Maxime Gaudet’s short film is a hyperlapse of comrpressed time, zooming around the City of Lights in just three minutes, not just the obvious touristy landmarks but also including a lot of other spots, from the fountains at the St Michel (I know a wonderful bookstore right across from that) to street markets (street markets are always nice, so much energy, but Parisian street markets have the singular distinction of you enjoying them then thinking “I’m in Paris…”). It’s a lovely piece of work celebrating one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Oh how I long to go back there… Of course in the meantime I get to live in an even more beautiful city, so that’s not too shabby… (link via BoingBoing)
Love this brief video by Andrew Julian, taking in my beloved Paris in the winter, before the tourist season starts to fill the streets increasingly. Like my own Edinburgh the tourists never really stop coming, but you can notice the difference as the seasons pass – early spring and the approach to Easter see the visitors increase rapidly here, and also in Paris. When I was last there it was very early March, so the visitors were at a much lower mass than later in the year, but certain spots like the Louvre or Eiffel Tower are eternal magnets to visitors even at that early time of year, but since we made a point of walking off the main tourist roads we often sat back and relaxed in very quiet bars (also much cheaper than those on the main drag!), or wandering through a street market. The video is rather lovely, very nice, sharp picture quality, and doesn’t hurt having Arvo Part’s music on it…
Can it really be five years since I last walked the streets of Paris? Strolled over the beautiful Pont Neuf, browsed for bande dessinee in the bookstores of the Latin Quarter or the boquinistes along the Seine? Lot of things have happened since I was last in the City of Light, and most of them not very nice, often think it isn’t just that I want to return to Paris, I want to return to that point before so much that was wrong and bad in my life happened.
Since we’re on a Parisian theme, here’s a short video I shot with my old still camera, which had limited video but did the job (not HD back then, alas) – descending from the summit of the Eiffel Tower, I was near a small window in the lift and clicked the camera to video mode and let it run for the whole way down to the first floor:
Been browsing through the fascinating Retronaut website quite a bit recently, all sorts of images from yesteryear, be it old catalogue ads, Max Sennett’s 1920s bathing beauties, old footage from the 1890s and more, well worth bookmarking and browsing through. This is one that caught my eye, some fabulous photos documenting the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
There’s something fascinating about seeing some great landmark construction in its early stages – I remember thumbing through a book I used to sell in my old bookstore which was a photographic history of the mighty Forth Rail Bridge (not dissimilar to La Tour Eiffel if you stood it up, I suppose, both huge Victorian era steel structures, immensely strong yet elegant, both still perfect over a century later, both now indelibly marked onto their respective nation’s psyche and identity).
Seeing just foundations at an area you know well but not yet with its primary landmark, then seeing pics of a partial structure, incomplete yet with enough there for you to recognise as it slowly takes shape into the iconic structure we know today…
And here are some shots of La Tour I took myself over a century later:
Look at the sheer size of the legs close up – if you click on it to go to my Flickr page you can look at the larger version for details, you can make out the staircase inside the legs, a staircase I was walking up ten minutes after taking this photo. Sure, we took the lift from the first floor to the top, but for the first section we walked up through all that metalwork, it’s the best way to experience La Tour if you go.
Looking right up inside the tower:
And here’s a short video I shot standing directly underneath the tower:
Some of the huge wheels which wind the lift cables:
Looking down at how tiny the people look below – and this is just from the first level, not the top!
View from the top of the Eiffel Tower, the City of Light spread out hundreds of feet below:
And looking towards the Champs Elysee, you can see the Arc du Triomphe clearly here, shot from hundreds of feet in the air above my beloved Paris:
And there is old Gustav Eiffel himself – well a waxwork anyway, in a cabin with his blueprints for La Tour on the very top of his magnificent tower:
And here’s another short video, this time from the top, looking across the Parc de Champs du Mars, past the Ecole Militaire towards Montparnasse and the (rather ugly) modern towerblock of the Montparnasse Tower (one of the few large modern buildings in the historic area of the city centre – after this blot they stuck mostly to putting the modern skyscrapers outside the historic area in La Defense):
“Made it, Ma, top of the world!”
