Paris Stories: Depardieu gets passionate about music - two other actors just get passionate

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The Independent Online

In a movie now in production, Quand j'étais chanteur (When I Was a Singer), Depardieu plays a provincial night-club crooner. He insisted on recording all the songs himself. They include French and American karaoke classics such as "Pour un flirt", "Lady Lay" and "Save the Last Dance for Me".

"I was surprised by how erotic singing can be," Depardieu said last week. "I have recorded 14 songs and I'm thinking, after the film is finished, that I might work them up and release an album." You have to admire the man's energy. And cheek. Roll over Johnny Hallyday. Never mind that nose like an old potato. A star is born.

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We had two bedrooms in our flat decorated following a water leak more than a year ago. When the team of three decorators finished the job, they crept away one by one to wash and change in a bathroom. They emerged, one by one - including a toothless fiftysomething man of Algerian origin - looking like a million euros.

My wife complimented them and pointed out that British or Irish decorators (she is Irish) would have gone straight down to the pub, dripping in sweat and paint. They looked at her, shocked, and chorused (including the toothless Algerian): "Ah, but madame, we are French!"

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French farmers are always causing trouble. If they are not provoking fits of crusading priggishness among British prime ministers, they are parking their rusty tractors illegally in Paris and refusing to pay the fine.

Adrien Goichot, 66, a retired farmer from the hamlet of Pennesières, in Haute-Saône near the Swiss border, is a case in point. He refused to pay the fine sent though the post on the grounds that his tractor, "137 CD 70", had seldom left his village and had certainly not been to the 18th arrondissement of Paris (250 miles away).

After months of wrangling (by which time the fine had been increased to €375), something exceptional happened - something more exceptional than tractors in the streets of the capital. The police admitted that they had made a mistake. The illegally parked vehicle was "0137 CD 070", a diplomatic limousine belonging to the Angolan embassy. M. Goichot's fine has been cancelled. His wife, doubtless, still suspects that he has a girlfriend in Paris.

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The other night we joined friends for a picnic in the Pré-Catalan, a beautiful garden within the Bois de Boulogne. Officially, you cannot stay in the garden after 7.45pm, even in June or July. An old man on a bicycle wearing a dusty uniform cycles around and whistles at you. He makes an exception, however, if members of your party are attending a play in the "Jardin Shakespeare", the beautiful open-air theatre within the garden.

We pushed my 11-year-old daughter, Clare, and her friend, Valentine, into a Molière play so that we could drink our rosé wine and eat our lamb in peace. After the meal, I strolled around to the back of the theatre, which is a natural bowl, surrounded by bushes. Two actors, a young man and a young woman, came off stage in 17th-century costume. Out of sight of the audience and other actors, and not seeing me, they launched into a passionate embrace.

Such things may happen in Shakespeare but never in Molière. Except back-stage, apparently. I crept away. All the world is a stage but there are limits to spectators' rights.