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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

"Suite 2806" treading the boards with DSK

Well not quite. The disgraced form head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, won't actually be taking to the stage, but his persona will be.

And it happens in a play due to open shortly at the Théâtre Daunou in the second arrondissement of the French capital.

"Any resemblance to what actually happened is purely coincidental," runs the blurb for the imaginatively entitled "Suite 2806" the scene, of course, of the infamous encounter at the Sofitel in New York between DSK and the chambermaid Nafissatou Diallos

"Suite 2806" (screenshot of poster for the play)

 Eric Debrosse and Jelle Saminnadin take on the roles of the ingeniously renamed protagonists "Daniel Weissberg" and "Evangeline" in the play written by Guillaume Landrot and directed by Philippe Hersen, who describes it as being "very elegantly and well written, focusing on power, subconcious deliberate mistakes and redemption."

Proving that it's pure "faction" the plot has...wait for it...Evangeline - who has studied modern literature - entering into "a real discussion" with the businessmen Weissberg!

Say no more.

'It examines the origins of the sexual addiction of my character without making any judgement," says Debrosse.

"And Evangeline comes across as a victim but also a strong woman."

Oh well. It'll be something to see in Paris on a cold November or December evening perhaps.

Maybe it's not surprising that the affair is being milked for all its worth - and more.

After all it at the time it made headlines not just in France but around the world and it surely changed the face of French politics, delivering a knockout blow to DSK's chances of running for president of this country.

Since then, there have been books, both fictional ones that have taken their "inspiration" from what went on in the room and "factual" biographies of Strauss-Kahn, the trial, and his long-suffering and deep-pocketed wife (from whom he's now separated) Anne Sinclair.

And what's the betting there'll be many more.

TV of course got in on the act pretty quickly with the US series "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" borrowing heavily from what reportedly happened in one of its episodes.

And let's not forget the big screen.

French director Abel Ferrara's plans to begin shooting a film inspired by DSK and his political sex scandals, starring Gérard Depardieu (a custom-made bit of casting in terms of physique?) in the main role with Isabelle Adjani as Sinclair might have been put on hold for the moment.

Lack of funding apparently.

But there is of course the x-rated version "DXK" made by Christophe Clark in 2011 which...actually you probably don't need it spelling out.

Watch the accompanying trailer if you feel so inclined, although you'll need to sign in and agree to the conditions before YouTube will allow you access.

The play "Suite 2806" opens at the Théâtre Daunou in Paris on November 21 and runs until the end of the year.

Monday, 29 October 2012

That "special" TV moment between IMF head Christine Lagarde and CNBC journalist Maria Bartiromo

Recently Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund,  appeared, as she has done regularly, on the US-based satellite and cable television business news channel CNBC.

Facing her was the channel's Maria Bartiromo, a journalist with a proven track record, author of several books and recipient of various awards.

Christine Lagarde and Maria Bartiromo (screenshot montage from CNBC video)

The main thrust of what Lagarde had to say was that "austerity upon austerity doesn't work," with Bartiromo pushing to find out whether Greece would be offered a better deal.

So the scene is set for an interview between two very capable women with Bartiromo quizzing Lagarde on the world global economy (of all things) just ahead of the the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group in Tokyo.

But remember this was television - a medium in which some journalists, even the most experienced and accomplished can fall into the trap of considering themselves to be at least equal if not sometimes better than the person they're interviewing - or at least giving the appearance of what they have to say and their take on an issue, matters.

You know the sort of thing: a journalist specialising in a certain field becomes the expert qualified to share with viewers, listeners or readers, their point of view.

"Hello subjectivity" and "Goodbye objectivity".

Although there are several examples earlier on in the interview of Bartiromo chipping in with her comments on what Lagarde is saying, take a listen to the exchange that takes place between the two when France is mentioned (fast forward to eight minutes and 57 seconds in the accompanying video - you can watch it here).

Lagarde of course is French and before taking over from Dominique Strauss-Kahn (yes the job has become something of a Gallic domain in recent years) she was this country's finance minister.

Bartiromo wanted to find out (really?) Lagarde's thoughts on the 75 per cent tax rate the French government is planning to impose on those earning more than €1 million annually, asking whether she found it "appropriate".

