Professeur Capretz et ses réponses à notres questions, Partie Deux

Dear FIAfans,

Here, in part two of this Mystère et Boules de Gomme blog exclusive, are Pierre Capretz’s answers to the remainder of our questions on casting and production of FIA, controversies surrounding FIA and its future.  Thanks to everyone who submitted questions and of course a huge thank you to Professor Capretz for his willingness to answer them for us!  Lots of great stuff below, including information on a possible French in Action reunion on which Prof asks us for input, so please provide it!   Enjoy and leave comments!

Lire la suite


Professeur Capretz nous répond !

capretz1At long last we have what we’ve been waiting for (the delay is all my fault): answers to our many questions from our Dear Professor, Pierre Capretz.  I organized our questions, including my own, into five categories: I. biographical, II. creation and development of FIA, III. casting, IV. controversies, V. the future of FIA and VI. miscellaneous.  We have answers to the first two categories below and the others are on the way.  This is without doubt the best thing to ever happen to this blog and for FIA fans like us in a long time.  I am so grateful to the Prof. Capretz for taking his time to inform us and humor us.  He gives us some great insights into the early history of FIA.  I tried to phrase my questions en français and my apologies to all real French speakers.  J’attends avec impatience la suite! Lire la suite

Demandez au professeur !

pierre_web Dear fellow FIA fans:  I know I haven’t been the best at updating this blog.  Mes excuses. But now, I feel, the culmination of all my years of loving French in Action is at hand and I have been floating on a cloud since Friday.  The reason?  J’ai reçu un email de notre prof, Pierre Capretz! He has graciously agreed to answer our questions.  If you’ve been following the comments in our Discussion section, you know we’ve been talking about this for several months.  The credit really goes to FIAfan Steve who emailed Dr Capretz a few months back and got the ball rolling on this.  At that time I suggested in the Discussion comments that you send me your questions for the good professor and some of you have done this.  But now this thing is really going to happen and I need each and every one of you to search your soul and give me your best questions for Professor Capretz.  Pop in an FIA videocassette or DVD or watch an episode on the Annenberg site to whet your imagination.  Send your questions in as comments to this article. (Don’t worry if your question doesn’t appear immediately; because of the volume of spam getting around the WordPress spam blockers, I now have to approve every comment before it appears.)  I will take your questions, along with my own, put them into a semi-coherent order, and email them to him.  I’ll post his responses as an article here on Mystère et boules de gomme.

Our correspondence and the comment form for you to leave your questions are below the fold: Lire la suite

la Closerie des Lilas

Closerie facade F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Amedio Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gertrude Stein…the list goes on and on of giants of the arts and letters who, when in Paris, sought out the peaceful setting of la Closerie des Lilas for their preferred beverage, a bite to eat, and inspiration.

But for us FIA fans, two names eclipse all these others when we think of the la Closerie: Robert Taylor and Mireille Belleau. It was at this hallowed spot that Robert and Mireille spent leçons 19–21 in animated conversation. It was here in Leçon 20 that Robert becomes a bit dérangé by Mireille’s rapturous description of her prof d’art grecet paf, over goes his kir onto her skirt.

Mireille et Robert à la Closerie des Lilas

One morning last summer, my wife and I headed here for a rest after our perambulations through the Jardin du Lux. We hoped it would look as it had in FIA and we weren’t disappointed. Lire la suite

un changement de look

As you can tell, I changed up our look here at Mystère et boules de gomme. I did this over frustration with the way the old template (Tarski) screwed up the Discussion page. Comments were forced below the long list of links. (Other than that, I liked Tarski just fine.) With this template this issue is solved, while other nice features, like the organization of the links, are maintained.

Qu’en pensez-vous? Lire la suite

Notre wiki est né

Was it at a recent meeting of 40 members of the Académie Française that the gender of « wiki » was decided? (C’est masculin.) One more infantryman in the invading army of foreign words the French have to deal with: in this case not an English word, but a Hawaiian one, that has come to mean a collaborative website that anyone can contribute to. (Did I end that sentence with a preposition?) In any case, FIAfans now has its own wiki via Wikispaces. Lire la suite

Favorite FIA Parisian Scenes

FIA is not only a « tour de force » of the French language, but it is also a grand tour of the most beautiful city in the world – Paris. Each of us fans probably has several sights and sounds from the series that are most memorable. Two of my favorites are the Fontaine Medicis in Luxembourg Garden:

Fontaine Medici

Lire la suite

32, rue Guynemer


With apologies to the current tenants of this stately building who must now suffer more FIA fans out front each day snapping pictures, there it is, the real address of a fictional family that lives forever in our hearts. I might have hesitated to publish it at all, given the desire of notre prof to keep it a secret, were it not for the fact that le chat est déjà sorti du sac. Lire la suite

18, rue de Vaugirard


Been a bit quiet here lately, hasn’ it? Yes, well my excuse is a good one: I’ve been in Paris. While there, you can be sure, I paid visit to some FIA terre sacrée and collected some material for this blog. And what place better qualifies than 18, rue de Vaugirard? Does it exist?

