Five things that GQ Editor-in‑Chief Kim Belov associates with France
By Kim Belov (page 14)
There aren’t many people who are indifferent about France, regardless of whether you’ve been there or not. “There are two different countries — your France, and France itself.” In politics there’s the concept of “soft power” — to what degree a country attracts people simply with its values and its image. When it comes to soft power, France is always a leader. Everyone has their own associations with the word “France” — from the Eiffel tower, the three musketeers and Alain Delon to the Promenade de la Croisette, the revolution and oysters. Here are my five.
1. Zinedine Zidane.
His goal against Bayer Munich in the 2002 Champions League final might be the most beautiful goal in football history. On the fly, with one kick, from twenty meters away and straight into the upper corner — and at the same time, a winning goal. In the context of all things eternal, that goal is proof of something divine in our lives just as much as the sculptures of Rodin or the Francoise Hardy song, “Tous le garçons et le fils.” But for me the much more important moment connected to Zidane is the famed head-butting of Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup. It was a demonstration that there is something very human in our lives. An example of how a person (even if they are a genius) gives into emotions, and instead of taking revenge with a goal and a victory, they lose control for a split second, break the rules, get kicked off the field, and their team loses. There is everything in that moment: the responsibility of a leader for the fate of his team (the entire French team lost alongside Zidane), and the rapid pace at which you can lose both face and hope, and the triumph of a provocateur. In the remark that made Zidane so furious, Materazzi mentioned his sister — and here again you have cherchez la femme, that is, a typically French story.
2. The Film “Le Haine”.
Whoever hasn’t seen this film has no brain, and whoever saw it but didn’t love it has no heart. The director is Matthieu Kassovitz, the golden-youth son of a famous actor, a French version of our Bondarchuk. In 1998, he made a film about the quiet peat fire that burns deeply in the outskirts of every single European city, never dying out for a minute, and regularly breaking through to the surface in the form of riots — the film is about that fire, and about the victims of that fire. When people talk about “Le Haine”, they call it a prophetic film — they’re reminded of it every time a French, English, Greek, or any other kind of unemployed young person burns yet another neighbor’s car,