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Archive for December, 2021

Best (and worst) movies of 2021

Voilà AWAV’s annual list (for last year’s, go here). This was an unusual year for movies, as theaters were closed for over seven months, during the second confinement, or lockdown, which began on October 30, 2020. After the confinement was lifted, on May 19th, a big backlog of movies—most made before the pandemic and which did not open in 2020—hit the salles, with at least four or five opening in any given week, and through the year, that were well-reviewed and looked worth seeing. And so I saw quite a few (though some I really didn’t need to). Par contre, I spent five weeks in the US last summer and went to the cinoche but once. When it comes to going to the movies, France (and particularly Paris) is so far superior to America. N.B. I did not see ‘No Time to Die’, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, or ‘Dune’, and regardless of stellar reviews and word-of-mouth. Not my genres. I also have not seen Steven Spielberg’s remake of ‘West Side Story’, as IMHO this is not a movie that needed to be remade.

TOP 10:
Ballad of a White Cow (Le Pardon قصیده گاو سفید)
Drive My Car (ドライブ・マイ・カー)
Identifying Features (Sin señas particulares)
Just 6.5 (La Loi de Téhéran متری شیش و نیم)
Kuessipan
Quo Vadis, Aida?
Sound of Metal
The Father
The Mauritanian
There Is No Evil (Le Diable n’existe pas شیطان وجود ندارد)

HONORABLE MENTION:
A Hero (قهرمان)
Good Mother (Bonne mère)
Nomadland
The Endless Trench (La trinchera infinita)
The Speech (Le Discours)

BEST MOVIE FROM KAZAKHSTAN:
A Dark, Dark Man (Чёрный, чёрный человек)

BEST MOVIE FROM CAMBODIA:
White Building (អគារពណ៌ស)

BEST MOVIE FROM CHINA SET IN TIBET:
Balloon (气球)

BEST MOVIE FROM JAPAN WITH A WORLD WAR II THEME:
Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle (万夜を越えて)

SECOND BEST MOVIE FROM JAPAN WITH A WORLD WAR II THEME:
Wife of a Spy (Les Amants sacrifiés スパイの妻)

BEST COMEDY FROM JAPAN:
Hospitalité (歓待)

BEST FRANCO-ARMENIAN MOVIE SET IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH:
Should the Wind Fall (Si le vent tombe)

BEST MOVIE FROM FINLAND SET IN RUSSIA:
Compartment No. 6 (Hytti nro 6 Купе номер шесть)

BEST MOVIE FROM RUSSIA SET IN THE EARLY 1960s SOVIET UNION:
Dear Comrades! (Дорогие товарищи!)

BEST NOT BAD MOVIE FROM ENGLAND SET IN THE EARLY 1960s SOVIET UNION:
The Courier

BLEAKEST MOVIE FROM LITHUANIA SET IN THE LATE 1940s SOVIET UNION:
In the Dusk (Sutemose)

ZANIEST MOVIE FROM ROMANIA:
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc)

BEST BIOPIC FROM THE CZECH REPUBLIC ABOUT A FORGOTTEN CZECHOSLOVAK HERBALIST HEALER WHO WAS FAMOUS IN HIS ERA:
Charlatan (Šarlatán)

MOST AUSTERE MOVIE FROM SLOVAKIA:
Servants (Služobníci)

BEST MOVIE FROM DENMARK ABOUT A BUNCH OF MIDDLE-AGED GUYS TRYING TO DRINK EACH OTHER UNDER THE TABLE:
Another Round (Druk)

BEST MOVIE FROM NORWAY ABOUT AN AMIABLE THIRTYSOMETHING WOMAN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HER LIFE:
The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske)

BEST MOVIE FROM SWEDEN ABOUT THE SLEAZY SIDE OF THE ADULT FILM INDUSTRY IN LOS ANGELES:
Pleasure

BEST MOVIE FROM ENGLAND ABOUT A SIXTYSOMETHING ENGLISH CONVERT TO ISLAM WHO DISCOVERS A SECRET ABOUT HER BELOVED DECEASED PAKISTANI HUSBAND:
After Love

