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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hedgehog (Le hérisson)

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

At an upscale apartment house with five luxury flats in Paris, Renee sweeps the sidewalk and picks up litter, takes out the trash bins, keeps the vestibule tidy, arranges for maintenance, and delivers parcels. A widow who was unable to have children, Renee looks dowdy and seldom smiles. When her day is done, she hides away in an inner room lined with books. (Please see the Internet Movie Database for the complete list of cast and crew http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442519/)
 
A new resident moves in, Kakuro Ozu. He is a handsome man of mature age, a widower, who recognizes that he and the custodian share a love of classical literature. Kakuro invites Renee to dinner in his apartment and her friend borrows a dress for her. He then invites her out to dinner. She refuses, then accepts. Kakuro senses her desire to She gets her hair done for the first time in her life.
 
The character that ties the story together is the 12-year old, Paloma (the name means “dove”) who is in the midst of resolving the existential crisis of meaning about her. She is highly intelligent and planning her suicide on her birthday. As she observes her mother living on pharmaceuticals, her sister Columba’s superficial life on track to follow her mother’s vacuous existence (Columba means “pigeon”), and her wealthy father’s cluelessness about his wife and children, she notices Renee.
 
Paloma video tapes everything around her, a cinematic device we saw this summer with the sci-fi thriller “Super 8”. She’s the one who “sees” Renee and Renee sees Paloma right back.
 
The tensions are set between Renee and Kakuro, Renee and her friend who finds the dress for her, Renee and a homeless man, and Paloma against the world. Throughout the film she is wearing stripes and it made me think that perhaps it was her telling everyone that she is in a prison.
 
I felt that I had seen fine literature come to life with this film that takes place almost entirely  in an apartment building. Indeed the story is based on the critically acclaimed French novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.
 
At the end, as I watched the credits, I thought: this is why we love cinema.
 
In French with English subtitles.


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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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