And…. We’re back! (Sorry for the long hiatus, I am back and blogger than ever.) Here’s another edition of 10 Things I Love About Paris This Month. September in France is known as “la rentrée” which literally means “re-entry” or a start. Every September, the entire French population (yes, I believe that even homeless French people take 5 weeks of vacation) “re-enters” their respective cities. The annual Parisian August ghost town suddenly turns into a busy, bustling hub of activity. For me, September has always marked the start to the new year. It was always the start of a new school year, the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana and, most importantly bien sur, my birthday! So this year, after a long, French vacation in New York, I re-entered France (shout out to French customs’ passport control) and have been enjoying la rentrée Parisienne. So voilà my best of for the month of September in Paris, 2012.
1. La Cité du Cinéma launch
Dinner with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Luc Besson’s other 300 best friends, a live orchestra, lobster and champagne on the menu and costumed characters scaling the walls of the surrounding building to the tune of the theme song from classic movies? You know, just another ordinary Friday night. After years of construction, Luc Besson’s dream was finally realized when he officially launched France’s first film studio complex, the Cite du Cinema, now nicknamed “Hollywood-sur-Seine”. Besson and his dream has literally transformed the French suburb into not only the country’s first movie-making studio, but also a film school for other Besson-like kids with a dream. At the opening night “Dinner for 300 friends” as it was called, the looooong red carpet sparkled with famous faces from both France and across the Atlantic. Hollywood stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Yeoh and Diana Agron joined Melanie Laurent, Marie-Josée Croze, Virginie Ledoyen, Jamel Debbouze, Carole Bouquet, Sophie Marceau and top producers and directors for a memorable evening. Guests were greeted to a cocktail in the grand hall of the 62,000 square-meter complex while a live orchestra played tunes from classic films before we embarked on a nighttime tour of the studio sets and in-house theater, then emerged for another cocktail, this time as stunt artists in costume scaled the walls of the building as loud music played. We were then escorted to our seats for a four-course meal, each of which was concocted by a different chef and served as the chef marched out in front of dozens of servers to applause. The evening was magical, despite frigid temperatures that saw organizers scramble to offer black scarves to trembling guests mid-dinner. After the meal, Diana Agron sang live followed by a lively performance from Angélique Kidjo as Besson took to the stage to welcome everyone and sing along. A lovely, classy evening that represented the love between Hollywood and France’s “7th art.” Here’s to a long, happy marriage between the two.
2. Happy Birthday, Le Bon Marché!
Joyeux Anniversaire to my favorite department store! Le Bon Marche celebrates its 160th birthday this year (don’t worry dear, you don’t look a day over 159).
The Left Bank’s legendary department store celebrated in style with an exhibition and video from iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve, illustrator and director Marjane Satrapi and fashionable filmmaker Loic Prigent.
From Sept. 8th to Oct. 6th, the store’s windows on the rue de Sevres in Paris’ seventh arrondissement are decorated with a series of illustrations from Persepolis and Chicken With Plums director and illustrator Satrapi depicting Deneuve at her favorite Left Bank haunts. The 10 whimsical vignettes, in 3D for a pop-up book feel, pay tribute to both the actress’ career and the Rive Gauche itself. Le Bon Marche will sell 160 limited edition collector’s boxes with all ten of Satrapi’s drawings for 900 euros. A percentage of the sales will benefit children’s hospital Necker-Enfants Malades.
The collaboration isn’t the first one for Satrapi and Deneuve. Deneuve lent her voice to Satrapi’s Oscar-nominated animated feature Persepolis in 2007.
Deneuve cited the “originality” of the exhibition and Satrapi’s “talent and her poetic sense of humor” for agreeing to participate in the birthday celebration. Deneuve said that, to her, Paris’ Left Bank symbolizes “relaxation, freedom, fantasy … being able to go from the Cafe de Flore to the Pantheon cinema and buy a book on the way.”
Starting on Sept. 15, filmmaker and artist Prigent, the prolific director behind documentary Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton and other behind-the-scenes fashion profiles, screened his offbeat film Catherine Deneuve Rive Gauche at a temporary movie theater on the store’s ground floor.
