Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Night at the (French) Oscars...

The French Film Prom

Dancing Rabbis, a man massaging a phallic-shaped statue, Gerard Depardieu, sex, drugs, tears and …the credits roll. This may sound like the script for a bizarre French movie, and fittingly so. Last Saturday night, the crème-de-la-crème of the French film world stormed the Bastille – sorry, stormed the Chatelet theater – for a night of glitz, glamour, red carpets and funny-looking hors d’oeuvres stuffed with strange animal parts. My night at the French Oscars, Mesdames et Messieurs…

It all began at my humble abode at **, rue S6%DD^G^^^ Paris, 7500% (I neglect to mention my real address to avoid the papa razzi obviously).

My hair was done up and hairsprayed to resemble a large piece of concrete (thank you, personal French hairstylist Olivier), my makeup perfectly applied (thank you, personal Italian makeup artist Chiara), my dress zipped tightly (thank you, French cuisine), my nails impeccably manicured and pedicured (thank you Artistic Nail, rue Cherche Midi 75006) and my accessories in place (Valentino shoes, Etername earrings worth half a year of rent, Swarovski bag and ring on my left hand and…cute French actor on my right.) I felt like Cinderella at the ball. I was waiting for my taxi to turn into a pumpkin and for prince charming to – oh who are we kidding, I’m in France, Prince Charming doesn’t live in these parts haven’t we already established that?

I arrived at the Theatre du Chatelet, pumpkinless, princeless, but ready to roll. Thanks to a timely rain and wind storm, my 200-euro hairstyle was turned to a mushy pile of bobby pins and molten concrete by the time I reached the door, but I didn’t let that stop me. I checked my coat, and we walked up the red carpet staircase to a pre-show cocktail complete with industry execs, French movie stars and…Jude Law’s pointed shoulder blade which brushed mine as he headed to the bar. Sienna, Schmienna, he was so having eye sex with me. Too bad he’s way too short. You can have him, Sienny-poo.

I schmoozed with everyone in the room (ok not EVERYONE, perhaps I missed a few heads while they were in the bathroom, but I think I pretty much attacked 98% of the French population), then sat down, relaxed (ha just kidding, just wanted to see if you were still paying attention) and enjoyed the show. I won’t recount the almost 3-hour ceremony, but here are some highlights:
1) Valerie Lemercier, host of the program. In an Ellen Degeneres-like coup, Lemercier made the almost 3-hour ceremony fly like a Frenchman on a motorbike with her subtle wit, dancing interludes and wonderful ability to make the whole room feel like they were at dinner with friends, not the most glamorous awards ceremony in the country. One day she’s responding to my questions for Studio magazine (November issue, 2005, holla!) and the next she’s the queen of the Cesars. Way to go, Val.
2) Guillaume Canet winning Best Director for “Tell No One.” He neglected to thank the love of his life, Rebecca Lynn Leffler, but I think he’s just shy. But, way to go, Guy. We can celebrate anytime you like ;)
3) The award for best foreign film. Hilary Swank presented, saying “Sorry I don’t speak French” then, channeling a frigid ice statue, read from the teleprompter in English, stuttering over every word. “Little Miss Sunshine” won, and Thierry Lacaze of Fox Searchlight accepted the award. Suddenly, the entire room erupted into laughter. Turns out our poor Thierry was a little nervous and was stroking the Cesar statue (which resembles, well, you know) up and down and the audience had a field day. The show’s host Valerie Lemercier went up to him in front of everyone, turned the statue on its side and explained to him just why everyone was laughing. The guy looked like tomato soup on fire. Swank, meanwhile, just stood there completely clueless as to what was going on. Fantastic moment.
4) The Gerard Oury tribute. It was sort of like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy – I cried for most of it, but got a few giggles in here and there. Oury was one of France’s best directors in my opinion, famous for “La Grande Vadrouille,” “The Brain” and “The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob” among others. Oury’s daughter, prolific Gallic director Daniele Thompson, and grandson actor/screenwriter Christophe Thompson were present and the entire room joined them to remember Oury. Then, after the montage of clips from Oury’s films, Valerie Lemercier stormed the stage dressed as an orthodox Jew with around 20 other dancers wearing paises and top hats and dancing to the theme song from “Rabbi Jacob.” Only in France, I thought to myself, Only in France.
5) Pascale Ferran’s really really really really long politically-charged speech when she accepted the award for “Lady Chatterley.” Just kidding, that was extremely boring. I wanted to hurl myself off of the balcony. (I probably should’ve, I would’ve landed right in Jude Law’s lap!)

