Wednesday, February 27, 2013

La Petite Robe Noire: Guerlain hosts the chicest party in Paris!

Petite robe noire : checked.
Meilleure copine : checked.
Champagne : checked.

Le 26 février, Guerlain vous invite à la soirée parisienne la plus chic de l'année. 

Little black dress: LBD. Every woman has one hanging in her closet. It's the dress we automatically reach for when we want to look our best. We're confident that it will flatter our figure and camouflage those extra pounds that have mysteriously accumulated on our hips while eating all those buttery croissants and chocolate eclairs during the winter. To celebrate the arrival of Guerlain's La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette, all of the invitees were asked to wear their favorite little black dress to an exclusive party in Paris last night.

Best friend: Even more than a little black dress, every woman needs une copine, a friend we can call when we receive a much-coveted last minute invitation to a soiree that promises to be the chicest event of the year. Fortunately, my Best Friend in Paris (aka Donna) agreed to tear herself away from the cows and chickens at the International Agricultural Show when I sent a text message asking her to join me at Guerlain's boutique in the Marais.

Champagne: The bubbly beverage that women like to drink with our friends when we're all gussied up in our little black dresses.

It was fun to mingle with the other guests in their chic little black dresses.

With free flowing pink champagne and a DJ who created a lively atmosphere by playing La Petite Robe Noir's signature song, These Boots Are Made for Walkin', Guerlain treated its guests to an unforgettably swanky evening.

Spritzing on some of the La Petite Robe Noire eau de toilette that was in our goodie bag, I felt as sophisticated as if I was wearing a little black dress when I left my apartment in jeans this morning. The fresh floral/fruity scent is light yet captivating in its complexity. Spray some on the next time that you're in your local department store and let me know what you think!

Please click here if you would like to see more photos of the soiree posted on "Out and About's" Facebook page.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Introducing Marie, Maurice and Anne-Geneviève, some of the new bells at Notre-Dame Cathedral

Mesdames and messieurs, you must leave. Please, ladies and gentlemen, the cathedral is closed. You can come back tomorrow. Notre Dame opens at 7:30 in the morning. 

Turning my head for one last lingering glance at the eight new bells and bourdon (grand bell) lined up in a row in the nave of Notre-Dame, I walked out into the snowy Parisian night listening to the babble of excited comments around me. "They're beautiful!", sighed a young German girl. "Did you notice the fiery design on Anne-Geneviève and the crown on Maurice?", demanded a middle-aged French man of his wife. But it was the elderly English woman who summed it up best, "I wish that we would have had more time with them."

As part of the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame, the cathedral will replace the four nineteenth century bells currently in the North Tower. The mediocre bells with discordant tonality were installed after the original bells, with the exception of the Great Bourdon bell Emmanuel in the South Tower, were melted down during the French Revolution.

Today is the very last day to see the bells before they move to the towers, where they'll signal the start of mass and the time for generations to come. Let me introduce you to some of them.

(Please click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)

Marie weighs a whopping 6,023 kilograms (13, 278 pounds) and memorializes the first grand bell of the Cathedral that was cast in 1378. She's the only bell that will join Emmanuel in the South Tower. Over 330 years old, Emmanuel is only rung on special occasions to preserve him for posterity.

Two friezes representing the Epiphany and the Marriage at Cana encircle Maria, the new great bell.

Even though Maurice is one of the smaller bells (1,011 kg), he bears the honor of being named after Maurice de Sully, the Bishop of Paris, who launched the construction of the current cathedral in 1163. Maurice's eight bands symbolize the number of days that it took God to create earth plus one band for the resurrection. The bell also bears the original architectural plans of the interior of the cathedral.

With three bands symbolizing the Trinity and flames signaling the tenacity of Saint Geneviève, Anne-Geneviève was one of my favorite bells. Named after Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, Anne-Geneviève weighs 3,477 kg.

Save the date! The new bells will be rung for the first time on Palm Sunday, March 23, 2013.

If you would like to see photos of the other bells, please click here to view the album posted on "Out and About's" Facebook page.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday's Picture and a Song: The Bells of Notre Dame

Tomorrow is the very last day that the nine new bells will be displayed in the nave of Notre Dame Cathedral before they're installed in the towers. If you haven't seen them yet, please do. They're beautiful. I'll introduce Maurice, Gabriel and Marie in tomorrow's post. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the bells of Notre Dame.

Please click on the photos to enlarge.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What are the differences between the César Awards and the Academy Awards?

One of the biggest differences between the Academy Awards and the César Awards is that there's little chance that it will snow in Los Angeles on Sunday like it did in Paris last night!

