Opinion | I’ve eaten at restaurants, gone to a mall and attended concerts. That is life in France

It’s time to follow Europe.

Timothy Searchinger is a research scholar at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs

Over the past six weeks, I’ve eaten out at restaurants five times, attended two concerts, visited a large, busy indoor mall three times, had two haircuts, and repeatedly watched school kids run around the schoolyard. But that’s all been responsible behavior — because instead of being locked down in my house in the D.C. area, I’ve been in France, where life and the economy are now carrying on close to normal.

What France, like virtually all of Europe, has shown is that following standard expert recommendations for dealing with covid-19 works. France had a massive outbreak of covid-19 in the spring, almost as soon as anyone realized the novel coronavirus had reached Europe. The deaths began occurring late March and reached more than 24,000 by the end of April — a higher death rate than even the United States at the time.

But while the outbreak occurred primarily in only two parts of France, French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a severe, nationwide lockdown on March 16. And during that lockdown, the government put extensive testing and contact tracing in place. Almost exactly two months later, France mostly reopened. And for the last two and a half months, the country has functioned in a primarily open status with around 500 new cases per day and only about 450 deaths in the last month.

The French lockdown was severe. People were only allowed out, after filling out a form, to take care of elderly relatives or to go grocery shopping. To buffer the economic impact, the government directly paid a portion of salaries for those who could not work. And, voila, it worked.

I’m in France because I was farsighted enough to marry a French woman 30 years ago, who was farsighted enough to save our marriage license, which let me fly to France with her in early June to visit her elderly parents even as other Americans are barred. For two weeks, we kept to ourselves, speaking to my in-laws only across a garden. With an easy-to-get doctor’s prescription, we were also able to get tested for covid-19 at a parking lot drive-up with no wait and received (negative) results in two days (now down to one day for others).

Continue reading “Opinion | I’ve eaten at restaurants, gone to a mall and attended concerts. That is life in France”

France’s love affair with cinema tested by the virus

“I am sick of Netflix. I am sick of an algorithm serving me up the same old thing,” said Anne-Sophie Duchamp as she put on her face mask to enter an arthouse cinema on Paris’ Left Bank.

“We’ve been stuck at home for months” because of the lockdown, she added, as she bought her ticket to see British director Mike Leigh’s  acerbic 1988 comedy, High Hopes.

“Why should I stay at home any longer when in Paris you can find a whole century of masterpieces showing in little cinemas every day.”

While cinema audiences across the world have been reluctant to venture back into the dark, not for the first time the French were seen as something of an exception.

As one of the most cinephile countries in the world, filmmakers and cinema owners have been counting on the French love affair with the silver screen to help save their skins.

Duchamp, who is in her 40s, insisted that going to a socially distanced cinema was “no more dangerous than going to the supermarket.”

A poll late in June just before cinemas reopened after an eight-week lockdown showed that 18.7 million people – almost a third of the population – planned to go to see a film in August.

Hollywood no-shows

But the reality has turned out to be rather more disappointing for cinemas, who are only allowed to be half full, with a free seat either side of each filmgoer.

With Hollywood delaying the release of blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Top Gun 2 and Wonder Woman 1984 that would normally drive summer ticket sales, multiplexes in particular are suffering.

There was a further blow Thursday when Christopher Nolan’s spy drama Tenet was put back for a third time by Warner Brothers until August 12.

“It is much tougher than we imagined,” said Aurelie Delage, manager of the six-screen Cinemascop Megarama at Garat in western France.

It is so grim in fact that “I am not looking at figures,” she told AFP.

“This can’t last.”

Only small art house cinemas seemed to be bucking the trend, although there was some good news Wednesday as weekly admissions broke the 1 million mark for the first time since the end of the lockdown, helped by the success of the French comedy Divorce Club.

Encouraging as the 13 percent week-on-week rise was, it is still only a third of the business cinemas were doing this time in 2019.

“People have been stuck inside during the lockdown and now they want to be out in the air, on a bar or restaurant terrace when the weather is good,” Delage argued.

Yet the French have been far more enthusiastic than their neighbors, with German cinema entries down to just 17 percent of normal levels and the situation in Spain even more catastrophic at just 13 percent.

