she was putting together about the beauty industry.
Around that time I attended a debate about the French presidential candidates at the time, Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy. Why did it rankle that the speaker identified Ségolène, among other things, as "belle," but neglected to mention that Nicolas was "laid"? He mentioned that she was beautiful, like that was important in a candidate if the candidate were female but if the candidate were male, it didn't much matter if he were ugly.
Business as usual.
And so Elena takes on the beauty business in her film "The Illusionists."
It's important for a woman to be beautiful, culture says, and so often that means not as she is in nature. If she's white, she needs to tan, if she's black, she needs skin lightening products, if she's big-busted, she needs breast reduction, if she's small-breasted, she needs augmentation. Same with the nose. Same with the hair. And let us not even mention the whole concept of five-inch heels!
When my youngest daughter was in French kindergarten, maternelle, she came home from school one day indignant because a sly female classmate had lanced the ultimate French insult: "Tu n'est pas belle." My daughter, blonde and blue-eyed, a classic beauty who already knew at age four years old the importance and the duty to be beautiful, the jealousy she would inspire, and disdain, and longing, a little micro example of what Elena courageously and astonishingly attacks in her film.
To be continued....
"Stealing Beauty" (1996) is the name of a film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci starring Liv Tyler and Jeremy Irons.
"Sois belle et tais-toi" or "Be beautiful and shut up" is a French expression and admonition to members of the gentle sex. I first heard this expression from my French father-in-law who tried to instruct me in culture and cultural differences.
It is also the name of a song by Serge Gainsbourg, a films by both Marc Allégret (1958) and Delphine Seyrig (1981).