Monday, 13 August 2012

Plus Belle la Vie

Plus belle la vie (PBLV)

I make no secret of the fact that I am addicted to the French soap opera ‘Plus Belle la Vie’. It is broadcast every week day on France 3, 2015 – 2040 French time. I record it from our satellite TV and watch an episode every evening when eating my dinner. I could claim that I watch it purely for the linguistic and cultural benefits it offers a French teacher and learner as it naturally covers topics and issues which appeal to at least 6 million viewers of all ages, and presents current language in a ‘context’, in both audio and, thanks to subtitling for the hard of hearing, text. However, I am going to be honest and tell you that I watch it for the story lines, the human interest, and the quality of the acting. I just love it! I know that it is common to make fun of soaps and people who watch them, but I will defend my passion to the last! (Incidentally, I often find that people who disapprove have not actually watched the programme)

I got into the series via access to satellite TV, (see my separate blogposts - my March 2009 one which I have just remembered  is here, and an updated one is here) subscribing to a regular TV magazine (Telecablesat), reading the books which go with the series and helped to ‘fill in’ the storylines and the character profiles, and looking in detail at the website which gives a text summary of every episode if you have missed them (and if you are resident in France, lets you watch them).

My highlight
My summer holiday in 2012 had ‘Plus Belle La Vie’ as its leitmotif.
I drove down to Marseille (stopping off at St Flour), stayed there for 5 days, and just soaked up the atmosphere which is captured so well in the opening sequence of every programme .. sun, scenery, transport, emotions, to the accompaniment of Eva's song
I was a bit disappointed that the official 'tours' whch were advertised on the Internet no longer run (the walk and the boat trip), however I was still able to work out where scenes were filmed (tourner).
My hotel room looked across the vieux port; every morning I woke up to a ‘real’ version of the soap’s setting, but fortunately without any meddling from Mirta, the owner of the soap's 'Select Hotel'!
The tourist office’s walking tour included the ‘Panier’ district and a stop in the ‘Place des 13 cantons’ which was the inspiration for the fictional ‘Place Mistral’, the hub of all activity in the series.
I later went back and spent ages in the PBLV Boutique, talking with the delightful assistants who told me all sorts of ‘feel-good’ stories about fans who had told them how the soap had helped them in bad times or inspired them. I bought lots of ‘merchandise’ .. in particular, I cannot wait to read the ‘Lettre à Johanna’ .. the book written by Blanche Marci to her estranged daughter.
I sat outside the ‘Le bar des 3 coins' and imagined that it was my favourite waiter Thomas who was serving me. And perhaps I caught sight of Roland and Mélanie inside ...
Opposite the PBLV shop, there is a little cinema where I watched a short film which gave an open, honest and compelling background to the series, sharing the concerns of the early days when the ratings were low, and the challenge of producing a soap which combines so many genres (hospital, police, school, café neighbourhood .. they are all there!).
I went by bus to Le Parc Borely (where many outside scenes are filmed) and may be that was Blanche pushing Noé on a swing.  Rudy and Ninon were definitely nowhere near the bushes!
I went on a boat trip aroud the Calanques, and I think I spotted Vincent Chaumette engaged in conversation with some shady characters ...
I did not contract any illness, so sadly had no excuse to go and see my very favourte character, the  laid-back, cool Guillaume who seems to have a knack for understanding people (including his son, Nathan, who I was surprised to learn is real life brother to real life Ninon!) .. but I saw several police cars.  No sign of Boher or Samia though; they are probably taking a break to relieve the tension of impending parenthood!

I can't wait to go back during 2013 when Marseille will be cultural city of Europe and ....who knows ...  perhaps they could reinstate the PBLV tours?!
I have already used the occasional episode in my lessons to give my pupils the flavour of ‘French TV’ and I was pleasantly surprised at the success. The pure quality of a TV production somehow seems to engage people (hence why I regret the passing of up-dated BBC language learning programmes) – and the clear visual support helps understanding of the story line.

So, what next?
I have now joined the Facebook PBLV page
I’m going to put together a simple ‘family tree’ to help people ‘get into’ the story.
I will compile a list of links for anyone who would like to join my addiction – initially they are here at the end of this post and I will add to them … but eventually I will perhaps put it onto the mflresources wiki
I appeal to anyone who is already in the PBLV camp to contact me and tell me about any groups there are for fans (Dominic, you don’t know how happy I was to read that I was not the only one!)
I am going to write to the PBLV team and see if there is any way at all that I could get to see the studios or the actors. That’s what I really really want ..!!!

Some links
My Flickr set for Plus Belle la Vie
Wikipedia article – an excellent introduction
France 3 Plus Belle la Vie website
Plus Belle La Vie website

Facebook groups: (I'll try to work ou tthe differences some other time . I think the first one is the official one!)
One Facebook group
Another Facebooko group
Yet another Facebook group

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