Ever the international diplomat that she has become, Lagarde was not to be drawn saying she was going to take questions on France for obvious reasons.

"Because it's your country?" asked Bartiromo.

"Correct," replied Lagarde.

But that wasn't enough for the journalist who wanted an answer to the question she had "posed", even if now forced, in part, to give it herself.

"It does seem a little aggressive from a policy standpoint," began Bartiromo.

"Do you think we could see that kind of tax rates in other countries? I mean, this is a real debate. I understand you don't want to criticise or comment on something going on in France. But you have to be thinking about this," she finished, allowing Lagarde a little more room for manœuvre without having to appear to comment openly on internal French politics.

A clever rephrasing of the question from Bartiromo to try to tease out an opinion or a point of view that might otherwise be buried under a blanket of diplomatic doublespeak?

Or a clumsy technique of appearing to the devil's advocate but perhaps letting slip her own thoughts on the subject?

You decide.

Either way, for such a normally dry subject, it's a delicious TV moment as both women retain their poise during what could have been an instant of dead air silence.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hug your Éric Bompard "irresistable cashmere"

Ah commercials.

They've very much been part of our lives for decades now, haven't they.

Some people love 'em; so much so that they insist on arriving early at the cinema to enjoy sitting through them before the real reason for being there - er, the film - begins.

And when it comes to TV, well don't make too much noise during the break otherwise you might just incur their wrath as they gaze in open-mouthed wonderment at the small screen.

All right so the bottom line is surely that commercials are made to sell a service or a product you might not necessarily want or need.

On principal maybe you reject the very nature of what they represent.

But - and there's no getting away from it, even for the most cynical - some of them are ruddy clever.

Such is the case surely of "The hug", the latest offering from Éric Bompard.
"The hug" (screenshot from Èric Bompard commercial)

The company, founded in 1986, specialises in ready-to-wear cashmere clothing and accessories for men, women and children: pricey perhaps, but you get what you pay for.

It's one of those luxury goods lines, if you will, at which the French seem to excel.

If you need proof then just pick up the latest copy of the weekly magazine, Elle, in which the country's former first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gives an exclusive interview for the first time since she and her husband, Nicolas Sarkozy (just in case you needed reminding) left the Elysée palace.

As well as talking about the unlikelihood of husband making another bid for office, giving advice to the current first lady, girlfriend or whatever you want to call her, Valérie Trierweiler, to tie the knot with François Hollande and enthusing about her upcoming fourth album, Bruni-Sarkozy is also pictured alongside the interview and on the front cover, looking seductively radiant - or should that be radiantly seductive - wearing an Èric Bompard...Pull V oversize ultrafin.

Très glamour.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (Elle magazine cover)

So that's the seal of approval from a former top model handily following the recent launch of "The hug".

It's part of the company's "L'étreinte" or "embrace" campaign and quite frankly, it's a delightful spot whose timing couldn't be better.

There has been a sudden and dramatic drop in temperatures over the past couple of days in France and, as we're likely to be reminded ad nauseam over the next upcoming weeks, Christmas isn't that far away.

To top off the whole warm, fuzzy feeling, there's that music to accompany, the aria "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot".

It couldn't get much better.


Friday, 19 October 2012

Florence Lamblin - Eco Sex toys and money laundering

No the title is not a piece of political faction.

But there again the alleged truth is often stranger than anything that could be dreamt up by a scriptwriter with even the most preposterously imaginative pen.

The deputy mayor of the 13th arrondissement of Paris, Florence Lamblin is back in the news again.

Florence Lamblin (screenshot BFM TV)

You might remember that last weekend Lamblin hit the headlines after being arrested for her alleged involvement in a ring suspected of laundering €40 million of drug money.

The - until-then - little-known (outside of political circles perhaps) Europe Écologie Les Verts - or Green party to the rest of us - politician suddenly found herself a household name as the media and political opponents had a field day "finding her guilty".

There were calls for Lamblin to resign, not only from the opposition but also from the party's presidential candidate this year, Eva Joly and just as importantly perhaps the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë.