BEST SWISS MOVIE FROM UKRAINE:
Olga

BEST SWISS MOVIE FROM LEBANON:
Skies of Lebanon (Sous le ciel d’Alice)

BEST ROAD MOVIE FROM PALESTINE:
200 Meters (٢٠٠ متر)

BEST ROMANTIC COMEDY FROM PALESTINE:
Gaza mon amour (غزة مونامور)

MOST NOT TOO GOOD MOVIE FROM MOROCCO ABOUT AN OVER-THE-HILL HIP HOP SINGER IN CASABLANCA:
Zanka Contact (Burning Casablanca)

BEST NOT BAD GAY-THEMED MOVIE FROM SOUTH AFRICA ABOUT THE SOUTH AFRICAN ARMY IN THE APARTHEID ERA:
Moffie

BEST MOVIE FROM SENEGAL ABOUT TWO BROTHERS IN A VILLAGE WHO ARE IN CONFLICT OVER TRADITION VERSUS MODERNITY:
Nafi’s Father

BEST MOVIE FROM HAITI ABOUT TWO SISTERS TRYING TO GET BY IN THE MIDST OF STATE COLLAPSE:
Freda

BEST BIOPIC FROM COLOMBIA ABOUT A MEDELLÍN SOCIAL ACTIVIST DOCTOR AND ALL-AROUND GOOD MAN WHO WAS A VICTIM OF COLOMBIA’S TRAGEDY:
Forgotten We’ll Be (El olvido que seremos)

BEST BIOPIC FROM QUEBEC ABOUT A FAMOUS AND BELOVED QUÉBÉCOISE POP SINGER:
Aline

BEST BIOPIC FROM FRANCE ABOUT A FAMOUS AND NOT NECESSARILY BELOVED FRENCH RAP SINGER:
Suprêmes

BEST HOLLYWOOD BIOPIC ABOUT THE TRAGIC LIFE OF A FAMOUS AND BELOVED AMERICAN JAZZ AND BLUES SINGER:
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday

BEST BIOPIC FROM FRANCE ABOUT THE ARCHITECT OF THE EIFFEL TOWER:
Eiffel

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE BASED ON A BALZAC NOVEL:
Eugénie Grandet

SECOND BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE BASED ON A BALZAC NOVEL:
Lost Illusions (Illusions perdues)

WORST MOVIE FROM FRANCE BASED ON A PHILIP ROTH NOVEL:
Deception (Tromperie)

BEST THRILLER FROM FRANCE ABOUT CORPORATE MALFEASANCE:
Red Soil (Rouge)

SECOND BEST THRILLER FROM FRANCE ABOUT CORPORATE MALFEASANCE:
Black Box (Boîte noire)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH A REPRESSED MEMORY OF THE ALGERIAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE THEME:
Home Front (Des hommes)

BEST POLICE ACTION MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT ROGUE COPS VERSUS DRUG TRAFFICKING GANGS IN THE MEAN HOUSING PROJECTS OF MARSEILLE:
The Stronghold (BAC Nord)

BEST DRAMA FROM FRANCE ABOUT THE POINTLESS SECURITY THEATER OF FRANCE’S ANTI-TERRORISM MILITARY STREET PATROLS:
The Third War (La Troisième guerre)

BEST COURTROOM DRAMA FROM FRANCE ABOUT GETTING AT THE TRUTH IN A SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE:
The Accusation (Les Choses humaines)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT A 22-YEAR-OLD WOMAN AND THE NIGHTMARE OF UNWANTED PREGNANCY IN THE PRE-LEGAL ABORTION ERA:
Happening (L’Événement)

BEST HORROR MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO RAISES EDIBLE LOCUSTS ON HER FARM BUT WHICH GETS OUT OF HAND:
The Swarm (La Nuée)