Another major difference is that directors, stars and producers are cheered by adoring fans as they walk down the red carpet in their flowing gowns and tuxedos in Los Angeles. That wasn't the case in Paris, where throngs of cameramen, makeup artists and other members of SPIAC, the Union of Audiovisual and Cinema Professionals, chanted, "Extension, Convention!" and threatened to strike if their demands to receive a living wage aren't met. Amidst the cacophony of whistles, horns and shouts of "Avec nous" at the stars on the red carpet, the union members commented about the metal barriers that restricted them from having access to the people with whom they work on a daily basis. "For once," they demanded, "turn the cameras on us and listen to our demands! We only want to earn enough money to feed our families. You? You're going to have dinner at Fouquet's and the George V after the ceremony!"

Members of SPIAC on the left; stars on the right.

Before working as an extra on Three Days to Kill, I'm ashamed to admit that I would have bemusedly thought, "Ahh, the French, they're never happy, not even with their 35 hour work week." But not last night. My experiences on the set taught me that film industry professionals receive small compensation in return for long, hard days that frequently stretch into the wee hours of the morning. So, in between taking photos of the stars as they arrived, I raised my hand and chanted, "Extension, Convention!".

As only 14% of the French films made a profit this year, it's widely recognized that the industry desperately needs an overhaul. Nonetheless, French producer Vincent Maraval's editorial in Le Monde, "French Actors Are Paid Too Much!", caused quite a stir for asserting that the industry's financial woes are due to the public financing that it receives and the exorbitant salaries of a select group of French film stars, who frequently receive more money for a box office failure in France than for a box office success in America.

American film star Kevin Costner and his wife's arrival at the César Awards.

When American actor Kevin Costner, the recipient of a Life Time Achievement Award, arrived at the César Awards, the protesters adroitly switched to English. "With us, Kevin. With us!", they pleaded. In a hurry to escape the blinding snow flurries, I'm fairly sure that he didn't even hear them as he rushed towards the spotlights and photographers. He did, however, mention in his acceptance speech that making a movie is a cooperative effort and gave thanks to all the people who are a part of the process. Did any of the cameramen, makeup artists or electricians outside the Théâtre du Châtelet hear him? I don't think so because they were probably still standing in the bitter cold rather than snuggled up on a couch like I was watching the ceremony.

Academy Awards: watched by 39.3 million viewers; 2 million tweets with the hashtag #Oscar2012; recurrent theme in the 2013 nominated films is slavery; biggest budget in the best film category was 90 million euros for The Life of Pi; the nominee with the biggest box office sales is Les Misérables; the most nominated film is Lincoln.

César Awards: watched by 3.9 million viewers; 78,000 tweets with the hashtag #Cesar2012; recurrent theme in the 2013 nominated films is euthanasia; biggest budget in the best film category was 15.5 million euros for Rust and Bone; The nominee with the biggest box office sales is What's in a Name; the most nominated film is Camille Rewinds.

While I don't want to gloat, I'm pleased to have accurately predicted that Amour would win Best Film. Now I'm ready to make my predictions for the Academy Awards!

César Awards 2013

Best Picture-Amour

Director-Michael Haneke, Amour

Actress-Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Actor-Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour

Supporting Actress-Valérie Benguigui, What’s In A Name

Supporting Actor-Guillaume de Tonquedec, What’s In A Name

Original Screenplay-Michael Haneke, Amour

Adapted Screenplay-Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Rust & Bone

Newcomer (Female)-Izia Higelin, Mauvaise Fille

Newcomer (Male)-Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust & Bone

Original Score-Alexandre Desplat, Rust & Bone

Sound-Antoine Deflandre, Germaine Boulay, Eric Tisserand, Cloclo

Cinematography-Romain Winding, Farewell, My Queen

Editing-Juliette Welfling, Rust & Bone

Costumes-Christian Gasc, Farewell, My Queen

Art Direction-Katia Wyszkop, Farewell, My Queen

First Film-Louise Wimmer, Cyril Mennegun

Foreign Film-Argo

Animated Film-Ernest Et Célestine, Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar, Stéphane Aubier

Documentary-Les Invisibles, Sébastien Lifshitz

Short Film-Le Cri Du Homard, Nicolas Guiot

Friday, February 22, 2013

My prediction for the 2013 César Awards Meilleur Film

Today's a big day in Paris. Or, at least you would think that it would be an important day considering that 14 films shot in the city were nominated for César Awards, France's equivalent of the Academy Awards. Yet, whenever I mention that the awards ceremony is tonight, everyone appears to be abnormally nonchalant. There aren't any tips on how to throw the ultimate César party, nor are there predictions about which movie will win the Meilleur Film category. It's odd, especially considering that the French film industry is subsidized by the government and that there's a quota on the importation of American films.

