12 July 2012

Philippe Delerm: Les Amoureux de l'Hôtel de Ville (2001)

François has become unemployed at the age of forty, and now has time to reflect, to bring back memories of his childhood and of his youth, and among other things he revisits his ageing father and his old university friends and reflects some more.

It's his childhood memories which are the most vivid – the Dinky toys, the Solex, Tintin, or the sounds, such as the quiz show Quitte ou Double with Zappy Max on Radio Luxembourg or later on Radio Monte Carlo.

Some objects of his youth have an iconic importance, such as Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (Le Messager in French) and the young boy of the title with whom he identifies – a film he says he's seen a hundred times.

Most of all, though, it's Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville ('The Kiss'), Robert Doisneau's world famous 1950 photo of a young couple kissing in a crowded street with the Hôtel de Ville in the background, that transfixes the narrator. It's of particular importance as a kind of 'family photo' because his parents used to (apocryphally) claim that they were the lovers in the foreground, and he minutely dissects the photo.

This is not so much a trip down a middleaged person's Memory Lane as a meditation on the nature of memory and its deceptions, its constructions, and also on the vividness of the past compared to that of the present.

My other posts on Philippe Delerm:

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Philippe Delerm: Quiproquo
Philippe Delerm: La Première Gorgée de bière et autres plaisirs minuscules

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