Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Metro Moment...

(François Berléand at the Montparnasse métro station. Monday, April 10th, 2006. Photo taken by Rebecca Leffler)

(Berléand in Mon Idole)

(Berléand in L'Ivresse du Pouvoir)

Though magazines such as Voici and Closer have amassed a large following of celebrity-crazed French citizens, Paris remains a safe haven for the rich and famous looking to lead “normal” lives. While, in Hollywood, even C-list stars must hire 300-lb. bodybuilders to accompany them to the grocery store, in Paris, French A-listers can buy a baguette from their neighborhood bakery, ride their “moto” to work without being offroaded by papa razzi on wheels or even – gasp! – take the subway. US Weekly has a weekly section (or so I’ve heard, not like I actually read that trashy magazine –ha!) (okay that was a lie, I smuggle it across the Atlantic whenever possible) titled “Stars, They’re Just Like Us!” Look, Gwyneth is walking with her baby in the park! (pushing a MacLaren stroller, with a Louis Vuitton baby bag over one arm and a nanny three feet away) Sarah Jessica Parker stepped in dog poo! (and subsequently called her personal assistant who arrives within seconds to replace her Jimmy Choo shoes with an identical pair.) Jennifer Aniston buys groceries! (at Whole Foods, and then brings said ingredients to her personal chef who whips her up a Zone-friendly gourmet meal before her private Pilates session). Just like us … riiiiiiight.
In Paris, however, or, more specifically my lovely neighborhood of St-Germain-des-près, celebrity sightings are a frequent event, and one that involves no loud shrieking, autograph-demanding or photo snapping. I was amazed when I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg and Yvan Attal, two of France’s most famous faces and tragically separated couple à la Jen and Brad, walking along the rue de Rennes calmly with no one stopping them for an autograph or even saying hello, though it was clear that many passersby recognized them. (Including me, however, I will have you know that I contained myself and resisted all urges to act like an American and attack them in the street.) Mathieu Kassovitz, one of Gaul’s most acclaimed directors (and actors), rides a “moto,” wears jeans to work and post comments on his personal blog. Cédric Klapisch frequents modest cafés in the 11th arrondissement, though he can clearly afford to be dining at Alain Ducasse whenever he so chooses. I saw Yolande Moreau in the metro one day, right after she took home a César award. And Edouard Baer is always riding down the streets of St-Germain-des-près on his moto. (He wears a helmet, I am happy to report, for all of you who were worried about his safety.) Though the American cinephile in me always screams “attack!” during such encounters, the classy French woman inside me quickly shuts her up. However, yesterday morning on my way to work, I noticed François Berléand standing on the opposite side of the quai at the Montparnasse metro stop. I couldn’t resist. I nonchalantly snapped a photo of him from across the quai. And, by nonchalantly, I mean completely noticeably, seeing as how Berléand looked a me with a look of disgust (I felt like I’d walked a mile in a People Magazine photographer’s shoes) and boarded the approaching train. I simply adore François Berléand. Well, his acting roles at least – as you can see, we are quite far from becoming best mates although I feel that our charming interaction on the quai yesterday will eventually lead to a lifelong friendship. Berléand boasts over 150 films to date in his vast filmography, and is currently in production on several projects.
His role as Monsieur Jo in Jacques Audiard’s Un Héro Très Discret (A Self-Made Hero, 1996) – one of my favorite films of all time for that matter – introduced me to his work, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his work in Guillaume Canet’s Mon Idole, 2002, (sidenote : I plan to marry Guillaume Canet one day, now that he is fresh off his break-up with Diane Kruger, Franco-German supermodel turned actress. Yes, I still think I have a very good chance. Look, here's a photo of us at dinner the other night),

Christophe Barratier’s Les Choristes (The Chorus, 2003), Alexandra Leclère’s Les Sœurs Fâchées (Me and My Sister, 2004), Gilles Lellouch’s Narco (2003) and the more recent L’Ivresse du Pouvoir (Comedy of Power, 2006). I look forward to seeing him in Guillaume Canet’s upcoming Ne le Dis à Personne (Tell No One) alongside a stellar cast including François Cluzet, Nathalie Baye, André Dussollier, Gilles Lellouche and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Quote of the Day :
« I think being funny is not anyone's first choice. »
-Woody Allen

French Expression of the Day :

“Ouais Gros”: Apparently there’s no direct English translation of this expression (one of my colleagues offered “Yeaaaaah bitch!” as the closest translation) but you’ll hear it in almost every French rap/hip hop song. It’s the French way to show everyone you are that hard core (since they don’t seem to know that being from New Jersey already places you in said category).

French Pastry of the Day: Le Croissant

« Croissant is French for « crescent or crescent-shaped. » Croissants are composed of a light buttery rich yeast dough that can have either a sweet (jam, marzipan, chocolate) or savory (cheese, ham, chicken, mushrooms) filling. Traditionally enjoyed in France for breakfast with coffee and milk.
Legend has it that one night during the war of 1686 between Austria and Turkey, bakers in Budapest Hungary heard Turkish soldiers tunneling under the city and sounded the alarm. This led to the Turkish defeat of the war and the bakers' reward was the honor of making a commemorative pastry in a crescent shape (the shape that is on the Turkish flag). » Croissants come in many forms, my favorites of which include La Durée’s Croissant aux Noix (a glazed croissant with a walnut filling) and any Almond Croissant (the Bonbonnerie de Buci’s is delicious, for example). A good croissant should be crispy and flaky on the outside and soft on the inside.


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