“Those Without Shadows,” by Françoise Sagan

Novel, 1957 Slim novel covering the lives of various bored Parisians drifting in and out of relationships with each other. The number of characters and the various lapses and involvements makes this a slightly tricky book to really pin down and get a proper feel for. As a result, it as if we, the readers, are all part of some vague, voyeuristic and removed world, … Continue reading “Those Without Shadows,” by Françoise Sagan

‘The Belly of Paris,’ by Emile Zola

Novel, 1873 A heavy critique the Second Empire which was established in mid-nineteenth century France, through the fictionalised struggle and treatment of an aspiring ‘thin man’ revolutionary. Florent is pitched against the vast and stultifying displays of greed and wealth of Les Halles and the food around it, with particularly effective scenes and displays established in and around Florent’s brother’s charcuterie. The gluttony of those … Continue reading ‘The Belly of Paris,’ by Emile Zola

“The Man on the Eiffel Tower,” directed by Burgess Meredith

Movie, 1950 A curious film for a number of reasons – partly the washed-out colour from a weird process and film stock, and partly through the relative lack of suspense and mystery in what feels like it should be a suspenseful and mysterious film, featuring Simenon’s Inspector Maigret. The result is far from unworthy, however; we have a dreamy set of characters and locations, culminating … Continue reading “The Man on the Eiffel Tower,” directed by Burgess Meredith

‘Cléo from 5 to 7,’ directed by Agnès Varda

Movie, 1962 Move, whose focus on the eponymous Cléo involves a journey through Parisian cafés and traffic, interweaving with snippets and glimpses of other people’s conversations. Cléo ruminates on her career as a singer, her medical situation and pending treatments and we’re given glimpses of her superstitious companion, her fellow musicians, her lovers and various passers-by. Not much in the way of plot, but plenty … Continue reading ‘Cléo from 5 to 7,’ directed by Agnès Varda

“Belle de Jour,” directed by Luis Buñuel

Movie, 1967 Story of a well-to-do housewife who becomes a day time call girl in an unlikely double life. This is a film which is at once fresh, though also very much of its time. The surreal elements, which revolve around the savage treatment of Belle de Jour, are mixed into a plot and pace which seem almost quaint to contemporary mores, although there’s a … Continue reading “Belle de Jour,” directed by Luis Buñuel

“The Lady and the Little Fox Fur,” by Violette Leduc

Fiction, 1965 A wonderful piece of fiction, probably best described as a ‘novella’ – in which a starving, struggling middle-aged woman struggles around Paris, centring herself on routines and the tricky spins on he everyday goings-on, before she finds a fox fur and tries to sell it. That’s pretty much all there is, plot-wise, but the evocations of hunger, shame and pride could sustain a … Continue reading “The Lady and the Little Fox Fur,” by Violette Leduc

“The Last Metro”, directed by François Truffaut

Movie, 1980 Fairly straightforward historical thriller, in which romantic intent, the German occupation of Paris in World War II and the survival of a theatre are put together. This is a film which looks great and plays at a nice pace. The lack of tricks and gimmicks gives the actors plenty of space, and they handle the screenplay and action very well. There are levels … Continue reading “The Last Metro”, directed by François Truffaut

“Charade,” directed by Stanley Donen

Movie, 1963 Lavish spy caper in part; in another part, the glimpses of a crueller brutality and corrupt world give what looks like an old-fashioned romantic thriller and uncomfortable and, at times, ill-fitting feel. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn are their usual feel good, charming selves, although they feel a little lost and silly in a Paris which seems hemmed in and dangerous. The sumptuous … Continue reading “Charade,” directed by Stanley Donen

"Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

Novel, 2015 While the settings and particularly the characters in the book are a little off-genre, this book is, essentially, a piece of detective fiction. Nothing wrong with that, and at the beginning of the book, the combination of a fairly familiar form and some more contemporary aspects combine to hook the reader. The power diminishes, to some extent, after a high number of popular … Continue reading "Arab Jazz", by Karim Miské

"Half Blood Blues", by Esi Edugyan

Novel, 2011 A story of betrayal and part reconciliation, looking at the relationships between members of a jazz band who’d split after the Nazi crackdowns in Berlin and then the invasion in Paris. This is an entertaining, vividly drawn work which occasionally veers perhaps a little too far into a retelling of history, but which nonetheless effectively tells a good story evolving round Sid, who’s … Continue reading "Half Blood Blues", by Esi Edugyan