Chance for small films

Only the Dutch have been as phlegmatic, according to a study by Comscore.

This has given hope to independent filmmakers who see a chance of stepping into the gap, insisting that the public are hungry for new movies.

US director Michael Covino will release his cycling bromance The Climb, a big hit at 2019’s Cannes film festival, in France next week, having resisted the temptation to put it out on a streaming service.

“The best place to see a comedy is in a cinema with other people,” he said.

The clear run has also probably helped the black comedian Jean-Pascal Zadi’s broad satire Tout simplement noir (Very Simply Black) become a hit.

Some half a million people have flocked to see him take a hammer to racial stereotypes in a fortnight.

French actor-director Mathieu Kassovitz – who has a walk-on role in the comedy – is also going ahead with the 25th anniversary of the re-release of his classic, La Haine, with race and police violence once again in the spotlight.

Kassovitz is convinced there is pent-up demand “to go out to see films.”

“That is why there is a quite a lot of re-releases this summer to rekindle that desire,” he told AFP.

But what cinema owners across Europe really want, said Marc-Olivier Sebbag of the French Cinemas Federation, is for the big Hollywood studios to start releasing their new movies in Europe without waiting for cinemas on the other side of the Altantic to reopen.

“I hope we will be listened to,” he added.

In the meantime Hugo Benamozig, co-director of the French adventure flick send-up, Terrible Jungle, starring Catherine Deneuve, is gung-ho about its release next week.

If they waited till after the summer, “our film might be drowned” by the dam-bust of US blockbusters which have been held back by the coronavirus, he said.

Source: France’s love affair with cinema tested by the virus – Global Times

Makeshift patios take over Paris streets in virus summer

Paris (AFP) – At his cafe under the shadow of the Paris district of Montmartre, Guillaume Dubois shows off the brightly painted wooden pallets enclosing a quickly built patio that he says has transformed business in the summer of the coronavirus.

Following a loosening of regulations by city hall, customers at the Sunset cafe are now spread out on tables and chairs across three parallel parking spaces, in a scene repeated throughout Paris.

“It completely changes the face of Paris,” said Dubois, adding that it helped propel a surge in sales last month, when the city’s bar and restaurants were allowed to reopen after 92 days of COVID-19 lockdown.

With the general scientific consensus that it is much harder to catch the virus outdoors than inside, cafe-goers are more at ease on the street in the summer sunshine.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo eased outdoor seating limits so owners could lure virus-wary clients, and commandeered hundreds of parking spots for additional seating.

Hammers soon rang across the city as plywood platforms were cobbled together over uneven roads, with delivery pallets serving as “walls” to offer a sense of security from drivers who are often just an arms’ length away.

“It’s a little ragtag, but it reminds me of the beach and paddle boats — you feel as if the entire city is on vacation,” said Roxane, 50, enjoying her coffee at the Sunset.

While some owners stick with the rough look of raw wood, many others have added splashes of colour and installed plants or small trees and other decorations.

As a result, pallets that usually languish behind stores or warehouses are being put to new use — some restaurants have even reported having their newly installed structures stolen.

“Everyone is scrambling to get hold of them,” said Momo, whose Taverne 28 is a few streets away from the Sunset in the 18th Arrondissement.

He said he enlisted a friend in the construction business to get the 10 pallets he covered the French national colours of red, white and blue. Continue reading “Makeshift patios take over Paris streets in virus summer”

Coronavirus: which parts of France are seeing more cases?

Health authorities in France are warning of a “worrying development” of the coronavirus, as new clusters are reported across the country, and the crucial “R” transmission rate rises above 2 in Brittany, and 1 elsewhere.

Health minister Olivier Véran has said that there are “small signs” that the virus is returning in Paris, as health authority l’Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine issued its own warning about a rise in cases in the region. Continue reading “Coronavirus: which parts of France are seeing more cases?”

As seen on the Seine: Socially distanced open-air cinema in Paris begins

As part of Paris Plages, the yearly transformation of sections of the Seine into man-made beaches, moviegoers on Saturday were able to board 38 electric boats for a free showing of the 2018 French comedy Le Grand Bain [ . . . ]

Read more at source: As seen on the Seine: Socially distanced open-air cinema in Paris begins – travel – Hindustan Times