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French Weekly Magazines Review 31 December 2017
A celebration of French Panache. How things have change in France over the past 50 years. And one very happy footballer.
A few of the usual French weeklies were missing when I checked the Paris Live mailbox. Still, Marianne was there; the best of the bunch, in my opinion. Along with l'Express, the muckraking paper le Canard enchaine and, sports fanatics will be pleased to hear, l'Equipe magazine.
As ever, Marianne is chockablock with stories, many of them the result of solid, old fashioned reporting, rather than the lazy, armchair opinion pieces favoured by some rival publications.
Marianne's cover story isn't the tired, predictable voyage around what happened in the year just ending.
What's on offer is "The great history of French PANACHE".
For those who didn't know, "Panache" is a stylish, original, elegant and self-assured way of doing things that makes people admire you.
Not as synonyms but as characteristics which contribute to Panache, the cover lists a dozen, including "bravado, insolent, inflexible, dare-devil,
flamboyant, eloquent, magnificent losers or modest winners."
"Throughout our history," says Marianne, "many women and men, real and fictional, have personified French brio (that's to say vivacity and elan). Courage, a sense of honour and elegance never failed them."
Marianne devotes almost 100 pages to the subject, ranging far and wide, from Asterix the Gaul outwitting the Romans, to Joan of Arc, future King Henry IV at the battle of Ivry in 1590, to the philosopher René Descartes, wartime leader General Charles de Gaulle, the French Foreign Legion, the composer Debussy, Parisian women, to the actors Jeanne Moreau and Gerard Depardieu.
And, of course, there's Marianne herself, the heroic woman first represented in the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix entitled "Liberty Leading the People," in a glorified, imagined scene from the July 1830 revolution which toppled French King Charles X. In it, bear-breasted Marianne leads revolutionaries into battle with a tricolor flag in one hand and a musket in the other. She is still a symbol of France and the French Republic today.
If I detailed all the individuals cited in the piece I'd be here until this time next week. In view of that, lets admire "la Parisienne," who, Marianne tells us, "has not lost her feathers".
"Celebrated and coveted as the most beautiful ornament of capital, the female citizen of the city of light responds to dark times with chic, love and impertinence. It isn't her beauty, which is far from classic, says the weekly. It's her free spirit, her frivolity. "This serious doll says "No" by tapping her heel," declares Marianne.
As you'll have gathered, political correctness hasn't taken over in Paris just yet.
Needless to say, not everyone will be happy with the choices; those chosen and those missing. Still, I don't doubt French readers will be heartened by the suggestion that Panache is in their DNA. As an Englishman, all I can lay claim to is sang-froid.
So. Bravo Marianne! for looking on the bright side and boosting national morale.
The end of year Special in l'Express, 54 pages of it, looks at "How everything has changed" in the years from 1968 to 2018.
For those who missed it, 1968, or more precisely May 68, was marked by student protests, violent street clashes in Paris and a general strike.
Not quite the political Revolution which toppled the Monarchy towards the end of the 18th century. "More than an explosion", says l'Express, "May 68 was a tidal wave the effects on which are still felt in French society today." In fact, it was a cultural, social and moral turning point in recent French history.
L'Express undertakes to revisit what it calls "50 years of profound transformation since then. "The study is exhaustive and I can't begin to do it justice.
But, I was struck especially by a piece about the slogans written by student revolutionaries on the walls of Paris during Mai 68. Many were wistful, with the brevity, depth and elegance of a Japanese haiku.
For example, there was "Sous les pavés, la plage" - "Under the cobblestones, the beach." The cobblestone, by the way, was the students' missile of choice against the CRS riot police.
Here's one delicious example of how things have change. Every summer on the banks of the River Seine, the French capital creates what's known as "Paris Plage", with the quaysides cloaked in golden sand, a recreational area for Parisians who can't afford a trip to the seaside.
A case of "Sur les pavés, la plage" - "On the cobblestones, the beach."
No room to explore l'Equipe or the Chained Duck, I'm afraid. Suffice it to say that Paris Saint Germain's marquee signing - the Brazilian striker Neymar - is on the cover of l'Equipe looking very pleased with himself. Neymar, for whom PSG paid Barcelona 222€ million, signed a five-year contract with an annual salary of 45€ million, making him the highest-paid footballer in the world.
Once upon a time professional footballers were paid the minimum wage. It's another example of how things have changed.