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The Number One American Dream: France Takes First Place

It’s all the buzz…and no surprise. France scored number one in International Living’s annual Quality of Life Index for the fifth year in a row: “Its tiresome bureaucracy and high taxes are outweighed by an unsurpassable quality of life, including the world’s best health care.” Duh!

It’s the reason we (Expats) put up with all the administrative ‘bull_ _ _ _’ and top-of-the-charts taxes at every turn. It’s a contradictory place that seduces us as tourists and then makes it near to impossible to immigrate and earn a living. They want us for a week, but not for a lifetime. Still, we become so ravenous that we’ll do anything to have more and put up with her demands as our consummate ‘lover.’

Remember “American in Paris?” This 1951 story hasn’t changed much for us in all these years. Jerry (Gene Kelly) falls in love with Paris after his stint there in World War II and tries to succeed as an artist along with his side-kick friend, Adam (Oscar Levant), a struggling concert pianist. A wealthy American woman (Nina Foch) sponsors him (wanting more than just art, of course!) and meanwhile he falls in love with a French girl, Lise (Leslie Caron). She’s already entangled with Henri (Georges Guétary), whose family saved hers during World War II…and so the story plays out until ‘guy gets girl.’

Want a flash from the past? Here’s what the New York Times review said about the film in 1951:

“…But the picture takes on its glow of magic when Miss Caron is on the screen. When she isn’t, it bumps along slowly as a patched-up, conventional musical show. Why this should be is fairly obvious. Miss Caron is not a beauteous thing, in the sense of classic features, but she has a sweet face and a most delightful smile. Furthermore, she has winsomeness, expression and youthful dignity —- and she can dance like a gossamer wood-sprite on the edge of a petal at dawn.”

Ms. Caron was our American concept of the quintessential French girl. Not only in American in Paris, but in her other great films, such as Gigi (1958, Daddy Long Legs (1955) and Father Goose (1964). I had the pleasure of working with her many years ago to help her produce a Web site for her charming “Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes” (inn) on the Yonne River in Bourgogne (but owns it no longer).

She was lovely, elegant and fascinating. Finally, after all these years, she’s put her life’s story into a autobiography, “Thank Heaven” (a memoir), frankly exposing her remarkable life. Last Wednesday evening she was interviewed at The American Library in Paris by film critic and author, John Baxter. She was just as eloquent as I remembered her and she graciously signed copies of the book, sold at the Library by Odile Hellier of the Village Voice Bookshop.

Like Jerry, so many of us have fallen in love with the city or a French person, and likely both, struggling to succeed against the odds of “tiresome bureaucracy and high taxes,” and fulfill our dreams to be the immigrants (they don’t really want). To help us realize our dreams, symbolically, this past Sunday afternoon, at the Greenlane Gallery on rue des Deux Ponts, PSI Communications‘ Antonio Meza and Kristin Shannon provided Japanese papers and other mixed media materials to create our very own “New Year’s boats,” with which we could fill our new goals, wishes and desires…then launch into the Seine, complete with lit candle to light our imaginations on fire!

It was icy on the ramp down to the Seine on the Ile Saint-Louis, but we went to the river’s edge, to where the ducks congregate, and sailed our little ships filled with dreams designed to come true, until they could no longer be seen.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. I am writing a series of ‘post cards’ for International Living this month about France’s true affordability: health care, accommodations and investments. To read the articles and the full report, subscribe to International Living by clicking here.

P.P.S. Reminder: Parler Paris Après Midi is tomorrow afternoon and every second Tuesday of the month. Be there! 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit parlerparis.com/apresmidi.html for more information.

P.P.P.S. Don’t forget, all those interested in joining me for Pilates with Annie Venier Fridays, at 5 p.m. to get your spines in line and tighten up those maddening middle muscles, contact Annie by emailing [email protected] or call 06.98.12.64.18 and be sure to tell her I sent you. (The cost is 30€ per session.)

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