Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Royale with cheese

Just spent the bank holiday weekend in Paris. I didn’t realise how much I needed a break until I got there. Ernest Hemingway once said “Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind, and I like to write standing up.” I agree with the first part.

Here’s what I learned. Paris is a filthy shithole, and I say that with the grudging affection that I can only muster up now that I’m not there anymore. The Metro is by far the worst offender, even though I couldn’t stop thinking about Subway as I shuttled around the city. (The underground walkways kept on conjuring up images of Irreversible as well, but let’s not go there).

And what is with the pigeons? I hate pigeons! It’s like an epidemic there! I know it’s a cliché, but they are flying rats, and I fucking hate the low-flying evil vermin.

Wandering around with Mrs. AKA resulted in a continuously alternating litany of “something smells” and “I need a wee”. In her defence, she is five months pregnant. But even without her hypersensitive olfactory sense twitching, I could tell the place reeked.

In addition to the ever-present rotting garbage, the city smells like a dirty ashtray. I don’t think I saw anyone who didn’t smoke. Now, I don’t object to smoking. I have the odd cigarette myself (say, 20 a day). But the place was just a dusty melange of ash, soot and butts. At least, until the pigeons chowed down on them. Hope it gives the little fuckers cancer.

So, London may be dirty and pigeon-infested, but we’re a bunch of amateurs next to their heroic efforts to pollute their city. Nevertheless, I had a very good time and I enjoyed every damn minute of it. Don’t let my rant convince you otherwise.

And this message would be incomplete without mentioning cinema excursions. The advantage of a wife who can’t walk around for protracted periods of time, combined with the fact that everything in Paris is wildly expensive (five quid for a beer? Not much less for a coffee??), allowed me to suggest not once, but twice, that we take the strain of our feet with a couple of movies.

Monster is an entertaining-enough serial-killer thriller that wouldn’t be getting anywhere near as much attention if it weren’t for that fact that it includes an Oscar-winning performance by Charlize Theron (see also Monster’s Ball for films that receive undue attention because of awards). A bit like an eighties straight-to-video exploitation shocker, so I liked it.

And we also had the opportunity to watch a movie in the UGC George V, just nestling in the shadows of the Arc de Triomphe. Sadly, the film was another slice of serial-killer schlock, Taking Lives, a film that has had little more than a cursory release in London. I imagine the reason for the film’s wide release in France lies in the casting of French character actors Olivier Martinez, Jean-Hughes Anglade and Tchéky Karyo. It certainly isn’t for things like plot, story-telling or the acting of the three American leads: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke and Kiefer Sutherland. This is the kind of film you stumble upon on late night television, with a beer in one hand and a pizza in the other, watching with mild interest, until the end credits roll and you wish you had gone to bed two hours ago.

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