God, I miss Paris, I so want to go back and walk her streets and explore her many boulevards, galleries, bookstores, museums, bars…
I was off at my second home, the Filmhouse this afternoon, to catch some of the annual French Film Festival. I was taking in some short films today; as usual with a collection of shorts, be it movies, prose stories or whatever, it’s a mixed bag, some good, some so-so, some quite interesting, some that seemed meandering and had no point, others that were nice little examples of a brief but well contained tale or experience (because not all of them were narratives). I think my favourites were an old one from the 70s (judging by the film stock and the vehicles. I later found it was actually made in 76), C’était un rendez-vous , which was simply a high speed drive through the streets of Paris as dawn was breaking, coming up the the Place d’Etoile, round the Arc du Triomphe, down the Champs Elysee, Place de la Concord, roar along the Rive Droit alongside the Ports de Lyons gate of the Louvre then turn and through the Louvre (no IM Pei glass pyramid visible back when this was filmed) and eventually, judging by the increasing slops heading into the Montmartre region and stopping near Sacre Couer at the end (I was quite pleased I remembered my Parisian geography and could follow where he was going for the most part). Camera position stays fixed all the way through and the car never stops (alarmingly at some points!), very simple but really cool. Just found what looks like the whole thing on YouTube, so have a look:
I was also drawn to the short films session because they were showing the first short animated work by Sylvain Chomet, creator of two of my favourite animated features, Belleville Rendezvous and The Illusionist. The Old Lady and the Pigeons is a bit rougher than his later films, but still interesting and you can see some of his styles and approaches (the Ralph Steadman influence is visible even here). Fun to see. Again it seems to be available online, so here you go:
Came out the Filmhouse to find night had fallen and the earlier drizzle had turned to much heavier rain, so decided to catch a bus rather than walk home, while I was waiting by the stop outside the Usher Hall I had the urge to take a pic as the area has only recently been opened up again after some construction work revamping it, so the space in front of it is now opened up, with illuminated signs for upcoming events. With the lights reflecting off the wet streets I felt like getting a shot, but lacking the tripod I had to improvise, bracing the camera against a nearby post, so it isn’t quite as sharp as I’d like, but you take what you can get. Colour didn’t work well for it, but black and white seemed to suit it much better:
and while I was at it I took a quick one of the Usher Hall with it’s brand new modern extension, again with the lights reflecting on the wet paving stones:
This time exactly a year ago I would have been sitting at pavement table in a brasserie in the Latin Quarter of beautiful Paris. I think that was the last time I can remember being really happy, blissfully unaware of what was waiting for me just a few weeks down the road. I don’t mean I’ve been sitting around in sackcloth and ashes since we lost mum, I’ve gone out, I’ve done things and even laughed, but its all like little distractions and the great, dark centre is always there waiting and not a day goes past that it doesn’t hit me like a hammer a dozen times and I don’t feel like I’m really me anymore or will be again, just someone who looks like I used to, going through the motions. And Paris has become larger in my head, not just because I love the city and its culture (of the two places I would most like to live in the whole world one is Paris, the other is right here in Edinburgh) but because it is that last time when I felt so freely happy and with what happened so soon afterwards Paris has come to mean something more to me emotionally, a precious space where everything was still alright. Which probably sounds daft but its what I feel. Oh to be back not only in Paris but in that happy space instead of feeling like I’m going to fall apart endlessly through each, long day.
” What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells, Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, — The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires. What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds. “
Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
Probably the best known of the poets of the Great War, Owen was treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart, just a few moments from where I live in Edinburgh, where he met fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon (events fictionalised in Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration and the film adaptation of the book). Owen was killed on November 4th, 1918, just a week before the Armistice. He was 25 years old; much of his poetry was published posthumously.
