Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Puppet Angel PWNed By Fluffy Representation Of Architectural Marvel

Here is the pictorial proof.

Last week Canyon and I went to Paris for a few days, which is why this blog went into yet more hibernation (and why, if anyone reading this has tried to contact me in recent days, there has been little or no response. Many apologies; I'll catch up ASAP). We learned a lot about Paris, and French culture, and took photos. Here are some of them. Many of these can be enlargenated using a cursor click to activate the process, FYI.

One of the things we felt compelled to do was visit the bookshop called Shakespeare and Company, as it had featured so prominently in one of our favourite movies, Before Sunset.

I had hoped that we would be able to retrace Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's steps through Paris, but that would have involved even more walking than we already did, which made it untenable. Still, we had this as a consolation prize; a rare sighting of the Lesser-Praised Hawke-Novel.

Over the road from the world-renowned bookstore is the less well-known Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux, named after a famous carpet and a popular US university football team.

Within the cathedral are the usual churchly accoutrements, such as pews and elaborate windows. There is also, for the conspiracy theorists and Da Vinci Code fans, the infamous Swarovski Stable Scene.

This crystalline rendering of the birth of Christ has been carbon-dated to 5000BC, which has sparked much speculation about the chronology of events in the Bible. Whatever the truth behind this mysterious artifact, I think we can agree it sure does look pretty!

Speaking of pretty, here's the Venus De Milo.

It is, of course, named after the song by Television, "Venus", from their album Marquee Moon, and the fictional genius Milo Rambaldi, from the beloved pre-Da-Vinci Code conspiracy theory show Alias. This picture was taken by Canyon inside the Louvre. Here is the exterior, inspired by the terrifying Silent Hill antagonist, Pyramid Head.

In addition to Venus de Milo, the Louvre also contains the painting known as the Mona Lisa.

Named after the beloved Neil Jordan movie, starring Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine, it's a lovely painting, the epitome of beauty and classiness. I was humbled in its presence, made to feel so insignificant in the scheme of things. I doubt I was the only one who felt he should have arrived in this room wearing a dinner jacket or something. My Lego Han Solo t-shirt was not right for the occasion, but at least I wasn't this guy.

That's right, it's a National Pornographic t-shirt. Well done, sir. Da Vinci would have been honoured to have you around, that child-of-Christ concealing, codec-creating maverick.

Paris is full of relics of famous and talented people. While searching for the gallery of famous comic artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, I stumbled across this statue of Gaston Mangin, the inventor of the Mangina.

Such a small memorial to such a great man. However, that was more interesting than the Moebius gallery. Can someone alter his website to state that the building at 27 Rue Falguière is empty, so that no one else wastes half a day tromping through a really depressing series of backstreets? And can they go back in time to do it? For that, I'll side with Denzel Washington. Kirby Silver Surfer is definitely better than Moebius Silver Surfer.

Everywhere we went last week, we were watched by a train lady. Or, should I say, La Fille Du RER.

To put this into perspective, imagine a British movie called The Girl From The Docklands Light Railway. Actually, it does sound pretty good, though who knows if it will get a UK release. It doesn't happen that often. Still, there's an upside to that. At least we won't get to see Coco.

There were posters for this all over Paris as well, and after a day of seeing Gad Elmaleh's gurning face I began to quietly despair. I was almost tempted to see the damned thing just to exorcise myself, but without subtitles I doubt there would be much point. The trailer above is incomprehensible to me. I could have gone to see Marley Et Moi instead, with Jennifer Aniston as a private eye who dies and comes back as a dog.

It's silly to be annoyed at the posters for Coco. For all I know it's a highly sophisticated comedy, and Elmaleh is the natural successor to Jacques Tati's crown. It's just that it was everywhere, tainting the image of France as the cultural capital of Europe, home to great cinema, great food, great theatre.

Still, some parts of Paris were free from Coco. Paris is the city of romance, and so I felt compelled to visit the site of my favourite French romance, the Pont Neuf, immortalised in Leos Carax's notorious Les Amants du Pont-Neuf.

Yes, at 0:43 you do indeed see a fleeting, silhouetted glimpse of Denis Lavant's enormous schlong. Ah, Les Amants. What a movie. While the majority of heterosexual man-dom fell for Juliette Binoche in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, my own crush was formed during Les Amants and Carax's previous movie, Mauvais Sang. Both are great. (N.B. If anyone fancies buying me this, please feel free.)

Of course, Carax was unable to film on the actual bridge, seen above, so instead he filmed on a set. While standing on this stunning piece of architecture, I tried to see how much the surroundings matched the set; a silly task considering it's been years since seeing the movie, and I can't remember the exact details. While I pirouetted in an attempt to recall something, poor Canyon got more and more tired. We did a lot of walking that day.

Funnily enough, it wasn't until our last night there that we walked the relatively tiny distance to the nearest tourist trap. The apartment we stayed at was so close to the Eiffel Tower that you could smell the puddled iron. I wasn't about to leave Paris until I'd seen it, so a couple of us wandered over after an excellent meal of roast duck with duck pate, duck stew, and duck cassoulet. Here is a photo of Alec Eiffel.

He is, of course, named after the song by The Pixies.

The view from the bottom of the tower made me feel like I was docking with the Death Star.

Here is a shot of the famous Eiffel Death Ray.

This is used to repel all of the threats from outer space that have reduced the tower to a heap of melted slag in several motion pictures, including War of the Worlds, Independence Day, and Zéro De Conduite. Those previous three pictures are by me, and are flukes. These next four are by Canyon.

Yes, I have been horribly glib throughout this post, but it's merely to disguise my true feelings about the trip. Have you ever visited a place and fallen for it the instant you leave the station/airport?

It happened the first time I came to London, home of my heart even now that the substandard infrastructure drives me to distraction (and not my desired destination, 99% of the time). I thought that feeling would be replicated when finally visiting New York, but while I very much like it and want to spend more time there, there wasn't the immediate blast of emotion I had expected.

Paris, on the other hand, completely won me over. Never have I seen a city containing such effortlessly beautiful buildings, nor have I been lucky enough to visit somewhere so busy and yet filled with such charming and polite people. It's often said there is an antagonism between the English and the French, but I think that's bullshit. Even though my command of French is minimal, I felt relaxed and welcomed by Paris. My next visit cannot come soon enough.

Vive la France!


Santanico said...

Though I admit it fills me with bottomless literary sadness to see Ethan Hawke's "novel" shelved next to Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, it cheers me to hear you had a wonderful time on holiday, Neck. That pic of the Venus de Milo, especially, is stunning.

And also, 1000 bonus points for the Leos Carax shout-out. Thanks to him, I can never again listen to Bowie's "Modern Love" without picturing Denis Lavant gambolling joyously down a deserted Parisian street.

Masticator said...

I concur with your closing comments wholeheartedly. I have never had a bad experience with the notorious Parisian waiter of legend, and I have encountered more rudeness in various Spanish and Italian cities, particularly Rome. I firmly believe that the English readiness to label the French rude comes from a simple difference in the concept of “good manners”; specifically, the failure of our neighbours to precede or follow every single utterance with “please”, “thank you” or “sorry”, as most British children are encouraged to do from birth. Most other cultures in Europe are similar, but naturally it’s the French with whom we have had most contact. The sooner this tired and specious stereotype is laid to rest the better.

Great pictures, Canyon!

Jaredan said...

I'm glad you both had a great time.