BEST GEM OF A LIGHT COMEDY FROM FRANCE ABOUT A GROUP OF TWENTYSOMETHING YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR INTERACTIONS WITH ONE ANOTHER:
All Hands on Deck (À l’abordage)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT A PROSTITUTE AND HER TEENAGE SON IN STRASBOURG WITH LAURE CALAMY IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Her Way (Une femme du monde)

BEST ROHMERESQUE ROMANTIC COMEDY FROM FRANCE ABOUT THE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN A YOUNGER WOMAN AND AN OLDER WOMAN WITH ANAÏS DEMOUSTIER AND VALERIA BRUNI TEDESCHI IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Anaïs in Love (Les Amours d’Anaïs)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT MARITAL POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CLASS CONFLICT IN A HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM DURING THE GILETS JAUNES MOVEMENT WITH VALERIA BRUNI TEDESCHI AND MARINA FOÏS IN THE LEAD ROLES:
The Divide (La Fracture)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT A MARRIED COUPLE DEALING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER WITH LEÏLA BEKHTI AND DAMIEN BONNARD IN THE LEAD ROLES:
The Restless (Les Intranquilles)

BEST NOT BAD MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT ASSISTED SUICIDE WITH ANDRÉ DUSSOLLIER AND SOPHIE MARCEAU IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Everything Went Fine (Tout s’est bien passé)

MOST WILD-AND-CRAZY FRENCH MOVIE SET IN 17TH CENTURY TUSCANY WITH VIRGINIE EFIRA AND CHARLOTTE RAMPLING IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Benedetta

MOST WILD-AND-CRAZY FRANCO-BELGIAN MUSICAL OPERA SET IN LOS ANGELES WITH ADAM DRIVER AND MARION COTILLARD IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Annette

MOST NOT ALL THAT GOOD FRENCH MUSICAL SET IN LOURDES WITH MATHIEU AMALRIC AND JOSIANE BALASKO IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Tralala

MOST NOT ALL THAT GOOD FRENCH POLITICAL PARODY SET IN THE CORRÈZE WITH JEAN DUJARDIN AND GRÉGORY GADEBOIS IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Présidents

MOST NOT ALL THAT GOOD HOLLYWOOD MOVIE SET IN MARSEILLE WITH MATT DAMON AND CAMILLE COTTIN IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Stillwater

MOST NOT ALL THAT GOOD HOLLYWOOD MOVIE WITH CAREY MULLIGAN IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Promising Young Woman

BEST HOLLYWOOD MOVIE WITH NICOLAS CAGE IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Pig

BEST NOT BAD HOLLYWOOD MOVIE ABOUT A KOREAN IMMIGRANT FAMILY IN ARKANSAS:
Minari

BEST INDIE MOVIE ABOUT A KOREAN ADOPTEE IN LOUISIANA WHO RUNS AFOUL OF AMERICA’S CRUEL AND INHUMANE IMMIGRATION LAWS:
Blue Bayou

MOST AMUSING NETFLIX PARODY OF THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ZEITGEIST:
Don’t Look Up

MOST DISAPPOINTINGLY NOT VERY GOOD NETFLIX MOVIE ABOUT BLACK AMERICAN PASSING IN THE PRE-CIVIL RIGHTS ERA:
Passing

MOST FRANKLY TERRIBLE FRANCO-ALGERIAN MOVIE ABOUT INTER-GENERATIONAL CONFLICT IN A BOURGEOIS ALGERIAN FAMILY IN PARIS:
Honey Cigar (Cigare au miel)

BEST DOCUMENTARY ABOUT A FORGOTTEN 1969 NEW YORK CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL:
Summer of Soul

BEST DOCUMENTARY FROM ROMANIA ABOUT THE HEROIC WORK OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS TO EXPOSE CORRUPTION AND STATE INCOMPETENCE THEREBY UNDERSCORING THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF A FREE PRESS IN A POLITY:
Collective (Colectiv)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FROM FRANCE ABOUT THE UNLIKELY COLLABORATION OF A RADICAL LEFT-WING AND MODERATE RIGHT-WING PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY TO ENACT LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF POORLY REMUNERATED AND OVERWORKED FEMALE HOMECARE ASSISTANTS:
Debout les femmes!

