So you think you’ve had some epic midnight snacks. Fair enough.
Have you ever encountered a vision of Jeanne Moreau singing in front of your open refrigerator in the middle of the night as you check the freshness of a half-eaten tuna sandwich?
I was there. And she sang to me.
Somehow, about two weeks ago, I found myself standing half asleep in front of my refrigerator at 3 AM, trying to decide between a leftover half tuna sandwich and some cold soba noodles. And while I was deciding (looking quite anguished, the half-tuna sandwich would have told you), I began to hum the first tune that popped into my head. And, just as I grabbed for the tuna, I glanced to my side and briefly saw an apparition of a 33 year-old Jeanne Moreau, humming along with me and then singing the same song she sang in Francois Truffaut’s masterpiece Jules et Jim.
Now, that is one heck of a classy midnight snack hallucination. And I’ll bet you may even know the song she was singing.
It’s called “Le Tourbillon de La Vie” or “The Whirlwind of Life?” The name might not ring a bell, but you may have first heard it when I did, in Truffaut’s haunting film Jules et Jim about a love triangle involving a French Bohemian Jim (Henri Serre), his friend Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jules’s girlfriend Catherine (Jeanne Moreau).
At first, the French words did not immediately come to mind. They are packed tightly into the melody, and even if you speak French, they are a bit of a tongue twister. But in a few minutes, just about when I realized that I might need something more than half a tuna sandwich, they began to come back to me. By this time, Jeanne Moreau was gone and I didn’t have to worry about her correcting my French as I began to sing:
Elle avait des bagues à chaque doigt,
Des tas de bracelets autour des poignets,
Et puis elle chantait avec une voix
Qui, sitôt, m’enjôla
And I sang.
She sings the song in a scene in which she is accompanied on guitar by the character Bassiak (played by Serge Rezvani, who actually wrote the song). The lyrics capture the spirit of the film beautifully, and speak of love that comes and goes so quickly “dans le tourbillon de la vie” (in the whirlwind of life). At first the song suggests pure whimsy, but the context in which it is used in the film (can’t say more , it would be a spoiler) suggests dark clouds on the horizon. Moreau’s voice is magnificent.
I found the scene in the film and started to watch it again:
Then I remembered. There had been a problem.
Years before, this beautiful melody somehow settled in my head and refused to leave. It became my nemesis. I couldn’t shake it. I woke up to it, either heard it in my head or sang it out loud, went to sleep to it, and once, after asking a friend if he liked the song playing as much as I did, he gently pointed out that it wasn’t playing. Anywhere.
And then just as suddenly, it picked up and left.
Which leads directly to Turbo Tax. What?
Yup. This song and this story lead straight to TurboTax® Tax Preparation Software. Here’s what happened.
A few days after my vision, I was cleaning up in the kitchen and heard Le Tourbillon de La Vie again. I didn’t turn around, assuming it was on a CD mix I had made, but then I realized that it was being used as the musical theme in an American TV commercial. Wait a minute. First, Jeanne Moreau sings it as I eat my tuna sandwich and then I hear it again as a commercial. I had to know: for what kind of product would “Le Tourbillon de La Vie” be an appropriate musical choice? So here is what quickly followed on my computer.
My first Google query was much too broad:
I should have known that “catchy song” didn’t exactly narrow the field. So then:
Ah, two American ad campaigns with a French theme. But not Le Tourbillon. I tried again. And, finally, there it was: a commercial for TurboTax® Tax Preparation Software.
It may be a stretch to call this classic film song “The Turbo Tax Wedding Commercial Song.” But here’s the commercial which, I confess in advance, I think is brilliantly conceived and executed.
The song fits perfectly, implying that a disorganized, turbulent life can be tamed into order by tax preparation software.
The commercial as a whole seems to say: We all hate doing taxes. It makes us feel like we’re being asked to show up and give a full-blown accounting of all the questionable choices we’ve made in a year.
Then comes the solution for this anxiety:
“So, you think you’re the first person who has ever been thrown off balance by some costly life mistakes? Hell no. And it might happen again. Things come around again and again when we live in a whirlwind. Why not stop torturing yourself and see life’s ups and downs as inevitable as you move through what is a universal, turbulent game? All you have to do is get off your butt and bring the year to an end by finishing your taxes.
Silly? Of course. But it is knowingly and gloriously silly, done by director Noam Murro with style and barely controlled lunacy. And it wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized the similarity between the name of the product, Turbo Tax, and the name of the song, “Le Tourbillon de La Vie.”
And that was that. Jeanne Moreau was gone.
I know we don’t pick our apparitions and that those on my refrigerator visit wish list also have something to say about which refrigerators they visit. Piaf probably has a full schedule and Georges Guétary is almost certainly still going up and down the stairway to paradise.
But if Marlene Dietrich happens in the neighborhood, just say the word and I’ll be there with any kind of a sandwich you want. Just sing “Falling in Love Again” and I’ll pretend to be Emil Jannings.