A year in Paris: bald in the French capital

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Paris' iconic Stade de France

Age is just a number at the French cinema

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Sunset at Place de la Concorde

It’s noon and I’m still in bed, crapulent after an intemperate night, the facts of which were lost somewhere in the Seine’s swell. I also need a haircut and thankfully my local barber does a reduced rate for students. This is real no-frills hair-cutting: I am assigned a barber who eschews all polite chit-chat, asks what I want and gets to it. “Marine” (let’s call her Marine) has the glummest of looks etched across her face, mowing my locks with dour determination. She’s also enormous, arms like cannons and hands like two women’s bicycle seats. I had asked for a five on the back and sides and bit shorter on top. It’s only once her instrument of torture has made contact with my brain that she alerts me to the fact that France and Britain have different systems. A five in the UK is apparently (and I can attest) a lot, lot shorter in France.

I decide to go and see the Wolf of Wall Street (“Le Loup de Wall Street”). Scorsese and DiCaprio’s latest offering about Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who cheats hardworking, aspirational but ultimately naïve middle class Americans, has taken such flak since its release that even before the opening credits roll, I have landed my forces in the moral high ground, usurped its previous ruler, planted my flag and am currently in the process of building a town for me and my self-righteous friends.

Yet DiCaprio’s performance is so compelling, so utterly overwhelming that what starts as a raised eyebrow quickly becomes a smile, evolving seamlessly into a smirk and even more naturally into an involuntary titter. Very quickly I’m guffawing like a maniacal clown, slapping my knee and gasping for breath.

Yet beyond my own hypocrisy and puerile humour, what shocks me most is the film’s certificate in France. “Interdit aux moins de 12 ans” (“Must be 12 or over”). Now, I don’t want to ruin the film for those who haven’t seen it, but one scene that really sticks in the memory involves the protagonist snorting cocaine of a prostitute’s buttock. Added to this is the colourful language: with 506 “fuck”s in its two-hour, 59-minute running time, the film uses the f-word approximately 2.81 times a minute. The film has not been dubbed into French so whoever wrote the subtitles has myriad variations on this profanity, that after being uttered several hundred times begins to lose all meaning and seems as natural to the characters as, say, breathing.

The point is that ankle-biting, barely-out-the-womb 12-years-olds are being exposed to a film that in the UK is an 18. And the kids go, in droves! Or at least they did when I went. Armies of chubby-cheeked, feet-not-long-enough-to-touch-the-floor, paws-plunged-into-buckets-of-popcorn, toe-rags. They sit, eager-eyed, confused by most of what goes on and unsure how to react to the nudity that pervades the entirety of the film.

A cursory search of the internet on the subject has been fruitless; the French seem utterly unconcerned that the nation’s bedwetters will soon have a better understanding of narcotics than their three times table.

French flair leaves the English rose withered

Paris' iconic Stade de France
Paris’ iconic Stade de France

I was fortunate (or unfortunate, perhaps) to have a ticket for last weekend’s contest between the respective XVs of England and France at the Stade de France. It was a bruising encounter that saw the English vanquished and the French triumphant, thanks, in part, to luck, costly errors and that indomitable Gallic flair we’ve come to know and loathe.

In bygone years, I am reliably informed, cockerels would be released onto the pitch before the start of the match. They simply ran amok, probably terrified by the lights and the noise. Times have changed, however, and this is apparently against animal rights or something. Nope, there were no running cockerels at the Stade last Saturday, headless or otherwise, just the cool-headed saunter of Gael Fickou, plunging a dagger into English hearts with his last-minute try.

Read all about it

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I’ve forgotten the name of this bridge but it’s nonetheless a pretty view

The Saint is out on Thursday 6 February and you would be well advised to pick up a copy. Few know or understand the hard work that goes in to producing the paper, the long hours, the scratching of heads in the vague hope that pithy, thoughtful headlines will tumble onto the page, or the simple drudgery of crossing the Ts and dotting the pesky Is. So if a member of the team offers you a copy, don’t ignore him or her or rattle off some unintelligible, witless excuse. Take a copy, smile, and at least wait until you’re out of view and earshot before tearing the thing to shreds, literally and metaphorically speaking.

Also, I have a piece in this week’s edition. If you hate my guts, are a sick human being, have a penchant for Schadenfreude or simply find your attention piqued by the thought of me being tear gassed, then I urge you to read on. If, conversely, you’re in search of a thoughtful treatise on the state of French politics and its economy, I can only apologize.

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