French cultural life - June 2019

When present and past come to life - A round up of the arts and culture stories creating a buzz in France

1. Not everyone is on the move

A few weeks before Emmanuel Macron – leader of the new La République En Marche (France on the move) party – was elected president in May 2017, photographer Vincent Jarousseau moved to Denain, a small town in the Nord department.

His intention was to follow the daily life of families from working class backgrounds for whom the phrase ‘on the move’ was easier said than done.

His resulting zeitgeist ‘novel-photobook’ Les Racines de la Colère (The Roots of Anger), serves as a documentary of the lives of those – both employed and unemployed – who feel neglected by politicians and believe that there has been little renewal in politics since Macron came to power.

2. Un Village Américain?

Brian de Palma, the American director of iconic films such as Scarface and Carrie, is to work on a remake of the French Second World War TV drama Un Village Français – but will transfer storylines to the American Civil War.

The long-running France 3 series, which was broadcast between 2009 and 2017, portrayed life in a fictitious Jura sub-préfecture under four years of German Occupation and starred many acclaimed actors including Thierry Godard and Audrey Fleurot (who also appeared together in Engrenages).

De Palma has declared his admiration for the show in press interviews, and will work with its creator Frédéric Krivine on the tentatively entitled Newton 1861, whose plot would take place in a fictional Kentucky city between 1861 and 1865.

3. It’s a wrap for the Arc de Triomphe

In 1985, the artistic husband and wife team Christo and Jeanne Claude covered the Pont Neuf in Paris with a saffron yellow canvas, and now it has been announced that the Arc de Triomphe will get the shrink-wrapped treatment for a few days in April 2020.

The 83-year-old Christo is set to cover the Place de l’Etoile landmark with 25,000m2 of recyclable blue-silver fabric and 7,000 metres of red rope.

A large-scale environmental artist, Bulgarian-born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff worked alongside his wife until her death in 2009.

To coincide with the installation, next March the Centre Pompidou will present an exhibition retracing the pair’s Parisian period as well as a history of the Pont Neuf project.

4. Enter the First Kingdom

Puy du Fou, the historical theme park in Vendée founded in 1977, which now ranks as France’s second most visited leisure destination after Disneyland Paris, has unveiled an ambitious new interactive show for 2019.

Premier Royaume (First Kingdom) invites visitors to step into the 5th century to follow the destiny of Clovis, king of the Franks, against a backdrop of Attila’s rampaging followers and a declining Roman Empire.

The 18-minute walk-through experience, which features rooms depicting 14 different fantasy worlds, cost €13million.

Puy du Fou has five themed hotels and welcomes about 15% of all foreign visitors to Vendée. he park’s brand is also expanding into Spain – Puy du Fou España will open in March 2021 – and is aiming for China too.

5. Blind faith

The subject of living with disability is under-represented in cinema, which makes Eric Lavaine’s new bitter-sweet drama Chamboultout most welcome.

It portrays a husband and wife (played by José Garcia and Alexandra Lamy), whose lives are turned upside down by the man’s road accident and resulting coma, then blindness... and finally once recovered, his distinct lack of inhibition (the English title is No Filter) which brings both humour and cringes.

An ensemble cast of friends – in the vein of Little White Lies – adds to the feelgood factor as the wife publishes a book on their experiences.