Friday, December 17, 2010

Ni pute ni soumise

So, Fadela Amara will also throw in her lot with Borloo. Could Sarkozy's renomination of Fillon turn out to be his greatest blunder? By casting Borloo out into the cold after raising him up as a potential prime minister, Sarko may have created a monster. Borloo is a popular politician (for reasons that escape me, to be sure--I've never quite penetrated the secret of his charm). He has wasted no time in building a party around himself and his cult of personality, and he has attracted a couple of the flashier embodiments of the ex-Sarkozyan ouverture. Lest anyone forget, Bayrou attracted a lot of votes in the first round of 2007 by being neither Sarkozy nor Ségolène. Borloo might well be positioned to do the same. The tout sauf Sarkozy vote could well be stronger in 2012 than it was in 2007, and that might be enough to propel Borloo past the candidate of the left, especially is she is Royal or Aubry. What is more, Sarkozy's first-round score is almost certain to be smaller, since the FN appears to be rising from the dead. So we could have a very interesting first-round scenario in 2012, a three-way race with a highly unpredictable outcome. Watch this space for further developments.

The PS Has Found Its Defining Issue!

Yes, the erasure of cigarettes from photos of French cultural icons is a travesty, but will it peel outraged yuppies away from the Greens as ineffectively as attacking Gypsies has peeled bigots away from the Front National? This is the great unanswered question of the 2012 presidential elections.

Le Grand Paris

This somewhat splenetic review of Bregjte van der Haak's documentary of Grand Paris sheds an interesting light on power, politics, people, and art. Annette Fierro writes:

All of these extravagant visions seem radically at odds with what van der Haak's film surmises at its outset, that Le Grand Paris was to address a Paris that is no longer the economic or political capital of Europe, in a France that has been downwardly spiraling in international and economic prominence since World War II. Even since the early 1990s, France’s economy has faltered and fallen far behind those of the UK and Germany, overwhelmed by its internal economic structures and the global strain upon them. Anyone at all familiar (who isn't?) with these daunting realities could not possibly expect that the most dazzling of visions given back to Sarkozy would be realized in any near or distant future. The film's conclusion is thus foreshadowed from the very beginning, seemingly anticipated by all but the architects involved. Despite all of the research and grand visions presented, at the symposium’s finale, Blanc announced that actual implementation would consist only of a fully automated new rail circuit connecting the banlieue, a foregone conclusion. Maas asked himself (somewhat petulantly) “Were we as architects used in this process?”

Certainly the architects were tantalized by adding their signature to the urban history of Haussmann and Le Notre as much as they were compelled legitimately by contemporary issues. It is hard to imagine, however, that architects of this stature, well-accustomed to the vicissitudes of realizing projects, especially enormously scaled ones, would be so deluded as to imagine that any one of their schemes would be built comprehensively. Certain also was the devastating effect of the sudden global collapse of credit halfway through the study, which dampened the initial enthusiasm of the government. The ambiguity of the intended outcome of the study is, however larger than these circumstances. Paris is, after all, a city that has demonstrated the will and resources to accomplish its own monumental reconstruction in the past.

In a sense, whatever the Grand Paris project may say about power and art, it can also serve as a metaphor for Sarkozy's presidency: occasionally soaring rhetoric, professedly grand ambitions, paltry or faulty realizations for which one can imagine a variety of explanations or alibis, and lingering latent possibilities.  And there is also the rivalry with one's predecessors, in Sarkozy's case not Haussmann and Napoleon III so much as Mitterrand and his Grands Travaux. It takes a historian or a journalist to compare le petit Sarko to Napoleon le petit; the principal himself thinks in terms of the more classically political categories of jealousy and revenge. And yet, and yet ... if some piece of the new subway line is built, eventually it will have important effects on life in greater Paris, long after the President and his architects are forgotten.