Friday, March 16, 2007

News from the front

The French front, that is. As the U.S. sinks into further insanity with every passing minute, the first round of the presidential elections is a month away in France, and things are both heating up and…not.

Heating up, because the center-right candidate, François Bayrou, has come from way behind to pull up to pretty much the same level as the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal (candidate MILF!), and now both of them are a few points behind the frontrunner, rightist Nicolas Sarkozy. A few months ago it was assumed by most that Sarko and Ségo would duke it out in the second round, on May 6. Now things are up in the air.

But not heating up either, because the campaign, at least seen from New York, feels rather dull. Sarko has a proven record as a power-mad authoritarian, the great muckracking weekly Le Canard enchaîné has unearthed juicy stuff about his real-estate holdings, and yet he's ahead. But Ségo's campaign is disastrous. She's not any more or less knowledgeable than her male competitors but when she is caught not knowing something, it sticks like glue. Meanwhile, members or former members of her own party are coming up with books attacking her.

On Tuesday, Alan Riding had an article in The New York Times about how contrary to years past, culture doesn't figure out much in these elections. What caught my eye is that how he remarked that unlike in England, in France there's still a "gulf between subsidized high culture and commercial popular culture." First of all, this a rather big overstatement. Unlike in France "directors and actors move freely between serious theater and movies" in England, says Riding; I'm sure this will be news to the likes of Michel Piccoli, Philippe Torreton, Jeanne Balibar, Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Frot—actors who move freely between theater (both serious and not) and movies (ditto). I mean come on: even Alain Delon is starring in a stage adaptation of Bridges of Madison County right now!

Also, since bridging the "gulf" between high and low is to be praised, Riding may want to look into it. A new opera in Copenhagen? Check. Something cooking at the Tate? Right-o. Just don't expect any coverage of what sociological tidbits can be gleaned from Nouvelle Star, the French take on American Idol, for instance, or even of the commercial theater scene anywhere but England (see Alain Delon reference above).

1 comment:

Minter said...

I went to see "Sur la Route de Madison" at the Marigny Theatre. Alain Delon's natural aging (71 years old, no tucks at all) gives him an authenticity in the role of Richard Kinkaid, the photographer of the covered bridges. Mireille Darc gave a fine effort. It's a great story told by a couple with a lot of history. One could not help smiling with Delon (as Kincaid) says "and yes, there have been a few women in my past." And, given the setting of the play in Iowa, with references to places like "Des Moines," there were several lines that could have been interpreted as commentary, if not criticism, on the US broadly speaking (e.g. Francesca [Darc] given her European heritage complaining about the lack of culture...). All in all, more a walk down memory lane than a great performance.