BEST DOCUMENTARY FROM FRANCE ABOUT AN ANTI-NAZI RESISTANCE COUPLE DURING THE OCCUPTION WHO PROTECTED DOZENS OF JEWISH CHILDREN IN THEIR SCHOOL OUTSIDE PARIS BUT WERE NONETHELESS ACCUSED OF COLLABORATION AFTER THE WAR:
Pingouin & Goéland et leurs 500 petits

BEST MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTARY SHOT ON A SMARTPHONE ABOUT THE JOURNEY TO EUROPE OF AN ASYLUM-SEEKING FAMILY FROM AFGHANISTAN THAT MUST BE SEEN BY ANYONE WITH AN OPINION ON ASYLUM-SEEKERS FROM COUNTRIES IN THE THROES OF WAR OR STATE COLLAPSE:
Midnight Traveler

BEST DOCMENTARY ON THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE IN FRANCE SEEN THROUGH THE PRISM OF AN ELDERLY ALGERIAN COUPLE IN A TOWN IN THE AUVERGNE AND THE LIFE EXPERIENCES OF THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN:
Leur Algérie

BEST DOCUMENTARY FROM ALGERIA ABOUT AN ENDEARING SEVENTYSOMETHING WOMAN WHO RUNS A MODEST CAFÉ IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT:
143 Sahara Street (143 rue du Désert)

BEST MOVIE BY RIDLEY SCOTT:
The Last Duel

BEST MOVIE BY PAUL SCHRADER:
The Card Counter

BEST MOVIE BY KELLY REICHARDT:
First Cow

BEST MOVIE BY LEYLA BOUZID:
A Tale of Love and Desire (Une histoire d’amour et de désir)

MOST SUCCESSFUL DIRECTORIAL DEBUT BY SAMIR GUESMI:
Ibrahim

MOST MORE OR LESS SUCCESSFUL DIRECTORIAL DEBUT BY VIGGO MORTENSEN:
Falling

BEST OKAY MOVIE BY MAÏWENN:
DNA (ADN)

MOST MERELY OKAY MOVIE BY JACQUES AUDIARD:
Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades)

MOST INCOMPREHENSIBLE MOVIE BY KIRILL SEREBRENNIKOV THAT ONE LIKELY HAS TO BE RUSSIAN TO UNDERSTAND:
Petrov’s Flu (Петровы в гриппе)

MOST TECHNICALLY IMPRESSIVE BUT CONVOLUTED AND BORING MOVIE BY WES ANDERSON:
The French Dispatch

MOST OVERRATED MOVIE BY JANE CAMPION:
The Power of the Dog

MOST FLAWED MOVIE BY MATHIEU AMALRIC:
Hold Me Tight (Serre moi fort)

MOST RIDICULOUS LOVE STORY BY NICOLE GARCIA:
Lovers (Amants)

MOST FAILED PARODY OF THE MEDIA BY BRUNO DUMONT:
France

MOST FAILED FRANCO-ALGERIAN FAMILY MELODRAMA BY YAMINA BENGUIGUI:
Sisters (Sœurs)

MOST QUITE SIMPLY FAILED MOVIE BY AMOS GITAI:
Laila in Haifa (לילה בחיפה)

MOST INSUFFERABLE MOVIE BY NADAV LAPID:
Ahed’s Knee (הברך)

