Travel

May 26

Paris (France)EntertainmentEuropeMoviesFranceTurkeyMusic Industry

Remember the old Beatles lyric, "You say yes, I say no..." Well, that's the story in Paris on this Thursday before Sunday's vote on the EU constitution. Everywhere you go, there are posters: "Say yes" or "Turkey in the EU? I say no." And tonight, French President Jacques Chirac goes on radio and television, pleading the yes cause. The whole thing seems nuts to me, like France shooting itself, not to mention Europe, in the foot.

Last night I had dinner with an American woman who has lived in France for 30 years. Even she seems to lean toward "no," largely on the basis of Turkey's application to the EU, a country with fundamentally different values from the rest of Europe, she said. All I can say is it makes me proud to be from America, where the melting pot is still on the front burner.

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I was in Cannes last weekend during the film festival. The buzz for "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of Sith" drowned out almost everything else. About 3 million people went to see the movie during its first week in theaters here. I did too. When the credits started to roll, the audience -- mostly under 30 -- began to applaud. I stayed for 30 minutes, disappointed by the absence of Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones.

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Much was made here in early May about French businessman Francois Pinault's abandonment of a project to create a museum of contemporary art, housing his collection, on an island in the Seine east of Paris, because of bureaucratic red tape and delays. Of course, Paris already has plenty of museums, but the loss of this collection tends to underscore French opposition to new things.

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On May 17, I was walking across the square at the Church of St. Germain-des-Prés, where a crowd was assembled, and I heard a Dixieland band playing "When the Saints Go Marching In." Turns out it was the funeral of French music producer Eddie Barclay, complete with mourners in white, carrying parasols. Wow, what a way to go!

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On the recent anniversary of VE Day in Europe, I was surprised to see that plaques around the city commemorating the deaths of World War II French Resistance fighters had been decorated with flowers. First of all, I wonder who put up the plaques and whether they've read Robert O. Paxton's "Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944," which suggests that resistance to the German occupation wasn't exactly widespread. Second of all, who paid tribute to them with flowers? The cynical me speculates it was public servants, paid for their services, for the benefit of tourists.

Signing off, still enraptured by the style and beauty of Paris, but skeptical on other accounts.

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