(the eternal flame and the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe; the legend reads “ici repose un soldat Francais, mort pour la patrie, 1914-1918. It stands in stark contrast to the more bombastic militarism of the Arc de Triomphe above it and the triumphant, processional way of the Champs Elyssee in front of it; the larger version is on my Flickr)
Still processing pictures and some video from the brilliant Paris trip; there’s about 300-odd pictures up on the Woolamaloo Flickr already (there you can click on the ‘all sizes’ button to see the full size versions, handy for detail on some of the aerial shots of the city) and I still have a number to sort and upload. Today though I uploaded some video clips I shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower. We walked up the first two levels – you can take stairs or the lift up the legs, so we opted to walk up just because hey, we can say we did! Final segment is by lift only and they run up the main central spire of the tower. The views, as you can imagine, are amazing – the whole of the City of Light spread out below you. The first one, looking north, is more than a little windy!
When we got to the west facing side we noticed a football match going on at a sports ground below – from this height it looked like a Subutteo game! Talk about grandstand seating…
Out of the wind on the south facing side looking down into the Parc des Champs and the Ecole Militaire with the Montparnasse Tower in the distance (an ugly modern building which most Parisians hate, but apparently gives great views of the Eiffel Tower from the top of it and if you are in it you don’t see the ugliness of the modern tower, which is very out of keeping with the rest of its area), then pan round towards the Latin Quarter and Les Jardins de Luxembourg (which our hotel was next to) and the Pantheon (which has more than a passing resemblance to the front of St Paul’s):
And of course a quick view looking Eastwards along the Seine towards Les Invalides and further in the distance Notre Dame:
While I was in Paris I took the opportunity of browsing in some bookstores and bouquinistes (the rare and second hand booksellers with the lockups by the Seine) for some bandes dessinée (French comics, basically). Unlike the English language book world comics and graphic novels are taken more seriously as culture and art; we cover a tiny bit of the European scene on the FPI blog but what gets translated into English and republished for the UK and US markets is pretty limited compared to what actually gets published in Europe so I decided I would have a look at some BD while I was there, my basic and rusty French not withstanding and ended up writing an article out of it for the FPI blog last weekend, which I’m repeating below:
Apologies to Wim for appropriating his usual title for this post (normal continental correspondent service from Belgium will be resumed shortly), but I’m just back from a terrific break in Paris where, as well as the usual tourist pastimes of marvelling at the motoring madness that is the Circus Maximus around the Arc de Triomphe (the greatest free show in the City of Light) or wondering if it was permissible to push very loud and irritating backpackers off the Eiffel Tower, I managed to have a couple of little browses through some bandes dessinée. Sadly the first dedicated comics shop – Super Hero Libraire – was closed when we passed it (unlike the UK French shops don’t always stick to the regular 9 to 6 sort of hours every day, but many are open into the evening, so its worth checking hours if there is a specific store you want to catch) and it was too far from our hotel to make a return visit feasible.
(French one volume edition of V For Vendetta and a big dollop of Wolverine – did you know Logan spoke French?)
But this is France and unlike Britain you can find BD pretty much wherever books are sold – even the famous bouquinistes with their distinctive green lock-ups along the banks of the Seine often feature both BD albums and old comics issues, although since some of these may be rare rather than simply second hand you have to watch the prices. I came across a multi-volume series collecting V for Vendetta en Français and was quite tempted to pick them up, but at just shy of 20 Euros per volume it was just too pricey.
(one of the windows of the Super Hero Librairie; in the bottom left shelf you can see Chroniques Birmanes which Wim reviewed here last week)
Still, the bouquinistes are something any book lover will want to enjoy, whether you are looking for BD, paperback novels or any other literature; actually on a spring day simply browsing among them as the barges move along the Seine, the simple pleasure of rummaging through used books combined with being outdoors and sightseeing. One stand in particular had an interesting mix of French BD and English language titles, so you’d see second-hand Bilal albums next to a rack of old Daredevil issues. As with second hand and antiquarian bookstore here though, the bouquinistes choose their opening hours according to arcane signs among the stars and from a formula calculated using an ancient equation worked out by Diderot, so it is pure luck which ones will be open or closed when you go past at any time of day or evening, but hey, if you’re there its as good as an excuse as any for a walk long the banks of the Seine without feeling like a total tourist.