After the show, we took a bus to the official after-party at the Galerie Royale. It was sort of like going to camp, only everyone was wearing dresses and tuxedos and no one was wearing headgear or stuffing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into their mouths. The after-party was mildly fun – the food (read: miniscule portions of je ne sais quoi) wasn’t bad – well, at midnight on an empty stomach it did the trick. However, there was – GASP! – NO CHAMPAGNE. The soirée was sponsored by Chivas whisky and, while there was some white wine present to tickle my tongue….needless to say, I didn’t stay long and headed over to the REAL after-party at Regine’s. I wasn’t actually invited to this party, but I made my way in anyway (see: the history of the life of Rebecca Leffler).

All of “Young Frenchiewood” was there – they’re sort of like what Americans call “Young Hollywood” the Lindsay Lohan-Paris Hilton-Mischa Barton-Olsen Twin crew of young actors (only in France they actually are actors) who are in every film and all know each other and are probably related in some way by a distant French cousin since everyone in the French film industry seems to be either the daughter of, son of or brother-sister-aunt-dog of someone else. And then there’s me. The crazy American drinking out of the Magnum bottle of Champagne and talking to everyone in sight. Or not in sight – I have long legs, I can jump over tables to get to an A-list actor if need be. Everyone was there – Guillaume Canet (which means, in French “my future French husband”), Jean DuJardin (the French James Bond) and his amour Alexandra Lamy, Gilles Lellouche, Best female newcomer winner Melanie Laurent and her amour Julien Bosselier, Audrey Tautou, Alice Taglioni… and the list goes on, but since I don’t care about fame or gossip clearly I’ll stop there ;)
I didn’t want the night to end – I’d spent my whole life, or at least the last few years, passionate about French cinema and always dreamed of attending the Cesar awards. And there I was. In Valentino shoes nonetheless. And, despite the fact that it felt like someone was stcking large glass knives into my feet, I was determined to keep them on until I left at around 7 am. But Saturday night near the Champs and, with not a taxi to be found and my feet screaming in agony, I allowed myself to be convinced by a random French guy outside that I should enter his vehicle and join him and his friends for an after party at their hotel room at the Place Vendome. I swear it’s not THAT sketchy, I recognized this actress from a bunch of films so I felt like I knew her even though I clearly didn’t (the magic of the movies) I figured she couldn’t be a serial killer and followed her into the car. Then, five minutes into it, I remember that the last time I’d seen her on the big screen she played a nice girl who, a few minutes into the film, turns into a serial killer. Yup, way to go, Leffler.
At 8 am, I made my way to a taxi and headed home. I think we passed Cloud 9 on the way across the Seine because that’s where I’ve been for the past few days since. It was just like the Oscars only everyone spoke French and Clint Eastwood wasn't there - no wait, here he is!

(taken last week at his private party at the Ritz -- come on, you knew I'd get that in here somehow ;)

Someone told me he thinks the Cesar award looks like pieces of chewed gum stacked on top of each other. To me, however, it looks like my dreams coming true. Cue the cheesy music and a close-up of the Eiffel Tower.
The End.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Paris is Burning!