Lire la suite

Séparé à la naissance?

Is it just me, or does Dominique de Villepin, the former French Prime Minister (now under investigation for his role in an alleged smear campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2004), resemble our beloved Professor Capretz un petit peu?


FIAfans gets its own domain name, looks for authors

So, we ponied up the 15 clams and dispensed with the « » at the end of our name (much as we are liking wordpress right now) to become simply Easy to remember, n’est-ce pas?

I am looking for contributors who would like to write blog entries from time to time. Send me an example blog article (related in some way to FIA, bien sûr). If I like it I’ll put it up here and designate you as an author, meaning you are free to post as many blog entries as you’d like, whenever you like, without my involvement (I won’t have to approve your post). I retain administrator privileges, but will only nuke something by someone who exhibits signs of being «mal élevé».

I am especially interested in hearing from anyone involved in the production of FIA. Why not share your reminiscences with those who love what you made twenty years ago?

Use the form below the fold to contact me. Lire la suite

Qu’est-ce qu’elles disent?


More than once during the course of FIA we are treated to this cute scene of Mireille and Marie-Laure playing this children’s game.

They sing in unison:

«Je te tiens, tu me tiens par la barbichette, la première qui rira aura une tapette.»

A «Barbichette» is a goatee according to the Ultralingua dictionary on my ‘puter. Makes sense, even though neither party to this game has one (grâce à Dieu). But what is «une tapette»? Ultralingua renders this one as  » a queer or homosexual. » Gee, quel drôle de jeu, I thought. Here they are singing:  » I have you, you have me, by the whiskers on our chin, the first one who laughs will have a homosexual. » A homosexual what?, I thought. First child? Yikes! Luckily my Langenscheidt French-English dictionary also includes « a gentle tap » as one of the meanings of this word.

Une drôle de bonne soeur et son journal

Thanks to Charles Mayer’s Fancy Robot posts, we know that all the filming in Paris took place during the summer of 1985. It’s fun to look for such things as movie placards and magazines incidentally caught on film that definitively date the shot. Here we see the mysterious man-in-black (Jean-Claude Cotillard) in Leçon 40. He’s at a table at Fouquet’s near the one at which Mireille, Robert, Hubert and Jean-Pierre are sitting. Just earlier he had appeared to be a spy who alternately blinked his eyes so as to spell «zut» in Morse code. Now, as Prof. Capretz says: «Le drôle de type qui faisait du morse en clignant ses yeux a disparu et a été remplacé par une bonne soeur qui fait du morse avec sa cornettejean-claude.jpg».

Bizarre, bizarre…

Note the newspaper he’s holding. It’s La Croix, a daily Catholic newspaper (le journal correct pour une soeur). The date on the masthead is far too small to read, but the headline is plain: «Jean-Paul II, du Kenya au Maroc».

In less than 30 seconds Google finds me the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops page with the dates of all of John Paul II’s trips outside of Italy. Le Pape traveled to Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Kenya, and Morocco from August 8-19, 1985. The headline indicates that John Paul was on the final leg of this trip, traveling between Kenya and Morocco. Thus it seems likely that the date of this newspaper, and hence the day of filming, is probably 18 August 1985, plus or minus a day.

I’d love to hear about details in other episodes that date them.

And oh, yes, I have a life, I swear!

Is Mireille your cult hero? You’re not alone!

Who the first was to concede cult status to FIA and Valérie Allain we may never know, but in 2005 radio station WNMC in Traverse City, MI aired a piece by Jim Turner that rings all too true for many of us.

Turner ends with the conclusion: « Here in America, Mireille is a cult hero. »

UPDATE! Now all you have to do is cliquer ici.

travaux en cours

As you can surely tell, I have much to figure out regarding how best to set up this site. Bear with me and send me your suggestions!

A helpful blog visitor pointed out that the Fancy Robot FIA thread DOES survive at Amazing. It now lives at the link above.