Since I'm in the biz, I decided that it's high time to predict the winner of the best film category. Here are the nominees:

Amour (Amour) 
Le Prénom (What's in a Name)
Holy Motors (Holy Motors)
De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone)
Les Adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen)
Dans la maison (In the House)
Camille redouble (Camille Rewinds)

With an impressive 13 nominations, the top contender is Camille Rewinds, a heartwarming tale about a middle-aged woman who travels back in time to her adolescence. It's followed by Amour, a disconcertingly honest movie about an elderly French couple at the end of their lives, with 10 nominations. Amour has also received Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language FilmFarewell my Queen, the historical drama about the last days of Marie Antoinette, and Rust and Bone, a film in which Marion Cotillard plays a trainer whose legs are bitten off above the knees by a killer whale, both garnered 9 nominations. With 8 nominations, Holy Motors is surreal movie about a man who is ferried about Paris in the back of a white limousine. Over the course of one day, he goes to nine different appointments transforming himself into nine different characters along the way.

The envelope please. I predict that the winner of the 2013 Meilleur Film will be a Amour.

Full disclosure: I've only seen two (What's in a Name and Holy Motors) of the seven films so there's a good chance that I'm wrong. My guess is based on the fact that Amour is the only nominated film that I don't have the emotional strength to watch. Yet, that's precisely why I think that it will win. The disarmingly realistic portrayal of a loving husband standing helpless in the face of his wife's decline is sure to appeal to the 3,434 members of the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma.

Ben Affleck's Argo is the only American film to compete in the best foreign film category against A Royal Affair (Denmark), Bullhead (Belgium), Laurence Anyways (Canada), Oslo (Norway), Our Children (Belgium) and The Angel's Share (Scotland).

Kevin Costner will receive the Lifetime Achievement Honor at the César Awards at the Théâtre du Châtelet tonight.

After the ceremony, Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière will host the 38th César gala dinner.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Feel like a star! Have your portrait taken at the legendary Studio Harcourt in Paris.

What do Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Barbie, Salvador Dali, Judy Garland, Brigitte Bardot, Arnold Schwarzenegger, French soccer star Zinedine Zidan, race car driver Michael Schumacher and Minnie Mouse have in common? They've all had their portraits taken at the world renowned Studio Harcourt in Paris.

Located in a magnificent limestone mansion on a quiet side street near the Champs-Élysées, Studio Harcourt attracts legendary movie stars, members of the French elite and regular people, like me, who are curious to know what lies behind the massive wooden doors with the over-sized brass knockers on rue Jean Goujon. After peeking into the quiet courtyard that shelters visiting celebrities from prying eyes, I momentarily paused to pay homage to all of the illustrious people who had proceeded me up the grand red-carpeted stairway.

Studio Harcourt was established by Cosette Harcourt, the Lacroix brothers and Robert Ricci, Nina Ricci's son, in 1934. Wanting to modernize the portrait tradition of the nineteenth century, Cosette Harcourt recruited the best photographers of the day, those who were involved with cinematography. The first photographs were taken on a stage using continuous lighting that allowed photographers to play with light, just as musicians play with notes. Harcourt has used the same artistic process for the past eighty years to create its legendary black and white portraits.

Even though Harcourt remained open during World War II, the studio experienced difficulties. Colette's parents, who were Jewish, fled France in 1943. After the French Liberation, American soldiers flocked to Studio Harcourt to have their images immortalized by the same studio as Clark Gable and Cary Grant. Young men from Kansas, California and Mississippi posed under a dozen lights carefully positioned to give their features a chiseled appearance. When they returned home bearing portraits with the distinctive logo blazoned across the lower right corner, word of Studio Harcourt spread across the United States.

With the advent of color photography, Studio Harcourt nearly foundered but was saved when former  Culture Minister Jack Lang bought Harcourt's collection of photos taken between 1934 and 1991. As part of the country's cultural heritage, the archive of 5 million negatives of 550,000 people and 1,500 celebrities is stored at the National Archives of France.

If you would like a very special memento from Paris but are looking for something more original than an Hermès bag or a pair of Louboutin shoes, make an appointment to have your portrait taken at Studio Harcourt. It's a luxury item and expensive, but it's timeless.

The experience starts with a glass of champagne (bien sûr!) and a professional makeup session in the Studio Jean Cocteau. Like Barbie, who arrived with her own hairdresser, jewels from the Place Vendôme and specially made haute couture gowns to fit her curvaceous figure, you'll look like a star when they call you to the stage.

