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French cultural life - November 2018

A round-up of news, and those creating ‘le buzz’ in French cultural life

1.  Do you think he saw us?

One of the more unheralded museum successes of the summer in Paris, despite the scorching temperatures and lack of air conditioning in the main exhibition room, was the show dedicated to a dinosaur nicknamed ‘Trix’ at the city’s Natural History Museum.

The 67 million-year-old remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the second most complete skeleton in the world, were seen by over 200,000 visitors, including many excited children. Such was the ancient animal’s popular appeal that the museum decided to extend its run until November 4.

2. Culture Pass test phase

France’s “Culture Pass” scheme, which will see young French people receive €500 each to spend on cultural activities such as tickets to the cinema, a concert, theatre production or cultural books in the year after they turn 18, is being trialled this autumn.

Some 10,000 teenagers in five departments (Bas-Rhin, Guyana, Hérault, Finistère and Seine-Saint-Denis) were being recruited as Connexion went to press. There will be capped limits on using the money to spend on content providers such as Netflix, Spotify, CanalPlay and Amazon, while only €100 can be spent on items such as CDs, books and DVDs.

3. It’s nice up north

So the popular notion goes in France,  people in the north are the most friendly, which explains why a host of show business stars including singer Alain Souchon and actors Dany Boon and Line Renaud have contributed to a new album entitled Les gens du Nord, in celebration of the region’s often-mocked people.

Featuring covers of great standards of regional popular song and paying tribute to a “public that is warmer than elsewhere”, according to Souchon, the album was launched on the eve of the Lille Braderie, the giant annual brocante.

Some revenue from the 15-track album will go to Ch’ti Fonds, a humanitarian and cultural charity working in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.

4.  Another brush with fame

At Eternity’s Gate, a much anticipated new film depicting Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s final years in France (Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône and Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d’Oise, where he died aged 37 in 1890), has received favourable reviews at its Venice Film Festival premiere – most notably for Willem Dafoe’s depiction of the troubled painter.

Directed by American Julian Schnabel, who made the critical triumph The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and co-written with Frenchman Jean-Claude Carrière, the film is deliberately ‘impressionistic’ as opposed to traditionally biographical, with selected moments and incidents in Van Gogh’s life recreated to reveal his state of mind – and especially his addiction to the nature he loved to paint.

Oscar Isaac plays Van Gogh’s friend and rival Gauguin. Out November 16.

5.  Masterpiece to be renovated

Restoration of one of France’s most impressive artworks, the 1516 Isenheim altarpiece (called a retable in French) by German painter Matthias Grünewald, has been relaunched. The 3.30x5.90m altarpiece is currently not viewable by the public at the Unterlinden Museum, a former Dominican convent in Colmar (Haut-Rhin in Grand Est).

Efforts to restore the colours of the Gothic masterpiece were halted in 2011 when experts said work was damaging the painting.

Now, thanks to a €1.2m restoration fund from government donations, the museum itself and private funding, work will resume. “The altarpiece is now very dirty, both in its shutters and in its sculptures. This restoration aims to better preserve it and restore it to its former glory,” explained Blandine Chavanne, co-chair of the project’s steering committee.

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