(some of the bouquinistes by the Seine, near Notre Dame)
In the bouquiniste stands, the comics stores and the mainstream bookshops it is also common to come across English language titles translated into French – the aforementioned V Pour Vendetta, of course, but quite a diverse selection, even in mainstream bookstores (some of which had graphic novel sections almost half as big as you’d find in specialist comics stores here, and that’s just adult BD, not counting the younger reader’s material). Even in the land where comics are considered the Ninth Art you’re still going to find the ‘underwear perverts’ as Boing Boing refers to superheroes, translated and nestling among the slimmer, hardback BD albums – as with any comics store its hard not to spot some X-Men titles.
Kirkman and Adlard’s excellent, Romero-influenced zombie series The Walking Dead seemed popular too and I spotted several large paperback translated collections cropping up in a number of places. There’s something fascinating about leafing through the pages of something you’ve read but now in another language (and this seems universal – plenty of the many tourists who come to Edinburgh like to pick up Tolkien in bookstores here, for example, to read in English having read it in French, German etc). In one of the many bookstores between the Saint Michel and Latin Quarter areas I also came across a very handsome, thick collection of Eddie Campbell’s early work. You’ll appreciate the irony that if I want to track down most of that work by an acclaimed British artist at home I’d have to go second hand because it’s currently out of print, yet in France I can find a very fine-looking collection in an ordinary bookstore. Then again the French probably appreciate it more; “Monsieur Campbell, sacre bleu, ‘e is a true artiste de BD.” (and of course, they are right). And I noticed quite a few artists familiar to me via their translated works which have come out from Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, NBM, First Second and Fantagraphics over the years, from Trondheim to Zograf.
(just some of the BD on offer in Gibert Jeune in the Saint Michel area of Paris)
Of course while you’re there you want to have a look at some European titles. Now my French is pretty basic and those school lessons seem a long time ago, but one of the advantages the comics form offers is (usually) less actual text to comprehend (or not!) and the visual aide of sequential pictures, so even when your command of French is less than stellar there’s a lot of extra context to give you a hand. It doesn’t make the medium completely accessible and bypass the linguistic barriers (unless it is a ‘silent’ strip), but if you have even a small grasp of the language a comic is going to be a much easier way to try and interact a bit more with another tongue.
That shouldn’t be surprising to us; after all we first encourage the comprehension of written language and structure in children using picture books. And living as I do in Edinburgh, as awash with visitors as Paris, I’ve seen a number of adult tourists deliberately picking up Asterix and Tintin in English to take home because it is a great way to try and get more into another language, so I thought I’d take a similar tact and ended up coming home with some Jodorowsky – Les Technopères, with fabulous science fiction art from Zoran Janjetov which made it worth picking up just to admire – and on spotting a recent collection (just published by Air Libre/Dupuis in January) by this year’s Grand Prix winners at Angoulême, Dupuy and Berberain, Un Peau Avant la Fortune, I thought that would be worth a bash too.
(cover to Dupuy and Berberian’s recently published Un Peau Avant la Fortune, published Air Libre/Dupuis and (c) Dupuy and Berberian)
To be honest I could easily have blown more money picking up several more, but since I don’t know how well I will cope with them it seemed prudent to limit myself (and spend the remaining money on wine). But language aside it is hard to resist when you are faced with shelf upon shelf of BD, everything from the funny books to tales of daring Resistance heroines in wartime Paris (one book I randomly picked up had a scene with the Resistance heroine set on one of the Seine bridges I had just passed over to get to that very bookstore, sadly I can’t remember the title now), science fiction, biographical… Even if you aren’t going to buy yourself some, if you find yourself visiting France its still enjoyable for any comics fan to have a good browse through the BD section; its always good to try something different in your reading, as we’ve said here on more than one occasion (and will doubtless say again, because its true and there is so much out there just waiting to be read).
