Giving in to Paris

What is it about Paris? Having spent half of last year schlepping back and forth from St Pancras to visit my errant swain, I found the mundane daily reality of La Ville-Lumière to be mostly composed of small-minded bourgeoisie, griege cashmere cardigans and casual racism; not to mention the bored, cold-eyed, disenfranchised youth who were so beautifully exposed in The Paris Intifada, Andrew Hussey's piece for Granta on the banlieue. But still; but still. Centuries of re-making the Paris myth makes it all glaze over with a patina of moody glamour even as you experience it. And sadly makes the sort of kissing-on-bridges-in-striped-jumpers kind of malarky I would usually sneer at, irresistible. paris

My rosy tint has become even worse thanks to the BFI's recent Nouvelle Vague season.  Spending hours sunk in the coarse-grained, high-cheekboned, sweaty-sheeted, Galoise-stained oeuvre of Godard, Truffaut and co has led me to reinvent my memories to an extraordinary degree. Now all I can recall of that often dour and pursed city is epiphanic, light-flooded trips to the Musées D'Orsay and Rodin; le perfect brunch in le chi-chi Marais; and a woozy Sunday afternoon in L'Anvers du Décor, a tiny café on the rue D'Orsel near Montmartre, sipping Diabolo Menthe while brooding boys in turtlenecks played rough and ready jazz.

I was already familiar with many of the BFI season's films - I sported a poor imitation of Seberg's gamine crop from Á Bout De Souffle for years - but somehow Les 400 Coups had slipped past, and I was quietly blown away. It's a moving masterpiece with central performances - both by Jean-Pierre Léaud and the city herself - of peerless sophistication, style and wit. The typewriter! The stuffed horse! The cats! The absorbed, practical, unquestioning love that is friendship between prepubescent boys!

Damn, she's a fine actress, that artistic illusionist, that chiaroscuric queen, Paname.