The film, that follows Deneuve on the Left Bank, was produced in partnership with French cable network Paris Premiere who will air a special “Catherine Deneuve Week” for the occasion complete with Prigent’s film and classic Deneuve titles like Le Bon Plaisir and Francois Truffaut’s La Sirene de Mississippi plus Anne Andreu’s documentary Catherine Deneuve, belle et bien là.
Catherine Deneuve Rive Gauche combines Prigent’s signature designer documentary prowess with Deneuve’s self-effacing humor as the actress journeys from more well-known Left Bank spots like the Saint Sulpice church or les Invalides to off-the-beaten-track local haunts like Café Fleurus, Le Rhinocerous or the Jardin des Plantes.
The behind-the-scenes portrait of the actress may change the way viewers – and Bon Marché shoppers – see the famous French beauty.
“If the image people have of her is very cold, it’s untrue. She is very cultured, but very simple. She’s very funny. We laughed a lot with her,” Prigent told me of the iconic actress, adding that Deneuve is “very spirited and curious about everything.”
“She’s very, very relaxed,” Prigent said of Deneuve, adding: “I filmed her in a car in Paris in bad traffic and we really see how she reacts. And when we shot at the Paris mosque, she played with the birds inside the restaurant.”
While she’s shot more than 100 films throughout her long career, the experience was a new one even for Deneuve.
“It was the first time she had ever filmed at the Saint Sulpice square,” Prigent told me adding; “She said ‘it’s the first time and the last time.’”
The film also catches Deneuve with another legendary French star of her generation, Gerard Depardieu, whom she meets at a fish restaurant close to le Bon Marche, the Moby Dick.
Le Bon Marche hosted a birthday celebration by privatizing the entire store and filling it with an elite Parisian crowd, champagne and even a live orchestra. A lovely, classy event for the lovely, classy Left Bank spot.
3. Fashion OUIk
It’s that time of year again. Tall, skinny girls invade the streets of Paris (yes, I have even taller, skinnier company – I love this season) and there are no taxis to be found within a 30-mile radius. (Well, the taxi part is sadly a year-round occurrence, but it is even worse at le moment). And Kanye West will pop up wherever you turn. Oui, ladies, gentlemen and French men, it’s Paris Fashion Week. I’ve been enjoying Fashion Week responsibly, i.e. small doses in order to build up a tolerance, but not enough to get drunk on style (or drunk period. There is so much champagne everywhere, it’s as if they were giving it away for free. And they are!) It’s only mid-week, but H&M’s soirée to fête Anna Dello Russo’s collaboration with them on an accessories line was the fashion biz at its finest. OK, perhaps not its finest, but certainly its funniest. Guests snacked on cotton candy, giant lollipops and cookies with Anna Dello Russo’s face monogrammed on them and donned crazy costumes (or just their normal everyday attire? Hard to tell with this crowd.), wigs and masks. Azealia Banks performed on stage, after Anna arrived on a swing from the ceiling surrounded by girls giving lap dances to empty chairs (think: Clint Eastwood’s convention speech meets the Moulin Rouge). Some of the best people-watching I’ve had in weeks.
4. The new hand dryers in bathrooms
Think France hasn’t evolved since 1862? You’re right! However, occasionally this country of mine surprises me with a technological innovation. First, there were the Autolibs (rentable cars all over the city), then there was the RATP app on the iPhone, and now… brilliantly-designed hand dryers in bathrooms all across town! You know how hand dryers in bathrooms never actually serve to dry your hands? Now they do! With this new incredible technology, just stick your hands down (yes, down, instead of throwing your hands into the air in an awkward position) between two blowers and, voilà! They’re dry. Keep up the innovation France. (Well, it's a Dyson Airblade, so originally a British company, but hey, I'll take it!) Now what about that construction work near my apartment that has been going on for at least two years and I never actually see anyone actually working there? OK, baby steps.
5. Fashion and Impressionism at the Musée d’Orsay
Wait, stop press. Did I really just pronounce the words “fashion,” “impressionism” and “musée d’Orsay” in the same sentence? Well, you can’t hear me of course, but OUI, I did. True story. While images of Claude Monet walking down a runway or Lagerfeld co-designing a tutu-inspired collection with Renoir may come to mind (now THAT would be a great expo, wouldn’t it?), this is the real thing.
