Sunday, December 26, 2010

Movie Review: Paris

Arctic air is blowing, the sun is setting much too early, and the DC weather forecast is threatening snow.  It's the perfect time of year to catch up on my movie-watching.  After one of my good friends (and fellow-Francophile) suggested I might enjoy Paris, a film by the director of L'Auberge Espagnole, I promptly borrowed her copy and settled in to watch it with a comfort food dinner and a glass of vin rouge. 

Paris reminded me a lot of Paris, je t'aime.  Both films follow the lives of numerous Parisians in order to offer a glimpse of life in the city from multiple perspectives.  However, in Paris, je t'aime we see very distinct and separated vignettes, whereas in Paris the lives of all of the characters flow together, their paths crossing through a variety of encounters and happenstances.

The film spends most of its time on the story of Pierre, who needs a heart transplant, and his sister Élise (played by one of my favorites: Juliette Binoche), who is a single mother and social worker.  But I found all of the stories compelling.  It was a French film to be sure - offering not so much a happy ending as a question mark regarding the future.  Yet, somehow this dark thoughtfulness seemed fitting for the dark winter season.  And I never get tired of seeing familiar places in Paris flash across the screen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scams in Paris

I just saw a report that French police have broken up a major crime ring operating in the Paris Métro.  You can read the story in the Winnipeg Free Press, but the short version is that the bad guys are accused of forcing young people from Eastern Europe to beg and steal on the Métro and Parisian tourist attractions.  The ring supposedly took in 1.3 million euro (1.7 million dollars) last year.

Petty theft and dishonest begging is an unfortunate aspect of life in many large cities, and I've personally experienced a couple of scams while in Paris.  There is the scam where a young women come up to you abruptly in a train station or on a busy sidewalk and ask, "Do you speak English?"  I don't exactly know what happens next, but I assume that if you say yes, you'll be swindled out of something. 

I've witnessed a second scam along the Seine.  A man or woman bends down to supposedly pick something up off the ground and - lo and behold! - it's a gold ring.  They ask if it's yours, you say no, they enlist you in helping find the owner and then you likely get pick-pocketed by their accomplice.

What kinds of scams have you experienced in Paris or elsewhere while traveling?