There is another way for those of us with only a limited grasp of the language to buy into the French BD experience a little more though, and it is much cheaper than buying new hardback albums – the journals. Paris is awash with newsstands and as in any city the railway and metro stations and the airports also have plenty of stores where among the newspapers, movie mags and copies of Elle (I was vaguely disappointed the French version of Elle wasn’t called ‘her’) you are likely to find several magazines and journals dedicated to BD and some specialising in manga. Of course the language barrier is still there, but if you are interested but wary because of the language a mag is a lot cheaper to buy and try than books – it’s also a good way of introducing yourself to different comics creators.
I settled on BoDoï – “explorateur de bandes dessinées” – which has a special edition celebrating 35 years of the Grands Prix at Angoulême. For 7.50 Euros (about five pounds, slightly pricey for a mag, but it does have a lot of colour art) I got a special edition which offered up some 40 artists, with two or three pages each of art and a short bio/interview (in French, naturellement). And just check some of the artists covered here – Robert Crumb, Enki Bilal, Morris, José Muñoz, François Schuiten, Trondheim, Hugo Pratt, Moebius, Will Eisner, Jaques Tardi, Jean-Claude Forest, Jaques Lob, Neal Adams, Max Cabanes, Uderzo… That has to be worth a fiver of any comics fan’s money, surely?
(an excerpt from Mister I, (c) Lewis Trondheim)
The art and themes on offer are as varied as the artists – Philippe Vuillemin riffs nicely on the old joke – old jokes seem to be universal, I’m pleased to note – about the young polar bear (I won’t ruin the punchline in case you’ve never heard it), Georges Wolinski offers up a take on psychotherapy which would work in almost any Western culture (especially if you’re a Woody Allen fan), Lewis Trondheim’s Mister I makes a welcome appearance with a wordless tale (so it was only the bio/interview I had to struggle to read!) and we get a quick visit to Eisner’s Dropsie Avenue.
(Rendezvous a Paris by the one and only Enki Bilal)
Personal standouts for me came from Bilal, who I’ve always admired for his beautiful, imaginative science-fiction artwork. In this case it is just a couple of wordless pages, including one spectacular full page splash set above the Eiffel Tower. Jaques Tardi has four pages first created for the magazine L’Aisne set during the carnage of the Great War which are highly effective and moving. Even if you don’t speak word one of French I think you would still grasp the scenes of French infantrymen suffering and the word “boucherie!” repeated, larger and bolder each time until it is screaming “BOUCHERIE!” at the reader while below a smug General Nivelle stands in front of a charnel house of bones of fallen soldiers. Actually looking at a couple of the frames in Tardi’s piece I’m moved to wonder if they influenced the trench scenes in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.
(two pages from Jaques Tardi’s segment, these are from “la BD du Avril 16″ and although very different in style seem to me to be every bit as powerful and moving as the superb art Joe Colquhoun created for Charley’s War; originally published in L’Aisne magazine and (c) Jacque Tardi)
Max Cabanes’ Francis Cabrel, les Beaux Dessins, inspired by a song by Francis Cabrel, showcases some beautiful artwork; again, if you can’t read the language you can just admire the luscious art of two lovers amid the trees. François Schuiten (with Benoît Peeters) has two utterly gorgeous pages, Hommage à Winsor McCay (I think you can translate the meaning of that yourselves!), paying tribute to the immortal Little Nemo (I just keep turning back to those pages and looking at the, superb), while back in the world of black and white there’s a great extract from Superdupont by Jacques Lob with artwork by the great Neal Adams; you just have to love the Superman clone meeting his French counterpart Superdupont in his vest, paunch and beret, a Reagan-esque president and something spooky going on at a vineyard (hence the need for the French hero).
So, if you are lucky enough to be going to France on holiday, keep your eyes open – even if you only have basic French there are still comics delights to be had; as a wise comics character once declared, “there’s treasure everywhere!” There are a number of comics jewels in this special issue and I will try to share some more scans from it over the coming days because they are too good to keep to myself.