French impressionists are striking a pose as fashion and art collide at a new exhibition at Paris’ Musée d’Orsay that kicked off on Sept. 25. The “Fashion and Impressionism” exhibit came just in time for Paris’ ready-to-wear Fashion Week that also began on Sept. 25.
More than 60 works of art from Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Caillebotte will be on display, many of which haven’t been shown in the city for years including Renoir’s portrait of “Madame Charpentier and her children” and Manet’s “Nana.”
The impressionist paintings are shown alongside works from Tissot and Stevens and other contemporaries of the artists plus more than 50 dresses and accessories from the period to show what women’s fashion represented during those years.
Men’s fashion is also on display with around 20 pieces from both private and public collections in France. Other highlights include a documentary bringing together fashion designs of the time, fashion magazines like Stephane Mallarme’s ephemeral 1874 publication "La Derniere Mode" plus photos from the Disderi studio.
While the impressionist painters may be more famous for their colorful brushstrokes than fashion forward flair, they painted modern men and women in their everyday, routine activities, both in cities and in the countryside and became a window onto the styles and attitudes of the times. The impressionists weren’t as interested in highlighting the cut of the fabrics or the details of the designs, but their works show the evolution of fashion from 1860 to 1880 and how trends and textiles changed during the period.
The museum has also organized several simultaneous events to complement the exhibition including a special “Evening at the d’Orsay” on Sept. 27, a fashion show organized by students from the Studio Bercot and an ephemeral literary café on Nov. 18 about “Writers in Fashion.” The museum will host a screening of Impressionism and Fashion from producers Anne Andreu and Emerance Dubas, a Cineteve, Musée d’Orsay and ARTE 52-minute co-production and will also host a “Fashion Designers and Film Sets” showcase featuring Schiaparelli and George Cukor, Grès and Robert Bresson, Chistian Dior and Alfred Hitchcock, Hubert de Givenchy and Stanley Donen, Marcel Rochas and Jacques Becker, Gabrielle Chanel and Mervyn Leroy.
The exhibit will move to the MoMa fin Feb. then to Chicago in June.
The très chic exhibition sponsors include LVMH/Moet Hennessy, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior.
"Impressionism and Fashion" will run through Jan. 20, 2013 in Paris.
6. Paris Vu Par Hollywood at the Hotel de Ville
“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn. You know what else is a good idea? Bringing Audrey Hepburn and other iconic film stars to Paris for a new exhibition at the Hotel de Ville called “Paris Vu Par Hollywood.”
Paris and Hollywood made their long love affair official at City Hall on Sept. 18. The free exhibition focuses on Hollywood’s depiction of the French capital over the years and features film clips, photos, set models, costumes, scripts and posters from both French and American archives.
A giant 20-meter long screen displays a mix of images that highlight Hollywood’s amour for Paris. The unique exhibit is divided into four different areas: silent film, “the sophisticated Paris of romantic comedy” focusing on films from the 1930s and 40s, Hollywood’s Golden Age and the Cancan and post-1950s cinema.
“Paris Seen by Hollywood” showcases more than 100 titles including many of my own favorites like Stanley Donen’s Funny Face and Charade, Vicente Minelli’s An American in Paris, John Huston’s Moulin Rouge and more recent titles like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Many of the films featured star Paris without even setting foot in the city.
“There is Paramount Paris and MGM Paris. And then of course there is the real Paris,” Ernst Lubitsch said. More than 400 documents taken from the French Cinematheque, the Margareth Herrick Library, Warner archive and private collectors give public cinephiles a behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood’s fascination with the City of Lights for more than a century.
Sets and sketches from An American in Paris and Moulin Rouge, dresses designed for Audrey Hepburn by Hubert de Givenchy and statues created by Dante Ferreti for Scorsese’s Hugo are also all on display.
More than 20 screens show more than 70 film clips and documentaries with footage from the sets of Funny Face and Hitchcock’s Topaz.
“Paris, vu par Hollywood” is open every day except Sundays, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. from Sept. 18th through Dec. 15th at the Hotel de Ville de Paris. And….cut! (No don’t, please wait in line, but I promise it’s worth it.)