Surrounded by cameras, you'll be enveloped in a cocoon of light as one of the ten Harcourt photographers from around the world snap your photo in a variety of poses. Most interesting for me was watching how lights were positioned around our "model", Commercial Director George Hayter, to achieve the iconic Harcourt look.

In addition to one and two hour portraiture sessions (900 € and 1,900 € respectively), Studio Harcourt also offers makeup workshops in the Studio Jean Cocteau (135 € per person) and photography workshops. Although they're most famous for their portraits of individuals, Studio Harcourt also photographs couples, families, groups and products.  Please refer to their website for additional information.

Studio Harcourt
10 rue Jean Goujon
75008 Paris
Tel: 01 42 56 67 67

Many thanks to Véronique Kurtz of WICE for organizing this special behind-the-scenes visit of Studio Harcourt.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Do you want to know the future?

It has been awhile since I've mused on Monday. Stéphane is in Turkey, Sara returned to New York last Tuesday and our friends departed on Saturday. Our apartment is eerily empty, except for me. I'm left to ponder a brief encounter that I had with an elderly woman under the arcades at the Place des Vosges this afternoon.

Using the wall to steady my arm as I prepared to take a photo of a man in a heavy winter coat, I remember thinking that his solitary figure would make an interesting silhouette, a pleasing contrast to the long afternoon shadows of the columns. Suddenly, there were two people in the viewfinder, a man and a woman. Disappointed that the composition had changed and that the man had moved to the left of center, I nonetheless snapped a quick picture. As if sensing my dismay at her untimely appearance, the wizened old woman pulled her cloak protectively about her and veered to the outside of the columns allowing me to get a clear shot. When I smiled in appreciation, she fixed her hooded gaze on my eyes, like a hawk. Appraising me, she asked if I wanted to know the future. Not "my" future but "the" future. I felt a shiver run down my spine. Humans aren't supposed to know the future. After I thanked her and replied in the negative, she responded, "It's not expensive."

Shaking my head, I walked a couple of steps before turning around. She was gone. I was hit by a pang of regret. Had I made a mistake? Perhaps she did know "the" future. Ruminating on the woman's chance appearance, as if out of nowhere, I considered her question as I took a photo of a young couple relaxing on the grass and another of a small child playing in the sandbox. Do I want to know how much longer Stéphane and I will stay in Paris, or where we'll go next? If the soothsayer told me that my days of sipping wine at my favorite café are numbered, would I change anything? Are there still places that I want to visit and things that I want to do?

And, what did she mean by "It's not expensive."? Think of how much money some people would pay to know the future. It's all relative. I'm fairly sure that Mitt Romney would have shelled out some serious cash to learn the results of the 2012 Presidential Election beforehand, if for no other reason than that it would have probably saved him money in the long run. What's expensive to me is merely chicken feed to someone with a hefty fortune.

How much would I pay to know "the" future I wondered as I made my way towards Notre Dame. Nothing, I decided. I'm too immersed in the present.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday's pictures and a song: Hell on Heels

It's the second sunny day in a row in Paris! The winter sales are finished, the air feels warm and the stores are starting to unveil their Spring windows. Here are some photos of a couple of the shoes that caught my eye while wandering around town last week.

Hell on Heels

Please click on the photos to enlarge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine's Day poem especially for you!

Dominique Sampiero, a prize-winning author, screenwriter and poet hard at work on your poem.

It's never easy to know what to get you for Valentine's Day. Chocolate, roses, jewelry or sexy firemen. But since I wanted to give you something truly unique to make up for my lackadaisical blogging habits of late, I asked a poet to write a poem especially for you.

À toi, habitant du monde, 
amoureux des étoiles et de la Tour Eiffel
pour que ton rêve de Café de Flores et des bateaux sur la Seine
scintille entre ces mots comme la lumière des villes. 
Bois un café avec moi, marche dans les rues du Marais, 
l'âme de Paris chuchote entre les pierres pour raconter cette histoire 
d'une ile au milieu des terres. 

Thanks to the free offer by Galeries Lafayette, lots of people will be able to surprise their sweethearts with tender words this Valentine's Day. I've even got a special poem for Stephane, but I'm not posting that one online. It's a secret.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

To you, inhabitant of the world
Lover of the stars and Eiffel Tower
So that your dream of Cafe de Flores and boats on the Seine
Sparkle between these words like the lights of cities. 
Drink a coffee with me and walk down the streets of the Marais
The soul of Paris whispers between the stones to tell this story of an island in the middle of land.