Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Paris Journal II: Sous les toits de Paris

photograph by Hallie Cohen
 Triangulation is what neurotic/oedipal people tend to enact. Rectangulation is the essence of Beaux Arts classicism, the epitome of whose expression is the Jardin du Luxembourg. It you take a left off the entrance on the Rue de Vaugirard next to the Musee Luxembourg you will soon come to an oxidized bronze bust of Delacroix and below engraved in the pedestal “Les Admirators” flanked by two sylphs. You turn and stare down the long grid which might recall Alain Resnais’ L’Annee derniere a Marienbad (1961). The rectangles lead to an arbor of chestnut trees whose branches have been trimmed to accentuate the lines, with nature mimicking the order of architecture. But along the way on a sunlight October afternoon are concentric circles of purple and green coleus and pink geraniums. The colorful flowers are surrounded by another circle of equally colorfully attired strollers and runners. The landscaping is fixed; it’s the people who are the wild card. In the distance the roofs of the Latin Quarter recall another movie Rene Clair’s Sous les toits de Paris (1930) But what it’s really like is the illustrations from Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline, a picture book come to life. Walking through the gardens is the experience of an idyllic remembered past in the present. On the other side of the garden facing the Lycee Montaigne on a street named after another classicist figure, the positivist philosopher August Comte, a woman sits under the russet leaves of a tree, reading in front of a bust of Baudelaire. Walking towards the Rue d'Assas you pass an espaliered apple orchard where at least a hundred species are each carefully named and wrapped for protection. Maintenance is hardly the word to describe the love that goes into the upkeep of this immortal landmark.

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