7. Les Gourus de Stars
While in bed battling THE PLAGUE (official diagnosis was the flu, but I was convinced it may have been either the Ebola virus, typhoid fever or cholera and probably looked like a combination of all three), I stumbled upon one of the greatest works of art ever to appear on French television. A re-airing of an old Truffaut film, you say? Actually, I am referring to a documentary I worked on a couple of years ago for NRJ network that still airs nearly every week on the group’s channels. “Tellement People Investigation: Les Gourus de Stars” looks at celebrity “gurus” in NY and in LA and features Yogini extraordinaire Elena Brower, the Kabbalah Center in NYC, Laura Day, celebrity hairstylist Garren and Pure Food & Wine’s Sarma Melnglalis among others.
That’s MindBodyGreen with a French twist. I absolutely adore this site and am thrilled to be contributing. Here are a couple of my most recent articles.
Confessions of a Perfectionist: 6 Ways Yoga is Great for Type-A Personalities
10 Immune-Boosting Autumn Recipes
9. Raspail Randomness
I woke up extremely early this Sunday for my favorite weekly tradition, namely the organic market at the Boulevard Raspail only to be greeted by some new friends, of the four-legged variety. Are you kidding me? Yes, there were indeed kids, and full-grown goats present. Only in Paris would they close the streets and place pigs, goats, sheep, ducks and baby chicks in the center of town. In any case, it was a nice trip to the farm without having to leave the Ile-de-France region.
10. The Café de Flore
Because, after all of these years, we’re still in love.
A few other things I love this month:
The new Kookai Ads
Because I've always said I am "messy but chic" and "single but chic" and now Kookai says it is indeed possible to be all of the above.
Dastony Almond Butter
When I first arrived in France, peanut butter was my #1 comfort food. To me, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste like my childhood, and jars of Skippy served as my connection to America. Then, for many reasons both health and taste related, I made the switch to almond butter. Almond butter is not only of my favorite ingredients (I somehow find a way to work it into pretty much every meal, snack or smoothie), but even to this day, it is a taste of home. I have tried every brand of almond butter on both sides of the Atlantic and must say that Dastony is far superior to any others I have tried. From a health perspective, it is all raw and made from quality ingredients (and by “ingredients” I of course mean only one ingredient, almonds), but its creaminess is really what sets it apart from other nut butters out there. I have been finding myself literally licking it off of the spoon (and OK, I confess, even straight out of the jar.) It is perfect on its own or spread onto fruit, crackers or toast, but also great for sauces since it isn’t too thick or heavy and nice to add extra protein and creaminess to smoothies. I’m madly in love with this stuff. And, the best part, is that Rawguru.com will ship it to France or wherever in the world you are! (Or if you are in NY, they sell it at many organic markets, One Lucky Duck, etc.) You’re welcome. I just changed your life, you can thank me later. So throw away those jars of Skippy and taste this stuff, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This Google ad
Makes me cry every time. Google video / Skype have really been so important to me these past years and make living abroad so much easier. I know that my family and friends are never more than a click away. My family puts me via laptop computer at the dinner table during holiday meals and I’ve gotten to see my little baby cousins grow up. So thank you, Google (and Skype!)
The Mindy Project
She’s smart, funny, successful, self-effacingly modest, a Dartmouth alum and worked for Dartmouth’s newspaper The D. No, I haven’t started referring to myself in the third person (yet, that is. If I launch my own TV series based on my life and personality on a major US TV network and receive only positive reviews from critics too, I may start.) I’m referring to Mindy Kaling, whose new show The Mindy Project is quite possibly the only new Fall TV series worth watching (Yes, I have indeed sampled them all. See: in bed with the Flu last week, just in time for US Fall premieres week). I’ve only seen one episode, but am already hooked. And even more in love with Chris Messina. WATCH THIS ONE, trust me.
Aren't they supercool? My supercool friend (Kim Laidlaw Adrey) of supercool blog UnlockParis.com fame, has now lent her supercool artistic talents to supercool nail art. Check out her amazing designs - I'm obsessed. She's nailed it!