Photo of the Week


The Eiffel Tower seen from a rooftop in Montparnasse on a smoggy day. © Paris Update


Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Women’s March on Paris
> The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, women will march in cities around the world. Starts at the Parvis des Droits Humains, Trocadero, at 2pm, crosses the Pont d’Iéna and ends at the Mur pour la Paix at 4:30pm.

Behind closed doors
> Book now to visit places in Paris that are normally closed during Paris Face Cachée, including a lab trying to find cures for genetic diseases, located in a glass building with a panoramic roof terrace. Various venues, Paris and suburbs, Jan. 27-29.

Book signing
> Irish author Donal Ryan signs copies of his latest book, The Thing About December. Irish Cultural Center, Paris, Jan. 19.

Late-Night Magritte
> The Magritte exhibition at the Centre Pompidou will stay open until 10pm from Jan. 19 through the last day, Jan. 23.

> Paris Cocktail Week offers master classes, special restaurant menus with cocktail/food pairings and other festivities. Various venues, Paris, Jan. 21-28.

Young European photographers
> The Festival Circulation(s) features emerging photographers. Centquatre, Paris, Jan. 21-March 5.

Picasso at the airport
> The exhibition "Picasso Plein Soleil" presents works made by the master while living on the Côte d’Azur. Espace Musées, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport 2E, Jan. 21-June 15.

Cheap cinema
> During the Festival Cinéma Télérama, you can see a selection of last year’s best films for only €3.50 each with the purchase of Télérama magazine (Jan. 11 and 18 issues). Various cinemas, Jan. 18-24.

Free subtitled French films
> My French Film Festival offers frees streaming of French movies. Through Feb. 13.

Frank Capra Retrospective
> The great American director in the spotlight. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 27.

Sex, Lies and Corruption
> The Hollywood Décadent festival features such films as Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor, Valley of the Dolls, and Vincente Minnelli’s Nina. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Jan. 25.

Chinese New Wave
> Nouvelles Voix du Cinéma Chinois screens films by a new generation of directors beginning around the turn of the 21st-century. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 20.

Winter sales
> Retail sales all over France: through Feb. 21.

Ice-Skating Rinks
> Where to ice skate in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais.

English plays in French
> Two plays by Harold Pinter, Ashes to Ashes and L’Amant, directed by Mitch Hooper, are onstage at the Essaïon through Jan. 24, 2017.


La Tête en Friche

La Tête en Friche

Gisèle Casadesus and Gérard Depardieu make the story of an unlikely friendship totally convincing.

Jean Becker’s new movie, La Tête en Friche (based on Marie-Sabine Roger’s book of the same name), is in so many ways hopelessly outdated. It portrays village life as it was ...

La Tête en Friche

Gisèle Casadesus and Gérard Depardieu make the story of an unlikely friendship totally convincing.

Jean Becker’s new movie, La Tête en Friche (based on Marie-Sabine Roger’s book of the same name), is in so many ways hopelessly outdated. It portrays village life as it was represented on film in the 1930s and 1940s: gentle, undemanding and with the lesser roles of the villagers overacted with eye-rolling and thigh-slapping joviality.

Yet, thanks to the central roles of the village idiot Germain and 95-year-old Margueritte (yes, spelled with two ts), played by Gérard Depardieu and Gisèle Casadesus respectively, La Tête en Friche (My Afternoons with Margueritte) manages a charm and intensity that just manage to avoid most clichés of rural French life. The story revolves around their meeting in a park and the unlikely friendship that ensues, as the semi-literate Germain is read to by the erudite Margueritte before he learns to read to her when her eyesight begins to fail.

Reading books is never easy to dramatize effectively, but Becker displays a sure touch in depicting Germain’s imagination as he listens to the older woman: the rabble of rats he envisages as he listens to Albert Camus’s The Plague is particularly vivid. Flashbacks to Germain’s childhood inform us about the bullying he suffered both at school and at home. All the other actors in supporting roles (not least a ludicrously over-the-top Claire Maurier as Germain’s mother) might usefully have picked up a few tips from the understated dignity with which Florian Yven plays Germain as a child.

Depardieu proves yet again what a versatile and subtle actor he is, making Germain utterly believable, perhaps most poignantly so when he weeps over the dead body of a mother who showed him so little love when she was alive. Although it seems unlikely that Germain would have such a buxom young girlfriend as Annette (played by Sophie Guillemin, an actress who has been scandalously underused since her movie debut in Cedric Kahn’s L’Ennui in 1998), this is the fault of the director. As for Gisèle Casadesus (herself now 96), she brings an energy to the screen that belies her age.

Nick Hammond

Reader Andrew Fildes writes: "Pons is not exactly a village, and I have spent some time in smaller communities in Charente-Maritime over the last 50 years. The semi-rural lifestyle depicted here is not that of the 30's-40's, but very much of the present. I have seen these people in the bars and on the farms and lanes even recently. Perhaps the only jarring note is that I did not hear real Charentais voices – but that may have been too incomprehensible for the audience. It is quite impenetrable.
"Yes, it seems unlikely that the girlfriend would be a Guillemin type, but unlikely alliances do occur. As a teacher of long experience, the performance of Yven as the child did not seem to display 'understated dignity' to me. The word 'bovine' came to mind.
"I think that we forget that there are pockets that time forgets. Yes, the scene shown in this film is not modern, but it does still exist, and we see the intrusion of modern life frequently, such as in the family in the park or the horror of the Flemish nursing home. People still live and behave in this way. And if I want to see eye-rolling and thigh slapping joviality, I may go down now (and I think I will) to my local bar in a similar community here in Australia and see very similar people behave in a similar way. The chef is a mad Lithuanian, the waitress a university student, and there will be the usual crowd of accountants, artists and artisans carrying on in much the same way.
"These places exist - seek them out.
"The film has enormous charm and does seek to connect with something lost – simple goodwill perhaps."

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