Lamblin did just that - sort of - following that time-honoured French political tradition of announcing that she would be, "suspending her activities and political duties until there had been a full investigation into her financial records."

In other words she'll probably be back.

That was last weekend's news and of course the investigation into her alleged involvement is still ongoing.

But when the proverbial "merde" hits the fan for a French politician, you can rely on the weekly satirical newspaper, Le Canard enchaîné, to keep everyone entertained with a slightly different angle on matters.

And that's exactly what it did on Wednesday following up on a story that had appeared the day before in the weekly "news" magazine Paris Match, revealing that Lamblin, apart from being a politician, was also a partner in an eco-friendly sex toy website, which for the most peculiar of reasons currently seems to be unavailable, thereby surely missing out on a great marketing opportunity, has as its enticing tag line “pleasure, naturally”.


It tells potential buyers, says Paris Match, that ecology should be "fun and not make people feel guilty",  and offers (or should that be in the past tense now?) a range of (amongst other things) "natural massage oils, organic lingerie (the edible variety?) and sex toys free from potentially harmful plastic additives."


No comment perhaps - but feel free to come up with your own interpretation.

Keep them courteous, please.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Simplifying the wonderfully complicated world of French employment law - a possibility?

Ah the madness that is French employment law.

Every evening on Europe 1, journalist David Abiker has a spot called "La geule de l'emploi" in which he takes a look at working France from a number of different angles.

On Thursday's edition he highlighted a one-line bill which Jean-Pierre Decool, a member of parliament for the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) wants to introduce.

It concerns employment law.

You know - the whole body of law and administrative rulings that covers everything and anything to do with the relationship between employer and employee; the contract of employment, minimum wage, working time, health and safety, discrimination....(thank you to someone at Wikipedia)

In short it's supposed to provide rights which will protect an employee from any mistreatment by their employer and regulate the relationship between the two.

Yes it's hard to give a Daily Mail-type summary of something so complicated and of course the French have found a way of making an already complex subject even more confusing.

And because Decool thinks that French employment law is just a little (well actually a lot) out of synch with 21st century requirements, he wants to simplify matters and make the whole area much more - for want of a better word - transparent.

The sheer bulk of legislation is particularly overwhelming for small and medium-side enterprises as far as Decool and probably many others are concerned.

Look at some of the examples he quotes in the introduction to his bill. They need to be treated carefully of course, but Abiker wasn't disputing them during his report.

In 1973 there were 600 articles enshrined in employment law in France. Today there are 10,000.

In Switzerland employment law apparently contains just 54 articles

In France there are, says Decool, currently 30 different forms of a contract of employment. In the United Kingdom there's just one.

In France, if you're fired you have five years to contest your dismissal. In Spain it's apparently just 20 days.

Take a pay slip in France and you'll be faced with 24 lines. In the UK there are just four.

While multinationals can employ armies of lawyers to work their way through the mass of legislation and the small text to ensure they're complying with the law, Decool insists smaller companies simply cannot afford either the time or the money.

And that's not to mention the impact it can have on any foreign investor thinking of setting up shop in France and faced with 10,000 articles with which they have to comply.

On his blog, Abiker helpfully provides a pdf file to Decool's proposal which you can download and read through at your leisure.

He also has a link to a great video from former minister Rama Yade in which she talks about exactly the difference between formulating laws governing employment during her (pre-ministerial) time as an administrator in the Senate and actually putting them into practice...which she has had to do since she joined the private sector to work for a human resources company.

"When I was a Senate administrator I 'made' the law: in other words I assembled all the different elements to produce something that could actually be voted on," she says.

"And I was especially happy when it came to employment law, because I thought I had summarised things pretty well," she continues.

"Now I'm seeing things from the other side and having to put into practice some of those things that I actually wrote and I just have to ask myself, how I could have written what I did  because quite simply some of the things just cannot be applied to the workplace."

Yep, employment law is a very necessary and noble part of any modern day society, but does it really need to be so absurdly complex and confusing as France would appear to have us all believe?

Parliament seems to think so.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

"Leave me alone," says Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Ah. We've all missed him, haven't we?


