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.

 

Hot Topics - Tales of la Ville

 

Bandes Dessinées

bandes dessines

The bande dessinée section in any Paris bookshop
is bound to be packed. Photo: J. Gascoigne

Walk into any large bookshop in Paris, and you are sure to find one section full of people with their noses buried in books, leaning against the walls, sitting on the floor, hunched over the book-laden tables. In the ...

bandes dessines

The bande dessinée section in any Paris bookshop
is bound to be packed. Photo: J. Gascoigne

Walk into any large bookshop in Paris, and you are sure to find one section full of people with their noses buried in books, leaning against the walls, sitting on the floor, hunched over the book-laden tables. In the great land of rational thought, might that be the philosophy section? Emphatically not. Or the wonderfully diverse literature section? Non!

Look at the sign above this mass of slouching Gallic humanity, and you will see the words “Bande Dessinée,” or just the letters “BD.” That’s cartoons or comics to you and me. Yes, cartoons! Surely only children or teenagers would pass their time reading such junk? But in fact, you will see every conceivable type sitting beside the bookshelves: respectable men in jackets and ties, unrespectable men with greasy hair, mothers with babies in strollers, girls in jeans, aging hippies, boys in tracksuits and trainers, women on crutches, even tramps.

Indeed, the BD has become an indelible part of French or francophone identity in the 20th and 21st centuries, with comic books being written as much for the adult market as for younger generations. In 2006, 4,130 different BDs were published in France, and in 2007 more than 40 million were sold in France alone (bringing in more than €383 million). Nowadays you will find almost as many academic conferences on the BD as on other kinds of literature or film. There are also regular BD fairs, most notably in Angoulême and Blois.

Yet I have to confess that I simply don’t get the BD. Although I enjoyed reading the Asterix and Tintin comic books as a child, that’s when the enjoyment stopped. Now that I can appreciate real literature, the need to have one’s narrative aided and abetted by sketchily drawn cartoons feels like an affront to the crumbs of intelligence I possess.

My many dear French friends continue to attempt to convert me. Not a birthday or Christmas goes by without one of them presenting me with yet another BD album. And every time, I thank them politely for their generous gift, then dutifully start reading the book before giving up about 10 pages in and consigning the album to a distant shelf.

Perhaps I should sell my rapidly increasing collection of mint-condition BDs on eBay and make a fortune from some fanatic who appreciates them a whole lot more than I do?
James Gascoigne

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