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A Musical Afternoon: It Felt Good to Get Out of the Paris Rain

All day Sunday it rained “des cordes,” as the saying goes. You might say “cats and dogs,” but even they weren’t around to get soaked to the bone like we were in the cold, wind and rain. It was the perfect day to take in a movie or in this case, a movie and music…an audio-visual experience under the rain clouds.

Paris has an annual rainfall of 642mm compared with London which has only 584mm and Seattle, a whopping 944.6mm.
Interesting statistics, no? But one of the things I love most about Paris in the rain, is the unusual color of the sky and its projected rays of blue-gray tones that seem to permeate everything, casting a whitish glow on the buildings, the streets and our faces. At about sunset, the cool white

moves to a warm pink glow, even through the heavy layer of clouds taking on an almost surrealistic effect.

We gathered at the “Images d’Ailleurs Cinéma La Clef” at 21, rue de la Clef in the 5th arrondissement to see “Gypsy Caravan,” a documentary by legendary cinematographer Albert Maysles that follows five Gypsy musical bands from four different countries who unite for the “Gypsy Caravan” as they take their show around North America for a six-week tour, astounding every audience they meet.

The theater is a small venue operating as a non-profit association designated to provide “difficult programming,” meaning that it can show independent, non-commercial films. It’s just off the intersection where the Métro Censier-Daubenton sits, a spot on the Paris map not drawn by hordes of tourists, but by the French who are so hip, they don’t know it.

The film was a total delight — visually beautiful, well filmed and directed, edited to take you along as one of the members with the five bands on their journey through North America as they play, cajole and entertain not only their eager audiences, but themselves. Their musical styles range from flamenco to brass band, Romanian violin to Indian folk, and with humor and soul in their voices, they celebrate the best in Gypsy culture and the diversity of the Romani people in an explosion of song and dance. You come to know these people in a personal way…these people who carry the burden of Gypsy prejudice on their shoulders as they walk proudly and tell their Gypsy tales and sorrows through music and song. Their theme song — a Romani proverb: “You cannot walk straight when the road bends.”

We laughed along with them and we wanted to get out of our seats and dance to the music. From our places in the center of the small theater, I could only hear our own laughter and wondered if the rest of the audience was as moved as we were.

Leaving the theater, we inched past a hoard of children and their parents entering for the next film, and exited into the blustering rain. We took the first respite we could find — the Café-Tabac Mirbel at number 4, rue Mirbel, just across the street. A few long-haired men and short-haired women, smoking cigarettes and drinking beers, were seated at round tables on round low chairs as a musician began setting up a microphone and stool for would become the weekly Sunday performance. How seamless to go from movie-music to music, without barely a lost beat.

The café has a slanted glass ceiling allowing the full blue-gray light of the raining day pour in. Over coffees and teas, we settled in for guitar-playing and singing by both American and French local artists, performing songs from our youth, such as “A Horse With No Name” written by Dewey Bunnell in 1971…and I could easily relate, as he sang: “You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…It felt good to be out of the rain…”

A la prochaine…  

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Husbands and lovers, give your favorite Chick the perfect gift. Make her one of the next 10 “Chix” to sign up now for a Paris Chixmas and save yourself 50€ if you do it now! (We won’t tell her, promise!) For more information and to register visit /frenchproperty/conference/liveinfrance/Paris_Chixmas/ or contact [email protected]

P.P.S. Mark your calendar for next Tuesday, December 11th, for the monthly coffee gathering of Parler Paris readers from 3 to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

P.P.P.S. Plan on coming to Parler Parlor December 22nd to practice speaking French or English, bring your cake or cookies and we’ll supply the “Vin Chaud!”…plus register that day and get 12 sessions for the price of a 10-session card and 24 sessions for the price of a 20-session card! (Closed only December 25, 2007 through Jjanuary 2, 2008. Reopens January 5, 2008.) See for more information.


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