Paris is burning!
Well, not the whole city, just le Baron.
Tuesday night. Circa 3 am. Hipster chic Parisians are sipping champagne, smoking cigarettes and rolling their “r”s. It’s a pretty calm night for the tiny yet always hopping joint. A few French b-list celebs are sitting in a booth, but nobody seems to care. 150 girls are waiting for the bathroom with just one stall. And outside, wannabe hipsters are being told “c’est privé ce soir” and shooed away.
Then, suddenly, the smell of gas overpowers the familiar nocturnal mélange of cigarette smoke and body odor from the hard-core dancers sweating on the dance floor. I;m standing near the bar. A large French man (read: more than 110 pounds) knocks into me and starts to sprint for the door. He’s followed by the rest of his entourage, then pretty much everyone else in the establishment. I dare to inquire. “There’s a fire!” There is mayhem at the coat check and I am forced to decide between death by fire…and death by hypothermia if I walk outside without my jacket. I choose fire and get in line. The two French guys next to me hit on me. Only in France, I think. Amidst a smoky explosion in a tiny crowded nightclub, instead of running for their lives, French men choose to work their game. And, mind you, continue to smoke their cigarettes. Ah, la France. Then, as if by some strange Christmas miracle (a couple of months late), lo-and-behold, with about 150 people waiting outside on the avenue marceau, I, Rebecca Lynn Leffler, found a taxi. Yes, that elusive, yellow vehicle of transportation we all know and love but can never seem to find in Paris, arrived before me, vacant and willing to drive me home. It’s true – nothing is impossible. So I’m assuming that le Baron did not, indeed, burn to the ground. (There would probably have been some sort of funeral-like service among my fellow nightcrawlers and I haven’t received an invitation so I’m going with …it’s all good now.) But this whole brouhaha started me thinking (I know, a rare occurrence these days):
What would a world without Le Baron be like? What would all the cool kids do without their nighttime haven?
And, because you know I love the metaphor: Parisian nightspots are like really delicious chocolates. They’re incredibly wonderful yet ephemeral. They explode with sensation, then lose their flavor and you are left wondering what to do next. Do you pick another chocolate? What if it’s not as good? Or what if it’s better, but you liked that chocolate and wanted another. What if the reason you liked that particular chocolate was that the taste on your tongue was familiar and – Okay, I see I’m getting ahead of myself here. My point is this: there is a severe problem in France, specifically Paris. Aside from the lack of taxis and, in my opinion, way too much cigarette smoke…here it is: Someplace becomes très chic, très selective, all of the cool kids want to go there then, just like that, someone decides it’s had its run and the cool kids pick another spot and the establishment needs to a) close entirely, b) cater not as cool kids or c) find a way to get the cool kids back.
Prime example of this unfortunate cycle: L’échelle de Jacob. (or “jacob’s ladder” in English) Known to its clientele as simply “l’Echelle,” this bar-lounge on the rue de Jacob in Paris’ très chic St-Germain-des-Pres district is a small, intimate lounge with comfortable velvet couches and a tall staircase (or “ladder” of the “Jacob” variety if you will) leading to a second level also filled with modern tables and lush cushions. The music usually starts out mellow, then gets louder and more fun as the crowd does the same. The martinis are delicious, the strawberry vanilla variety is a 15 euro piece of heaven if you ask me. And, up until a month or so ago, was the hottest ticket in town. Ok, not in town, but at least in the 6th arrondissement. Then, before you could say “sacré bleu!” (actually, don’t say “sacré bleu” it’s sort of passé), the cool kids packed their bags and ran, and the place is now filled with, well, how do I say this, less cool kids. The door is no longer selective, the place is empty on weeknights when it was once in its heyday, and I swear my passion fruit martini was totally lacking in flavah. So what gives? :Where have all the cool kids gone/” (to be sung to the tune of “where have all the flowers gone.”) (but not too loud, this is France, someone will yell at you if you’re talking over a certain volume.)
So who decides whether or not a bar or club is “branché”? And what are the tell-tale signs that your branché location of choice is headed for imminent uncool status, or, in other words, has contracted a common and contagious disease I will refer to as “L’échelle syndrome.” How can we bring back L’Echelle? Return the place to its one-time glory? Shall I draft a petition? Put an ad in this week’s ELLE or Le Monde? Perhaps the “accidental fire” at le Baron was really a tactic from another bar with a bad case of Echelle syndrome who wanted to woo its clients back? Maybe if celebrities started hanging out there, people would follow? “If you build it, they will come.” Build what?? Build whaaaaat?? Oh Kevin Costner, where are you? Paris needs you. I need you. L’Echelle needs you. I mean, there are other places to go, it’s true – Mathis Bar, La Perle, le bar Hemingway, the Plaza, the Hotel Amour, my latest coup de Coeur, the Park Hyatt bar… but, sadly, these fine establishments will one day meet their fate, and, before you can say “I’d like a vodka tonic please,” their time will come. But, until then, Baron ce soir anyone?