Agnès C. Poirier (Continuación)

It reads like Tintin, and may reverse the slow decline of old-world wine sales. It may also help turn a generation of binge-drinking teenagers into wine connoisseurs. It is a Japanese manga series called The Drops of God.

In Japan, Korea, China and France, millions of fans, teenagers and adults, are hooked on the adventures of Shizuku. The son of a brilliant but tyrannical wine expert, Shizuku was trained as a child to decant wine for his father and to recognise the world blindfolded, using just his nose: from rocks to ink and leather. Yet Shizuku is a rebel. He has never tasted the stuff and, rankling with the wine master, works in a brewery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is a professional. Vanity Fair's September cover story proves it once more. The "first lady fatale", as she's introduced, can do everything: the seductress, languid in pyjamas opposite her husband on a regalian bed; the cavalière, her long booted legs hanging elegantly from a grand siècle banquette; the lady du soir, in a red evening gown on the roof of the presidential palace; the femme fatale in a trenchcoat, alone in the magnificent park at the Elysée palace; and the gamine in jeans and ballerina shoes caressing the keys of a baby grand. Throughout, her demure half-smile conceals an unbending focus on the job of promoting her latest album.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1987, France won the Palme d'Or with Under the Sun of Satan by Maurice Pialat, the story of a possessed priest set in 1926 rural France. Twenty-one years later, Laurent Cantet has just repeated the feat with his film Entre les Murs (called The Class in English). Between those two Palme d'Ors, a world apart. On Sunday night in Cannes, France left its Catholic angst behind to now firmly confront, perhaps even embrace, the 21st century.

In a masterly stroke of programming, Cantet's film had been left to the last day of the festival. Jury members, film critics and festival-goers at large, exhausted and eager to go back home, weren't expecting anything special from a film added to the official selection at the last minute.…  Seguir leyendo »

Forget winning a ticket to the Superbowl, sleeping with Paris Hilton or getting an Oscar: for some Americans, there is nothing more titillating than the idea of the end of France. It pops up regularly on the cover of serious and prestigious publications, such as Time magazine's latest European edition. This week, a Marcel Marceau double looks down sadly at a dying flower under a damning revelation in bold black letters: The Death of French Culture.

"The end of France" phantasmagoria almost always presents itself the same way: long investigations crammed with figures, statistics, and quotes from disgruntled and self-hating Frenchmen backed by as many triumphant Americans.…  Seguir leyendo »

The French are not amused. Trade unions and the government know they'd better speed up negotiations and find an agreement on the reform of special pension schemes or France will soon reach boiling point. On day nine of transport strikes, the streets are simmering with discontent. Yesterday's announcement that Jacques Chirac is being questioned about l'affaire of the Paris town hall's fictitious jobs has done little to soothe the highly volatile national temper.

This is a tale of two Frances. The first is made up of 1 million beneficiaries of special pension schemes defending their "acquired rights" by going on strike, and of 5.2 million civil servants staging walk-outs over their decreasing "purchasing power" and against Nicolas Sarkozy's plans for substantial job cuts in the public sector.…  Seguir leyendo »

I had sworn never to fall into an anti-globalisation rant but, let's face it, globalisation is a bummer. And I'm not saying this because I'm French. All of us watch the daily turmoil in the financial markets with fear and little understanding; wake up in a gut-wrenching panic about the imminent housing property crash; suffer devastating floods and unprecedented heatwaves (don't tell me there is no link between globalisation and climate change). And soon we'll be struck by an even bigger crisis. Globalisation is going to strike us where it hurts most: in our stomachs. Some of us have already forgotten the meaning of seasonal fruit and vegetables and think that Starbucks offers authentic Italian coffee culture.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Economist showed him on its cover as Bonaparte on his horse after the famous painting by Jacques-Louis David, and the foreign press at large has depicted him as a Napoleonic figure, based on his short stature and authoritarian stance. But what foreign journalists seem to forget is that France boasts as many authoritarian styles as it does cheeses. Nicolas Sarkozy is not a Napoleon Bonaparte. For one thing, he has just banned mass mercy to the nation's prisoners on this Saturday's Bastille day, a measure that was restored by Napoleon in 1802. Besides, if the current tenant of the Elysee palace had a drop of Napoleon's genius and vision, we would be hopeful.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can you hear the ground shaking beneath your feet? The Louvre is to open a permanent gallery dedicated to British art in the spring of 2008 - a revolution in the world of museums. Since 2001, the French institution has been spending millions on British watercolours, snapping them up at auctions, in order to plug the gaps in its own collection.Until very recently, British art was never properly curated in France's first gallery, the most visited in the world. Currently only 20 or so pictures by British artists hang on the Louvre's walls, though, according to Olivier Meslay, the museum's new curator for British art, it's even worse elsewhere on the continent.…  Seguir leyendo »

The global culture we live in is a double-faced creature, part angel, part devil. It induces two sets of behaviour in world citizens: a greater openness and a new curiosity towards others, or the illusory and self-satisfied conviction that the world has come to them. The first group, embracing multilingualism, have learned that a better understanding of other cultures, based on mutual knowledge of each other's languages, can foster stronger business partnerships, richer cultural exchanges and lasting peace. The second, often found in the English-speaking world, are proud of their monolingualism, and have retreated into a fantasy world in which it seems everyone speaks their language.…  Seguir leyendo »