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Tony Grist

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Stars Of The Moulin Rouge [Dec. 8th, 2006|01:06 pm]
Tony Grist
A lot of the stage names are  untranslatable. La Goulue means "The Glutton" . Louise Weber  got the name (this is presumably the polite version) from her habit of helping herself to other people's drinks as she moved about among the tables. I can't see it working on an English language poster. I would suggest "Gobbler" or  "Greedyguts".

Even more baffling is La Mome Fromage- literally "Kid Cheese" or (a little happier) "Cheesy Kid". No, she didn't smell bad. In 19th century street French it means something  like "New Kid on the Block".

La Goulue and La Mome Fromage were (reputedly) lovers. Most of these women were either lesbian or bisexual. They owe their posthumous fame to the artist Toulouse Lautrec-  who painted and sketched them and designed their publicity materials. He was also their pal and got to hang about back stage. 

In Lautrec's pictures they all seem middle-aged. They weren't of course. Maybe he was painting the inner reality. These were people who lived hard, partied hard, had knocked about the world a bit. Jane Avril, for instance- whom Lautrec invariably portrays as a haggard crone- had suffered childhood abuse and a spell in Dr Charcot's mad house. Her dance style was all galvanic and jerky and the punters called her Jeanne La Folle- Crazy Jane.

La Goulue left the Moulin Rouge to star in her own travelling show. It didn't work out and she hit the bottle and ended up as a street vendor back in Montmartre. La Mome Fromage seems to have retired into provincial respectability. Jane Avril lived into the 1940s and got to write her memoirs. 

In photographs they look nothing like their Lautrecian alter egos. Avril smiles for the camera. La Goulue is plump and pretty. La Mome Fromage is even plumper and jolly with it. Back in the 1890s you could be fat and jolly and a sex symbol. None of them looks in the least bit like Nicole Kidman. 

Toulouse Lautrec: La Goulue arriving at Le Moulin Rouge

[User Picture]From: shullie
2006-12-08 12:11 pm (UTC)
wow... thanks for that... I haven't really looked at much of Lautrec's pictures, however I may just have too now. I saw the BBC programe about Turner the other week and was amazed. I think in the new year I may have a look at more art work and what lies behind it.

may have to look @ what OU has to offer...


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 12:45 pm (UTC)
Lautrec is terrific.

Was that the Simon Schama prog on Turner? The whole series has been pretty good. I like how he puts the chosen work in its historical context. This Friday he's doing Picasso's Guernica. Yes!!!

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[User Picture]From: shullie
2006-12-08 01:04 pm (UTC)
oooo wow will watch that one - and yes it was ;)
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2006-12-08 01:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, I dunno. If you squint really hard, La Goulue looks a lot like Nicole.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 03:34 pm (UTC)
I reckon you'd have to squint to the point where everything becomes really blurry.

I'm feeling a little cross with Baz Luhrman right now. His Moulin Rouge is sooo unlike the real thing.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2006-12-09 11:45 am (UTC)
Well it wasn't supposed to be. It's an American Bollywood movie.

I remember the scene in Villette where Lucy sits opposite the cleopatra - fat and voluptuous and she overhears students admire her.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-09 12:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know; it's not meant to be historically accurate.

But I never liked it. I thought the script was weak and I never saw the least reason why I should care about the stereotypes played by Ewan and Nicole.

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From: bodhibird
2006-12-08 02:48 pm (UTC)
You forgot the totally untranslatable La (Le?) Petomaine, whose specialty was musical flatulence. *g*
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 03:37 pm (UTC)
I don't think Lautrec ever painted him. But then Lautrec was always one for the girls.

I seem to remember a TV film about Le Petomaine, starring the always wonderful Leonard Rossiter.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2006-12-08 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the background! I never thought much about who the women are in Toulouse Lautrec´s paintings and have never really had much contact with his work. It has always intrigued me but somehow I never got close to it.
I wish I could see the BBC program you mention...have you ever seen the Guernica in person?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 03:56 pm (UTC)
What makes Lautrec stand out from other artists of the Paris demi-monde is that he was interested in his subjects as people and even cared for them. La Goulue refused to pose for him (she was helluva feisty gal) which could be why she always looks so haughty in his art. Jane Avril he was in love with, I think.

As a disabled man he identified with society's underdogs. He paints the Moulin Rouge as a place of work and seems to despise the clintele in their frock coats and top hats just as must as the working girls must have done.

The Simon Schama series is very high profile and will almost certainly become available on DVD. No, I've never seen Guernica in person. I'd like to. I all but worship Picasso.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2006-12-08 10:18 pm (UTC)
Now that I think about his paintings, I see your observations are sharp...he does seem to despise the clientele in his work.

Is there any chance you might ever get to Madrid to see the Guernica? It´s in the Reina Sofia Museum which is also worth a visit. A few years ago a Picasso museum was opened in his birth city, Malaga. It´s a small, intimate museum and contains a lot of the "unknown" Picasso, lesser works so to speak but still fascinating.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 10:43 pm (UTC)
We got as far as Barcelona last year- and visited the Picasso museum there. They have a lot of juvenilia, plus a magisterial set of variations on Velasquez' Las Meninas done in the late 1950s. Certainly I'd like to visit Madrid. But first up on the agenda (we already have the thing booked) is a trip to Paris next year- where one of our prime objectives will be to visit the Musee Picasso.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2006-12-08 11:27 pm (UTC)
I know that series on Las Meninas and it was interesting for me to compare Picasso´s variations with the original Velazquez when I´ve visited the Prado. We´ll be back up in Madrid in early 2007 and re-visit to both the Guernica and the Prado (and to see the expanded Thyssen Museum) is our objective.

It´s been many years since we´ve been in Paris. I think we need to program a trip up that way since we now have lovely cheap direct flights from Seville.
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From: athenais
2006-12-08 05:26 pm (UTC)
I love being able to compare photos and paintings. I wish we could do it for the 17th and 18th century people I'm interested in. It's so hard, sometimes, to figure out what a person truly looked like since an artist like Lely made everyone look the same. Whereas Lautrec makes everyone look exactly like themselves and yet pulls out aspects of their personality until you are looking at what, perhaps, they would just as soon not reveal.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 08:12 pm (UTC)
I've been looking at portraits of Napoleon recently.

Boney had far more important things to do than sit for painters- with the result that his portraits were almost always approximate.

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[User Picture]From: rosamicula
2006-12-08 07:34 pm (UTC)
'La Mome From' works a bit like cockney rhyming slang so the key bit is the silent half of the phrase - fromage frais is fresh and new. Maghrebin kids in Paris call white Parisians 'Froms' for fromage blanc.

That film was unspeakable. Nicole Kidman is about as sexily vulnerable as a shopping trolley.

Lovely post, by the way.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-08 08:22 pm (UTC)

And thanks for explaining how La Mome Fromage works. It's been really puzzling me.

I agree about the Luhrman film. I hated it. Nasty, overblown, stupid- and an insult to all the people it travestied.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-12-09 12:30 am (UTC)
Interesting. Now when I look at their faces, they look secretive.

Today I was shopping for wrapping paper, and the carol in the store was sung whiningly by a woman: "...Let me see Christmas through your eyes...." and I happened to look up and see a sagging old man shuffling behind his cart, putting some decorations in the basket, and I thought in one second how once he had been a boy looking forward to Christmas, and now he was all used up, the magic gone.

Of course, I may have been projecting a bit! But seeing your post about these women and their hard stories reminded me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-12-09 10:37 am (UTC)
I often wonder what it means to lead a successful life.

La Goulue had a brief moment of fame and acclaim, followed by years of alcoholism and poverty.

Jane Avril was also briefly famous, then lived out the rest of a long life in dignified obscurity.

Toulouse Lautrec died at 37 of the combined effects of alcoholism and syphilis but left behind a deathless body of work.

Which, if any of them, was a success?

I don't really know the answer, but suspect the answer is all of them.

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