POSSIBLY THE WORST MOST SOPORIFIC MOVIE EVER BY BENOÎT JACQUOT:
Suzanna Andler

POSSIBLY THE WORST MOST ABSURD MOVIE EVER BY CLINT EASTWOOD:
Cry Macho

POSSIBLY THE WORST CANNES FILM FESTIVAL PALME D’OR WINNER EVER:
Titane

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Éric Zemmour held his first rally as a formal presidential candidate on Sunday. It was originally supposed to happen at the Zénith, an arena on the northeast corner of Paris (at Porte de la Villette) that seats 6,300. But during the week the Zemmour campaign announced that due to the larger-than-anticipated audience—one had to register for the event online—that the venue would be shifted to the Parc des Expositions in Villepinte, near CDG airport (N.B. Marine Le Pen had her Paris campaign rallies at the Zénith in 2012 and 2017, barely filling the arena). While a larger venue was indeed needed, Zemmour was also, as it happens, asked by the Paris police prefecture to move the event out of the city for security reasons, as an anti-Zemmour demo—with far left groups and Antifas—was announced for Sunday afternoon and in the same part of the city. Clashes and disorder were a foregone conclusion.

I went, of course—my first time at the Parc des Expositions, which is a good place to have rallies of this sort—arriving at the hall at 2:30 pm.

The event was supposed to begin at 2:30 and with Zemmour speaking at 4:00, but everything was delayed by an hour-and-a-half, so I was able to move around and get a measure of the crowd as the hall filled up.

A few brief comments. First, there were around 13,000 in attendance, which is, objectively speaking, very good for a rally four months before the election. By contrast, Jean-Luc Mélenchon held a rally on Sunday at a hall at La Défense (of all places), at the same time as Zemmour’s, attracting a crowd of 4,500 (a third overflow), which is already not bad. None of the other candidates—and certainly not the hapless candidate of the PS—could attain that number at this stage of the campaign. As the production values of the event were also good, it was indisputably a success for Zemmour.

As for the composition of the crowd, I was struck by the number of young people, which one does not see nearly to this extent at rallies of the RN/FN, LR/UMP, or PS (as for Emmanuel Macron’s REM, which apparently exists, it doesn’t hold rallies). Young people—majority  male—indeed looked to predominate (many were not wearing masks BTW). They must not, however, be taken as representative of the 18-30 age cohort or constituting a disproportionate share of Zemmour’s potential electorate. They were, needless to say, almost all “white”—there was a smattering of POCs, though none of manifest Maghrebi origin so far as I could tell—likely hail from Paris’ beaux quartiers and western banlieues—they are not the progeny of Gilets Jaunes or working class RN voters in the Pas-de-Calais, that’s for sure—and most certainly belong to Catholic traditionalist associations and/or organizations of the extreme and ultra-right (members of the ex-Génération Identitaire were likely present in force). Zemmour is the candidate of the ultra-conservative Catholic traditionalists of the Sens Commun movement, renamed Mouvement Conservateur last year, which was founded in 2013 to lead the mass social movement—taking the political class, left and right alike, utterly by surprise—against the gay marriage law, and which was a baptismal moment in the politicization of the younger generation of conservative Catholics, who were an important component of the manif pour tous (I wrote about it at the time here). Sens Commun/Mouvement Conservateur was a key constituent of François Fillon’s base in 2017 but, with the insufficiently right-wing Valérie Pécresse having been designated the candidate of LR, has endorsed Zemmour.

I have to say that I found jarring the thunderous applause and cheering of these young people at the diatribes against immigrants, Muslims, foreigners, Europe, the United States (more on that below), and the many other targets of extreme right-wing hate from the warm-up speakers and, of course, Zemmour himself. The animosities and hatreds of these young people are disturbing to my sensibilities. They, like their elders in the hall, are not kind or generous; some surely are on a personal, one-on-one level but they are not in the larger sense; in this, they are the polar opposite of my late-Millennial daughter and her friends, as well as so many students I’ve had over the years.

More representative of French Millennials and Gen-Zers is this YouTube—sent to me by my daughter—of two jeunes Françaises named Camille and Justine reacting to Zemmour’s November 30th video announcement (comment dit-on ‘foutage de gueule’ en langue de Shakespeare?).

