Headed to Cannes? Here's a Cheat Sheet to 6 Top French Topics Du Jour

Illustration by: Wren McDonald

Keep your conversation au courant by studying up on these national cultural hot buttons.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

While France may still be the fashion capital of the planet, the French don't always welcome new trends with open arms. In a country that thrives on terroir and tradition, novelty is not necessarily à la mode. So what do locals think of some recent trends that are rocking — or at least wobbling — French culture? THR talked to a few experts — film producer Sophie Mas (Gaspar Noe's Love, which will screen at Cannes), political commentator Thomas Guenole, Elle editor Lauren Bastide, American expat writer Thomas Chatterton Williams (Losing My Cool) and Parisian mom and former Discovery exec Mary Kallaher — about life today in what insiders refer to as "the hexagon."

Seven-Day Shopping

In February, France introduced a bill that allows more businesses to stay open on Sundays — a major concession for a Catholic country with a strong sense of workers' rights. Like most residents, Bastide says she'll mourn the tradition but welcome the convenience.

Burger Boom

Forget about jambon beurre and croque monsieur: One of every two sandwiches now sold in France is a hamburger — perhaps with Camembert in lieu of cheddar. Says Guenole, "Whenever the French welcome foreign cuisine, they customize it in their own way." Mas is more dubious: "Burgers are the new sushi. They may come and go, but baguettes are here to stay."

Mothers Superior?

Relaxed French moms raise better behaved, happier kids, claimed the 2012 best-seller by American in Paris Pamela DruckermanBringing Up Bebe. Have Parisians really perfected parenting? "Mothers are not defined by their kids here; there's more distance," says Kallaher. "But all the kids I know — French, Italian, whatever — throw food."

Model-Weight Mandate

A new French law requiring models to maintain a body mass index of 18 (about 121 pounds for a 5-foot-7 mannequin) was championed by health officials, less so by insiders (Karl Lagerfeld has spoken out against regulating models' weight). "It would ban almost every single model walking runways today," says Bastide."But the industry perhaps needed a reminder of the role it plays in shaping how young women view their own bodies." 

Soccer Sugar Daddies

Oil-rich owner Qatar has bankrolled the Paris Saint-Germain squad, whose industry fans include Wild Bunch's Vincent Maraval and Pascal Caucheteux of Why Not Prods., to two French league titles. "It's exciting to have a world-class club," says Williams, "even if a surprising amount of people worldwide don't know it's Paris. They think the team is called ‘Fly Emirates'."

Down With Love

Paris' Pont des Arts, the bridge tourists have adorned with so many "locks of love" padlocks engraved with their initials that its metal railings have begun to collapse, now has shatter-resistant glass railings to which locks can't be added. "As a strong supporter of romanticism, I'm for putting back the gates," says Geunole. Mas agrees: "I've always preferred bridges over locks." Bastide, however, is typically Parisian in her reaction: "Great news. True love doesn't exist anyway."

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