I must say, my connection with France is far more removed than that with England. However, I do have a long-running obsession. I’m not completely sure of where it started, though I suspect it was probably the dose of Franco-Anglo history and French language I got in my classes in the UK, or something I read as a child. However, I can specifically acknowledge crediting the continuation of that obsession in my adult life to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006). The film was released during my Sophomore year of highschool (I know, I’m a young gun), and I soon after wrote a research paper on the “real” Marie Antoinette, which I’m sure was totally biased and obsess-y in nature. This specifically calls to mind the first time I was taught [read: forced] to use note cards to keep track of all of the research and sources I collected. I was such a free spirit before that . . .
Just kidding. It takes a lot to break a romantic soul … probably because we allow ourselves to be broken over and over again. Oh. Woe is us.
In more recent media, I have, again, been reinvigorated by Outlander: Claire and Jaime’s stint in France has been one of the more action-packed parts of the series and is certainly filled to the brim with French politics, intrigue, mystery, and drama. Another less recent inspiration is Disney’s classic retelling of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Again, filled with magic, politics, and Parisian architecture, it created a special place in my heart for French storytelling and activism. This is all not to mention the breathtaking screen-adaptation of Les Miserables (2012) which was just … wonderful.
I must say, for a country (the United States, that is) that supposedly hates the French so much, we sure do retell their stories and history quite often in our media. And, to segway, we quite often appropriate their fashions and decor as well!
In my view, the French have a very special relationship to the history of Romanticism. Their country went through major political upheaval because of the words of their writers. It was violent. It was liberating. It was powerful. Oh-so-Romantic. And the effects from the French Revolution have lasted. Not only have their writings influenced our political ideals since, but France has remained a politically tumultuous country – and in a good way. All of this said, I must admit that it is not the bustling cities nor the tres chic Parisian apartments which interest me most, but it is the countryside. Dotted with ancient chateaus, farms and flowers, France is known best for what comes out of its countryside: wine and champagne, perfumes, and cheeses. And, for this reason, I would like to pay tribute to the French farmhouse (but hopefully not in the demeaning way in which Marie Antoinette did).
For the French section the materials and ideas I will be focus on are printed linen, country, fishing and picnicking scenes, stripes, light, unfinished woods, dusty blues and pinks and creams, gold accents, and functional porcelain. Here is another selection of images I have found which at least lean toward what I have in mind: