Circus clowns are tragic creatures.  That’s something she learned all too well from the numerous family trips into New York City via the Long Island Rail Road to witness the excitement of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  No cotton candy for her – the stunning feats would leave her mouth agape.  Sometimes she felt as if she couldn’t catch her breath until the end.

When death arrived at her family’s suburban door, winter came early.  That she thought of the circus was cosmic justice in that she always identified with the tragic clown in times of stress.

Now, reflecting back on how death brought with it alienation as easily as neighbors used to walk through their side door with Sunday’s lemon meringue pies, she wished that she had paid more attention to the acrobats tumbling high above the stage at Madison Square Garden, than to the bumbling clown.  Then she might have learned how to be more flexible in her family’s cancer-stricken tranquillity.  Ah, but then there were those clowns who suspended reality of space and time, crowding into tiny cars.

Motherless at fifteen, she found herself caught between the magic of childhood innocence and the illusion of adult responsibility.




Hunched in a prized pocket on the 5:55 out of World Trade Center, an American boy marked his territory with a 180-degree sneer that would impress Billy Idol.  He adjusted the volume on his steel-gray iPod and smiled as several suits slinked away from his corner, taking their abrasive tones and financial stats to the end of the car.

While the train chugged away from Ground Zero through the tunnel beneath the Hudson River, jittery, stubby pink fingers were straining against beet-red ears in his desperate attempt to mash in his earplugs.  Fully amped, he tousled a mop of strawberry-blond hair and began lip-syncing teen rage to a heavy-metal anthem.

Fellow commuters were jostled about the subway car as the train took a curve in darkness like a rollercoaster in a funhouse.  The teen joined his elders’ impromptu dance number, with gravity assuming the role of choreographer.  The sudden change in velocity was outpaced only by the youth’s music.  Rapid, jagged rhythms leaked from his earplugs, and he responded by banging his head against an invisible wall. 

On and on he hunkered in his solitary corner, silently cursing parental ghosts while another selection, with enough razor-sharp guitar lines to make one’s ears bleed, zipped away.  He was either cowering or storing up enough energy to explode at futility.

At the first stop in New Jersey, Exchange Place, the youngster stood up, blinked a few times, then bulleted out of the closing doors.  He dashed toward a broken home, trading one form of alienation – a crowded subway car of strangers – for another.

All that remained in his abandoned corner was intense heat.  That and the specter of his white-hot fury against a poster backdrop of two gray American flags.


Copyright © 2002 By Chantale Reve

The Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog remembers a legendary French New Wave pioneer.

Claude Chabrol:  1930-2010

The title La Femme infidèle may or may not ring a bell to many of the American readers of this blog, but the American remake of that 1969 film surely will shake our snow globes.  That updating of La Femme infidèle was titled Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane, Olivier Martínez and Richard Gere.  (Unfaithful was directed by Adrian Lyne, who previously had scared the hell out of us in a different section of Manhattan in Fatal Attraction — about a one-night-stand-gone-wrong.)

A Chabrol film I enjoyed and which taught me a lot about nationalism and class issues in France was Les Biches, set in Saint-Tropez.  I long to see Le Beau Serge, which has been described as being influenced by Hitchcock.