The first rule of fame: aimez bien la France

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The Independent Culture
How lovely to be Francophile. Certainly that's what the French Ministry of Tourism thinks, because here it is exhibiting globally famous people saying how they love France, and inviting us to join the club.

Clearly the famous alleged Francophiles aiment it to bits. Here are - thank you, thank you - Mickey Mouse and Woody Allen, Claudia Schiffer and Julio Iglesias, Celine Dion and Roger Moore, Barbara Hendricks and Karl Lagerfeld all testifying for La France. And Tina Turner is so excited she goes into one of her little dances.

What is it exactly they're so drawn to? La culture? L'amour? I suspect - particularly for the Americans - it's the classiness of France. Plus, the unutterable gorgeousness of being featured together, so chicly juxtaposed in praise of the centre of chic itself (a fat, topless Sumo-ist appears hard-by a footballer).

And we're all tremendously civilised in our joint recognition of l'art de vivre, savoir faire and comme il faut. It's as appealing in its way as, say, cute war orphans, and many degrees more fun than saving whales.

But la culture? What exactly has France invented for the gaiety of nations over the last 25 years - as opposed to recycling the myths and marvels of the previous hundred? I suspect that the French Ministry of Tourism and Air France are beginning to discover France's stock on the new cultural authority front is declining and that Paris is well below Newcastle on the world's list of exciting cities for opinion-leading young persons. The endorsement of international luvviedom is their answer.

But would you buy a country from that loveable wooden toy, Roger Moore, or that creosoted troubadour Julio? They've left the best till last however, when Ray Charles - yes, Ray of Ray and the Rayhams, of "Hit the Road Jack"- says he absolutely loves France. Provoking the entirely non-PC thought - what exactly does he see in it?