Dominique Strauss-Kahn of course.

Since his alleged "philandering" (to put in mildly) in that infamous Sofitel suite in New York back in May 2011, the former head of the International Monetary Fund has only given one interview.

That was with the clearly uncomfortable TF1 news anchor Claire Chazal in September last year when DSK gave a table-thumping performance while brandishing a document "proving" his innocence but also having the temerity to admit he had made a "moral error" - whatever that was supposed to mean.

Since then of course there have been further accusations, such as those of writer and journalist Tristane Banon and investigations into his involvement in hotel sex parties with prostitutes in the northern city of Lille.

His long-suffering and very deep-pocketed wife Anne Sinclair has flown the coop, and the man to whom France must be eternally grateful for the arrival of the gormlessly presidential normal one in office (François Hollande, in case you were wondering), has kept as low a profile as possible given the circumstances.

But now the man the French "affectionately" (really?) refer to as DSK is back - sort of - with an exclusive and all-revealing five-page interview in the weekly news magazine Le Point.

Actually it's not - revealing that is.

Much of what DSK actually tells the magazine has been heard or said before with the exception perhaps that, in almost Greta Garbo-style, DSK launches a plea for the media to leave him alone.

Reach for your handkerchieves everyone as you read the following (paraphrased) extract.

"I no longer play any sort of official public role. I'm not a candidate for anything and I have never been convicted either in this country or any other," he tells Le Point.

"Therefore there's really no reason why the media should be so interested in me and to such an extent it has become almost like a manhunt," he continues, disingenuously to say the least.

"I can no longer stand the fact that the media seems to have given itself the 'right' to violate my privacy in the way it has, just because there have been false allegations made against me and judicial investigations launched.

"I just want to be left alone!"

And yadda yadda yadda.

DSK is probably not the only one - that wishes he would be left alone, that is.

The less coverage, the better.

But just in case you can't get enough and want a great pre-bedtime read with your Horlicks, rush out now to the newsagents to secure your copy of this week's Le Point.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Debunking Jean-Francois Copé's Ramadan pain au chocolat tale

The campaign for the presidency of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) has taken a decided turn to the right in recent days.

At least for one of the candidates still left in the race, Jean-Francois Copé, the party's current secretary general.

If he runs out the winner against former prime minister François Fillon in November, the chances are the UMP will be able to drop any pretence of being a centre-right one.

The signs are there.

First up there's his aptly entitled "Manifesto pour une droite décomplexée", extracts of which you can read in Le Figaro and which illustrate how Copé believes there's an "anti-white discrimination" in some areas of France.

And presumably that so-called discrimination can be found, if you follow Copé's line of thinking, in the very same areas as the ones quoted in a campaign speech he gave last Friday in the southeastern town of Draguignan.

Jean--François Copé in Draguignan (screenshot from i>Télé report)

Apart from banging on about the current government's mishandling of the country which is, after all, what a party in opposition is supposed to do, Copé also revealed a little more of what we might expect from the UMP with him at the head.

You see, apparently he can "understand the exasperation of some people who return home from work in the evening to learn that their son has had his pain au chocolate taken from him, just as he was leaving school, by thugs who explained to him that Ramadan means fasting."

Take a listen to the clip.

Right. Yes definitely an "uninhibited Right" and not a direction some other leading UMP figures  would share, as former finance minister François Baroin was clear to point out at the weekend.

Quite apart from the offensive and inflammatory nature of Copé's remark with its obvious undertones which surely don't need to be spellt out (but have been nonetheless by many over the past couple of days in what the French almost lovingly refer to as a "polemic") there's also an essential problem with his little anecdote.


When was the example quoted by Copé as leading to his enlightened understanding of some parents' annoyance supposed to have taken place exactly?

2012? Impossible as many have since pointed out because Ramadan fell during the school holidays

2011? Equally unfeasible for exactly the same reason.

So that leaves the most recent possible date for such a  act 2010
So in other words, poor old Copé has been waiting two whole years to bring the plight of that child to the public's attention and to show just how in tune he is with the thinking of M. et Madame Average French citizen?

Yes M. Copé, let the French eat their pain au chocolat.

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