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French cultural digest: November

French cultural news, from underground art to prize-winning books and gripping television

1. Pay and display

Those visiting or moving to France are often impressed by the fancy nature of French underground car parks – music and calming colours often regale the walls of modern parkings. Now in Savoie Mont-Blanc, art-loving locals have gone one step further in transforming a parking sous-terrain into a unique art space. Argentinian Elian Chali is one of 11 artists invited to paint a bright mural (or ‘anamorphic spatial painting’ to be precise) in the 2KM3 Saint-Gervais contemporary art platform, open to visitors.

2. Clint Eastwood finds his Hollande and films at Elysée

Director Clint Eastwood was in Paris in late August, shooting scenes for The 15:17 to Paris. The film will recount the heroics of three US citizens in foiling a terror attack on a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in August 2015.

Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone will all play themselves in the film, based on their own book, while the role of François Hollande, the President at the time who awarded the men the Légion d’Honneur, will be played by Patrick Braoudé.

Blessed not only with striking physical similarities to the former Elysée resident, Braoudé has previous from inhabiting the President’s skin – he played him in the TV film La Dernière Campagne (pictured above).

Scenes were shot at the Elysée itself – Eastwood has serious clout in France – before production moved on to Arras to film scenes at the town’s train station.

3. 20 years since Barbara died but her legacy is powerful

November 2017 marks 20 years since the death of singer Barbara, a wistful chanteuse of the high, cracked voice variety who was beloved of rive gauche trendies.
She influenced many French singers, as well as the likes of Marc Almond and Martha Wainwright, who admired her songs enough to record covers versions.

In honour of Barbara, why not open a bottle of Burgundy, search for her crooning Nantes on Youtube, and imagine yourself at a windowsill pondering the cityscape, racked with regret and loss. Or see the new biopic by Mathieu Amalric starring Jeanne Balibar (photo).

4. Sudanese story inspires Fnac winner

Book and music store Fnac’s 16th Prix du Roman has been won by Nice novelist, actress and playwright Véronique Olmi, for her book Bakhita.

The book tells of a 19th century Sudanese slave, abducted aged seven and enslaved for 12 years, who ended up as a Canossian sister in northen Italy until her death in 1947.

Known for her gentleness and smile, she was canonised by John Paul II in 2000 and Ms Olmi said she embodies “the strength of women of yesterday and today. When I go through difficult times, I think of other women’s struggles.”

The annual prize is voted for by 400 bookshops and 400 Fnac cardholders.

5. Engrenages back on French screens

Fans of the hard-hitting, critically adored criminal justice drama Engrenages (called Spiral for the UK audience who watch on BBC4) can rejoice – after a break of almost three years, Season 6 is now playing on Canal+, and it will soon be available subtitled on BBC4 (no date confirmed at time of going to press).

The photo (above) on actor Nicolas Briançon’s (Commissaire Herville) Facebook page showed cast and crew in joyful mood as filming wrapped. However, plot spoilers leaked in advance of the new series – a murdered young policeman linked to corruption – suggest that on-screen smiles will be few and far between. No change there for Juge Roban, Joséphine, Gilou and the rest.

Never watched it? Buy a season one boxset, play catch up and get hooked.

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