“Ben! Voyons,” which Zemmour says often in televised polemics—it may be translated as “yeah, sure” (pronounced in a mocking tone, when, e.g., he’s accused of being a racist)—has become a slogan of his fans.

As for the incidents in the hall and which led the TV news coverage—of the thuggish reaction of Zemmour’s bully boys to the handful of SOS-Racisme militants who unfurled a banner, the verbal assaults against journalists, and the actual physical assault against Zemmour as he headed to the stage—I only learned about them afterward. It was clear at a couple of points that something was happening in the rear but I couldn’t see it, and no one I asked knew what was going on. It was typical behavior one gets at extreme-right events (journalists from Libération and other left-leaning press organs who attended FN rallies in the ‘80s and ‘90s can tell you stories). Zemmour himself should be held legally responsible for the actions of his supporters at his rallies. That said, I’m not sure about the stunt of the SOS-Racisme militants; while I admire their intrepidness, they knew they were taking a risk in infiltrating a rally of people hostile to them and that, at best, their action would last less than a minute and with them being quickly escorted out of the hall. So what’s the point?

There were nine warm-up speakers, only three of whom I had heard of. Not exactly an A-list line-up. The first one up was a conseiller départemental from Le Blanc-Mesnil, in the Seine-Saint-Denis, named Vijay Monany, who told the crowd that his parents immigrated to France in the 1970s (presumably from India), that he grew up in a “cité HLM” in the SSD, “loves France more than anything and believes in its ideal of assimilation.” C’est bien. He was followed by Laurence Trochu, president of the Mouvement Conservateur; the early-twentysomething president of Génération Zemmour, Stanislas Rigault, who’s on TV a lot these days; and the souverainiste warhorse and elder sage Paul-Marie Coûteaux, who’s been around for some time and made the rounds of all the souverainiste formations, left and right (from Chevènement to de Villiers and the FN—and now his old friend Zemmour, the two having never conversed about anything other “than books, books of history…of the history of France,” so he informs us). He’s a true believer and with memorable lines (I’ve seen him speak a couple of times before, including at a Marine Le Pen rally); e.g. in ridiculing the US embassy communiqué advising Americans to avoid Villepinte on Sunday, he got in a dig at America more generally, which has, as he put it, “colonized” France for over a century with its “trash culture” (culture de pacotille). Thunderous cheering and applause—from a crowd that has no doubt consumed its share of Hollywood blockbusters, TV series, popular music, and you name it. Toward the end of his intervention, Coûteaux declared that it won’t be enough for Zemmour to be president of the Republic; he must be “King of France” (Roi de France)! Thunderous cheering and applause.

Following Mr. Coûteaux was Antoine Diers, spokesman for the association Amis d’Éric Zemmour; Jacline Mouraud, a relatively high profile Gilet Jaune in 2018-19, whom I characterized at the time as “[o]ne of the more moderate public faces of the GJs” (either she changed or I was off base); Franck Keller, an LR city council member in upscale Neuilly-sur-Seine; Agnès Marion, a second-tier RN dissident from Lyon; and, finally, the most well-known politico of the lot—it’s all relative, as he’s not exactly a household name—Jean-Frédéric Poisson, president of the diminutive, très conservateur political party VIA: La Voix du Peuple (ex-Parti Chrétien-Démocrate, founded by Christine Boutin), who withdrew his own presidential candidacy to support Zemmour. His 15-minute address was noteworthy for the concluding “Vive la France!,” Mr. Poisson forgetting to preface it with the habitual “Vive la République!”

Zemmour made his grande entrée at 5:30, taking ten minutes to ply his way through the delirious crowd with his security detail (which did not prevent him from being accosted). It was a very risky way to make his entry, as if one person had fallen, there would have a stampede and disaster. But as Zemmour clearly relishes the adulation, which has definitely gone to his head, what the hell.

