Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another anniversary

How well I remember the investiture of Francois Mitterrand thirty years ago. The high point for me was the dramatic television coverage of his pilgrimage to the Panthéon, a moment of high symbolism. I recall rushing from the living room of my flat on Boulvard de la Bastille to stand on the balcony and gaze from that fourteenth-floor vantage point across Paris to spot the dome of the bulding where Mitterrand had starred in an evocative media event.

Mitterrand entered the mausoleum holding a solitary rose... the symbol of the French socialists... as the Orchestre de Paris played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the background. The crowd outside and the TV viewers didn’t know that but the Pantheon had been turned into a studio for the occasion. Cameras greeted Mitterrand and followed his descent in the crypt. Artist Serge Moati was engaged to direct the entire sequence. Rehearsals, body doubles and props (for the flowers) were used. 

Shrewd video editing enabled Mitterrand to enter the Pantheon with a single rose but place three roses on three graves; as Pierre Mauroy, Mitterrand’s first prime minister, said: “The rose for Jean Jaures represented our heritage; it was for the man who knew how to mobilize the left. The rose for Jean Moulin was the man who was able to unite Frenchmen from all walks of life to resist the foreign invador. The rose for Victor Schoelcher was the man who made of France the emancipator of peoples.” When Mitterrand emerged from the Panthéon to face a crowd of cheering young supporters brandishing red roses, he displayed the first smile of his inauguration day. A final flourish was provided by a rendition of the Marseillaise, exuberant post-Giscard tempo that has been personally prescribed by Mitterrand.
(cited from a site which also has the video referred to)

While I had no time for the 'loony left' ranting in Great Britain I fully approved of Mitterrandisme. That in the course of my Paris years I had often seen the man who had now become president occupying a nearby table at Brasserie Lipp. A neighbour, then, and one who articulated beliefs I could fully subscribe to and a man who understood the media as well.

I quite looked forward to coming years in Mitterrand's France.

But they were not to be. However, the idea of moving from Paris to Munich that year seemed to hold promise. After all, the Chancellor was Helmut Schmidt, a man I could also admire and under whose leadership Germaany seemed to be on a path I found very positive.

That France is currently looking back thirty years with a certain respect and even nostalgia I find comforting, given that so little of the promise of those days... the promise of Mitterrand and Schmidt... is to be found in either contemporary France or Germany.

No comments: