Photo of the Week

ParisUpdate-JohnGoodmanforFrenchPresident

Humor on the hoardings spotted before the first round of the French elections: “John Goodman (Jean Gentilhomme) for President,” the candidate of the “Nice Peoples' Party. That would make a change. © Paris Update

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Silent films from Switzerland?

ParisUpdate-train300

> They’re rare, but they do exist and can be seen at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, through May 2.

Retail heaven
> You can buy just about anything at the century-old Foire de Paris, a gigantic pop-up store. Porte de Versailles, Paris. April 27-May 8.

Voices from the North
> The Pølar Festival celebrates Northern European culture with films, concerts, talks and more. Various locations, Paris, through April 29.

Photo walk
> Eight Paris galleries hold special photography shows and events for Parcours Fotofever. Various locations, Paris, through May 1.

Photo shows galore
> Le Mois de la Photo has been moved from autumn to spring, with 96 exhibitions taking place all over the greater Paris area. See Web site for locations and dates.

Art videos
> The theme of this year’s Videobox Festival is “noise and movement.” Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 27-29.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Nicolas Boukhrief’s La Confession, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, April 28.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

 

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Year in Review

ariadne auf naxos, opera bastille paris

Ricarda Merbeth as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos. Photo: Julien Benhamou/Opéra National de Paris

On the operatic front, after the production disasters of 2009, 2010 turned out to be a bumper year. From the perfectly acceptable Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek) and ...

ariadne auf naxos, opera bastille paris

Ricarda Merbeth as Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos. Photo: Julien Benhamou/Opéra National de Paris

On the operatic front, after the production disasters of 2009, 2010 turned out to be a bumper year. From the perfectly acceptable Cunning Little Vixen (Janacek) and Flying Dutchman (Wagner) to the sensational Billy Budd (Britten) and the (for me) unexpectedly affecting Il Trittico (Puccini), the Bastille opera house managed to maintain a consistently high standard throughout the year. At the end of the year, I appreciated the musical complexity and the colorful staging of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, but found its unremitting seriousness somewhat trying. Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, which managed to be witty and poignant in equal measure, added a glorious cherry on top of the 2010 operatic cake.

As far as movies are concerned, 2010 was less of a vintage year, but I no longer feel quite as depressed about the state of French cinema as I have been in these columns over the last few years. I appreciate that I did not manage to see the much-lauded Des Hommes et des Dieux and missed the prolific François Ozon’s Potiche, which received favorable reviews. But I enjoyed Ozon’s earlier offering Le Refuge (starring a heavily pregnant Isabelle Carré) and found much to admire in Mathieu Amalric’s uneven Tournée, for which he won the best director prize at Cannes. The subtle central performances by Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus in La Tête en Friche made up for the outrageously over-the-top acting by the secondary characters. Two wonderfully comic movies, La Reine des Pommes and Les Invités de Mon Père, brightened up March and May for me. It was good to see a faithful adaptation of Madame de Lafayette’s novella La Princesse de Montpensier by Bertrand Tavernier and encouraging to be introduced to the directing talents of the precocious Canadian Xavier Dolan (who is only 21) in Les Amours Imaginaires. The smash box-office hit of the year, L’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker), starring Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis, may not have made many intellectual demands on the viewer but still managed to be comic and entertaining. As for the otherwise sparkling Le Nom des Gens, it was only its horrendous sexism that set my teeth on edge.

Art and restaurant reviews are the hallowed turf of other reviewers on this site, but let me just add that I greatly enjoyed the exhibition at the Opéra Garnier devoted to the great French soprano Régine Crespin, and I thoroughly concur with the thumbs up given to the restaurants Spring and Mini Palais. Roll on 2011 for another year of musical, cinematic and gustatory treats!

Nick Hammond

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