Since blogger is grudgingly and slowly letting me upload some pics tonight, some more pics from Paris, still sticking with the Louvre theme:
I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid which now functions as the entrance to the Louvre, descending down into the pyramid to a vast space with the ticket desks, information and entrances to the various wings of what is probably the world’s most famous museum. Turn the other way and walk through the Jardin de Tuileries and you come out into a square leading your eyes up a line straight to the Champs Elysees and L’Arc de Triomphe.
heading into one of the wings with some of the Louvre’s astonishing amount of Classical material
Which includes the world’s original supermodel, The Venus de Milo. Who I believe is now romantically linked with Paul McCartney
La Joconde – the Mona Lisa, smiling for the many tourists. While photography seemed to be fine in most of the Louvre they did ask – as is the usual case in any gallery – not to use cameras in the rooms with the paintings, probably because so many idiots don’t know how to switch off their flash which damages them. Despite the fact I rarely use the flash I still kept my camera in my pocket for this wing, despite masses of tourists – especially the many Japanese – merrily ignoring the rule and firing camera flashes off right in front of the paintings which made me want to slap them round the head, bloody idiots. There were so many the curators didn’t even try to stop them. I broke my rule and did take one painting pic for this (no flash so I don’t feel to guilty) as people were standing right there in front of curators snapping away.
One of the things I really liked in the wings with the paintings was the fact that several artists had been allowed to set up their easels to paint their own versions of some of the works, something I found to be rather satisfying to see. Actually La Joconde wasn’t the most impressive painting there, famous as she is – the best work I saw (and there were many we didn’t have time to see properly, it is vast) was one that annoyingly I can’t remember the name of, but it reminded me of one of the Venetian paintings I raved about on here a few years back when there was an exhibition on at the Royal Scottish Academy. I wish I could remember the name or artist, but like a couple of the works I saw there it leapt out the frame at me, the colours, especially the blues, so amazingly bright and vibrant it was like the artist had painted Mediterannean sunlight right into the canvas, still pouring out of the painting centuries later.
In the Richelieu wing there was this terrific open space, essentially a sculpture garden indoors, with this amazing glass and steel roof (like a smaller version of the brilliant one now on top of the British Museum in London) shielding us from the elements so it felt like being outside but sheltered. Natural light floods this space and its twin further along the wing (these are the ones in the video clips from the other day) and a lot of artists were making the most of the light to sketch some of the friezes and sculptures; I’d imagine the statues would afford a great class in how to portray human anatomy and form and what a terrific space to draw in. Or take pictures in.
I love this space, I think I could sit here for ages
Inside the glass pyramid – I love the spiral staircase with no visible means of support (not even thin suspended wires); the column it is wrapped round is actually a lift. Its open at the top and the entire column sinks down – it doesn’t telescope down, the entire structure actually slides down into the floor, very cool!
As usual click the pics to see the larger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream (only 184 in the Paris set so far, still a ton to add; no doubt many more Paris pics and vids to come!)
I’m still beavering away processing and uploading pics of the Paris trip to my Flickr site – 184 up and I still have a ton to go, not even got as far as the Eiffel Tower pics yet. I was going to post a few of the ones I had one on here but blogger is arseing around and for some reason just not uploading images, although it seems happy to post video… So until it lets me put some more pics up and I get round to doing more pics on Flickr, here’s another short video panorama of the Louvre, this time taken from the gardens between the wings and the famous Tullieres. As it turns round you get to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance over the top of one wing of the Louvre.
Darn it, I miss Paris, although it has to be said when you live in a city like Edinburgh having to leave Paris to go home isn’t quite such a blow. I was suffering some withdrawal pangs though so towards the end of last week I wandered down to Haymarket not too far from me and into La March Francais, a French deli/cafe which fills up wine bottle right from the barrels and corks them then and there for a very reasonable rate and then parked my Magnificent Celtic Arse – or perhaps Le Derriere Celtic tre Magnifique – down for coffee and a read of my BD (Bandes Dessinee, basically comics and graphic novels) journal and felt much better. Why aren’t I extremely rich so I could just keep an apartment in Paris and flit back and forth between there and Edinburgh whenever I felt like it? Real life, pah! Mind you, if I did I would need to import some Linda McCartney’s since trying to eat veggie in Paris is a nightmare…