Zemmour’s speech, which went for an hour-and-twenty-minutes, was broadcast live on three of the all-news TV stations, so my presence didn’t offer a particular vantage point as to the substance. A few comments. First, on form, it was an effective speech and forcefully delivered, with thunderous cheering and applause throughout. For this, Zemmour can thank the teleprompter, so he wasn’t hunched over ploddingly reading from paper as in the past—and along with so many other French politicians (Nicolas Sarkozy, to name one, is a dud when it comes to giving a speech). I’ve attended many political rallies here over the past three decades but only began to notice teleprompters in 2017 (Benoît Hamon and Macron). The only politicians I’ve seen who can deliver a stem-winder of a speech without a text—walking the stage from 1½ to over 3 hours and holding the audience in thrall—are Jean-Marie Le Pen, Philippe de Villiers, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (François Bayrou can speak without a text but he rambles).

On substance, it was pure Zemmour. Anyone who is familiar with his discourse won’t have heard a thing that s/he hasn’t heard or read countless times. No French journalist-pundit-intellectual-amateur historian has had as much media exposure over the past fifteen years as Zemmour. As I did not watch the TV programs on which he appeared or listen to the radio stations (RTL) on which he editorialized daily, I didn’t see or hear him a tremendous amount. But as I’ve read six of his books and many articles about him, I know his rhetoric and world-view like the back of my hand. One of the things Zemmour fans say they like about him is that he’s consistent; he knows what he thinks, says it out loud, and doesn’t change his positions for the circumstance. In other words, he’s not a politician. This is all true (except sometimes when it’s not).

Zemmour may not be a politician but like many, he’s narcissistic, extremely so, and basks in the love of his fans. This comes across in his books, particularly the latest one, and did in his speech, in which there is a lot of ‘je’ and ‘moi’. And there were copious amounts of red meat thrown to the crowd, with vituperative, ad hominem attacks on politicians he doesn’t like, notably Emmanuel Macron, and the media—of which Zemmour is a pure product and without which he would not exist—not to mention immigrants, Islam, the EU, Germany, England, NATO, etc, etc. An extreme-right classic, and whose enemies list is long.

But toward the one-hour mark , he struck a consensual note, “extending [his] hand to Muslims who want to become our brothers, of whom many are already”—thunderous cheering and applause—and offering “assimilation”—Zemmour’s fetish word—as the route, and affirming that there is no reason why “Algerians, Malians, and Turks” should not assimilate as did Spanish, Polish, and Italian immigrants in the past; and rhetorically asking why Muslims should not also be able to separate the spiritual and temporal as have Jews and Christians.

This is nice except that, for Zemmour, “assimilation” means, in effect, that Muslims would have to renounce Islam, as he has made it clear in his voluminous writings that Islam is incompatible with being French—that Islam is the enemy of France—and that he does not differentiate between the November 13th 2015 ISIS terrorists and the Muslim population of France in its near totality. Éric Zemmour has a long paper trail.

In the latter part of the speech, he got off identity issues to focus on the economy and foreign policy. In effect, he will Make France Great Again: reindustrialize the economy, provide good jobs for the unemployed, support agriculture and farmers, restore France’s rank in the world and its freedom of manœuvre, and you name it. Comme ça. He will wave the magic wand and turn the clock back to the mythic trente glorieuses of his childhood, and with him in the role of his hero, Charles de Gaulle.

More down to earth, Zemmour concluded the speech with an appeal to Éric Ciotti and other LR hard rightists to join him. Likewise with disaffected RN members. He wants to federate the French right around his person. On verra bien.

Zemmour announced the name of his new party: Reconquête! As in the Spanish Reconquista. Get it?

