Paris Diary

Soon into my first afternoon stroll on my first day in Paris, I noticed something that reminded me of Cincinnati. A tall, cylinder, advertising kiosk, one of many scattered through the city, rotated

Apr 7, 2004 at 2:06 pm

Soon into my first afternoon stroll on my first day in Paris, I noticed something that reminded me of Cincinnati. A tall, cylinder, advertising kiosk, one of many scattered through the city, rotated slowly from its concrete base in a corner playground near the apartment on the Ile St. Louis, in the Fourth Arron-dissement of Paris, where my wife Pat and I recently stayed.

A Parisian would likely laugh at the thought of something so commonplace as an advertising kiosk making such an impact on an American visitor. There are more kiosks than Paris' infamous pay, self-cleaning public toilets, just to show how mundane they are. Yet, while I studied the posters promoting upcoming films, plays and dance performances, my mind momentarily flipped back to the banks of the Ohio River — not because we claim similar kiosks scattered throughout our neighborhoods, but because we should.

Now that an unfinished subway tunnel has become an Over-the-Rhine sightseeing attraction, hearing Cincinnati City Councilman Jim Tarbell declare the massive Kroger parking garage being built on Vine and Central Parkway as the neighborhood's official gateway is historical justice.

Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood of specialty shops and theaters, is a place similar in spirit to Paris' Third Arrondissement, the Marais. An advertising kiosk, a common sight to Parisians, would be a noteworthy addition for a tall concrete car garage with adjacent apartments. I can think of no better public billboard for promoting neighborhood activities. Better yet, the kiosks would serve the passersby who walk the Over-the-Rhine streets, the pedestrians who keep urban neighborhoods alive, not the Kroger employees who will drive out of the garage at the stroke of 5 p.m.

There are numerous films that make great cinema guidebooks for Paris, but few can top Bernardo Bertolucci's latest movie, The Dreamers, about a young American student (Michael Pitt) in 1968 Paris who becomes intimate friends with a pretty French intellectual (Eva Green) and her activist brother (Louis Garrel).

Bertolucci begins his film with a dazzling camera shot along the metal beams of the Eiffel Tower, but other on-location spots and references to classic French films hold your attention. A visit to the Louvre reminds you of Bande A Part, and the record-breaking dash by Anna Karina and her two student friends through the museum's massive galleries.

Near the Latin Quarter streets in the Fifth Arrondissement, home to the Sorbonne and the location of the 1968 student riots, which serve as the climax for Bertolucci's film, Pat and I take an early evening break from walking with some escapist, Hollywood fare.

In a small, four-screen cinema on the Boulevard Saint Germain, we join a crowd of locals to watch the latest film to declare Paris the most romantic city on Earth, Something's Gotta Give.

Jack Nicholson plays Harry Sanborn, a playboy with his eyes and hands on much younger women, so it makes perfect sense that he would end up in Paris. Diane Keaton is Erica Barry, a divorced playwright and the mother of Harry's latest conquest.

The film's best laughs occur early at the most American of status symbols, a Hamptons beach house, where Harry's groping of his young girlfriend leads to a heart attack. Later, after Harry's recovery and the inevitable on-off romance between the stars of the movie, Keaton's playwright acts on her raves about Paris restaurants preparing the best roasted chicken and heads to the City of Lights.

She does not ride the Metro; visit the food hall at the plush department store Galeries Lafayette; ride the exterior escalators of the massive Centre Pompidou, the shockingly industrial-looking contemporary arts center; or eat lunch from a falafel stand in a narrow street in the Marais. But she does stand with Nicholson on a bridge over the Seine, which very well could be one of numerous bridges we crisscrossed from Left Bank to Right Bank morning, noon and night.

The movie-made, make-believe Paris and the real Paris are surprisingly similar if you choose your itinerary carefully. The nightly presence of an organ grinder on the bridge towards home completes the fantasy.