Our picture of France, according to Professor of French and Paris resident Andrew Hussey, is all too often clouded by romantic and outdated cliches that fail to do justice to the true nature of the country. So just as the French might imagine Brits living in a comfortable 1950s idyll of afternoon tea and rolled up umbrellas, so we fall back on visions of berets, baguettes and pastis. In this two part series, he travels the length of the country, from Marseilles in the south to Lille in the north, stopping off in Lyon and Paris along the way. He explores the rich multi-cultural life that has developed over the last fifty years with its tensions as well as its rewards, and walks the streets and visits the bars where the ordinary French people live out their daily lives. As he moves around, he discovers that many of the more recent myths about France - that it is a cultural museum, for example, where nothing new of any note is taking place - are just as false as the old, with the the country's many regions coming alive with a sense of their own identity and a dynamic, creative energy that a previous all-encompassing focus on Paris had prevented. If there is, as de Gaulle suggested, a certain idea of France, Hussey's goal is to discover how that idea has developed and what it looks like right now, in La France Maintenant.
Andrew Hussey goes beyond the cliches to discover the true face of 21st-century France.
In part one of 'La France, Maintenant!', Professor Andrew Hussey travelled through the south of France starting in Marseilles and ending in Lyon, discovering as he went some significant tensions, but also a new-found energy in the region born out of self-confidence and a restlessness with the clichés surrounding this most romanticised of countries. In this second part of the series, he heads to the very north of the country - to Lille - a place that looks out at Belgium, Britain and Holland as much as it looks back at France itself. He meets a local rapper who became one of France's earliest internet sensations, as well as local students producing Ch'ti magazine - Ch'ti being the French colloquialism for northerner. Once more he finds a region bursting with a strong sense of itself, no longer in the control of Hussey's final destination, Paris. There, he meets the producers behind the TV hit 'Spiral', who are keen to offer a true picture of the city to counter the Woody Allen counterfeit - as well as long-serving private investigators and the director of the Cannes Film Festival. At the end of the journey, Hussey makes the case that La France, maintenant, is a country that's facing troubles of course but is also once again bursting with creative energy and self-belief.
Andrew heads to Lille, where he finds a region bursting with a strong sense of itself.