Singing La Marseillaise
Singing La Marseillaise again

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So she’s the candidate of the French Republican party—the erstwhile UMP/RPR, renamed Les Républicains six years back—who will compete with Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen, Éric Zemmour et al in next April’s presidential election. Her victory over the hard rightist Éric Ciotti—whose views on immigration and Islam hardly differ from those of Le Pen and Zemmour—in the 2nd round of LR’s closed primary was pretty much a foregone conclusion after her somewhat unexpected qualification in Wednesday & Thursday’s 1st round (and Ciotti’s even more unexpected first place finish). LR, like its Republican counterpart across the pond, has been lurching right over the past decade and some but was not about to designate a candidate as reactionary as Ciotti, not this year at least.

Valérie Pécresse’s victory is a game-changer in the presidential race, as if she makes it to the 2nd round next April—which is entirely possible—she will stand a good chance of defeating Macron, thus becoming France’s first-ever Présidente de la République (and if, in some unlikely scenario, she faces off against Le Pen or Zemmour—or, in an even more unlikely scenario, against a candidate of the left—she will definitely be elected France’s first female president). Pécresse is a mainstream conservative of the Jacques Chirac variety (an endangered species in LR), who has been tacking right over the past several years—aligning with conservative Catholics on gay marriage and other such questions de société, adopting the stupid right-wing rhetoric on immigration, making even stupider pledges to shed 200,000 fonctionnaires—but whose governing reflexes are likely to be moderate. An American equivalent would maybe be Christine Todd Whitman, for those who remember her. And Pécresse is smart: she’s an énarque, after all (and her English is good, e.g. here, maybe better than Macron’s, and certainly Le Pen’s and Zemmour’s, who speak it poorly or not at all). I had an AWAV post on Pécresse in April 2011, when she was Sarkozy/Fillon’s minister of higher education, that was positive (perhaps a little too much so). I won’t vote for her (except to block Le Pen or Zemmour) but won’t have nightmares if she’s elected. I am frankly relieved that she’s LR’s candidate.

One person who merits a tip of the hat is LR president Christian Jacob, for having refused Éric Zemmour’s eventual participation in the party’s primary. If Zemmour had been a candidate along with Pécresse and the others, he would have attracted a flood of new members and definitely won, thus taking over the dominant party of the French parliamentary right, as did Trump with the US Republican Party. That would have been a disaster of the first order.

As for the left, the equation is simple: with Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI), Yannick Jadot (EELV), and Anne Hidalgo (PS) all polling in the single digits, they’re out of the picture. JLM will not repeat his feat of 2017 (19% in the 1st round), not a chance, and Hidalgo will be lucky to outperform Benoît Hamon’s 2017 score (6%). If Jadot’s poll numbers remain a few points higher than hers into February, she and the PS will be well advised to withdraw her candidacy and throw their support to Jadot, in return for a deal with the EELV in the June legislatives. As the combined score of the left is around 30%, that would push Jadot into the teens and with a possible shot at the 2nd round. Mais on n’en est pas là.

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It was a beautiful ceremony yesterdaycovered live on several TV stations—and moving (I was particularly stirred by the Le Chant des partisans, Joséphine Baker having of course been in the French Resistance). She was a remarkable woman, the more I learn about her, e.g., and among so many things, the dozen children from around the world, her Rainbow Tribe, that she adopted and raised in her chateau in the Dordogne (however rocky the experience may have been). One of them, Brian Bouillon-Baker, was interviewed on France Inter on Monday; it’s well worth the listen.

The ceremony at the Pantheon was the perfect response to Eric Zemmour’s demagogic, dystopian announcement earlier in the day (see previous post). Interviewed on TF1 last night, Zemmour was asked about Joséphine Baker’s induction into the Pantheon. His response was positive, noting that she had “un prénom français” and was “l’example même de la réussite du modèle d’assimilation à l’ancienne.” LOL. Too bad he wasn’t asked about the Rainbow Tribe, which must be his worst nightmare.

There are two one-hour documentaries that may be watched on YouTube: in French, Joséphine Baker: Première icône noire, which aired on ARTE in 2018; in English, Joséphine Baker: The 1st Black Superstar, first shown on BBC Four in 2009.

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