Woody Allen Promotes France in New Video
By VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK - America's leaders may have quibbles with France, but Woody Allen is in love with it. And the American director is one of many celebrities proud to say so.
Long popular in France, he appears in a promotional video aimed at luring tourists back to the land of champagne, now that the war in Iraq is officially over.
"I don't want to have to refer to my French-fried potatoes as freedom fries and I don't want to have to freedom-kiss my wife when what I really want to do is French-kiss her," the 67-year-old New Yorker says in the seven-minute film produced by the French government, titled "Let's Fall in Love Again."
Joining Allen are other Francophiles, including jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Paris Review magazine editor George Plimpton and star chef Daniel Boulud — all appearing free of charge.
Also praising France in the video is Chris Jensen, who visited the country with fellow New York City firefighters after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack — at the expense of French tourism officials.
"The firehouse hasn't been the same. It's too bad we can't use the wine," Jensen says in the video, after his group was treated to a French culinary session with chef Paul Bocuse while in France.
The soundtrack includes "J'ai Deux Amours" ("I Have Two Loves") sung by the late Josephine Baker (news), an American who lived in Paris and presented the Vincent Scotto song at a 1930 Paris revue.
The video promoting France was shown to media representatives in 14 U.S. cities, in hopes of spreading the word that Americans are welcome in France — their visits eased by special travel and hotel deals.
France was a hard sell as a tourist destination for some Americans after French leaders opposed U.S. plans to go to war with Iraq.
One Web site published a list of French companies to boycott, while merchants selling French wine to Americans urged consumers to keep buying French wines.
Relations between the two allies reached their lowest point in decades.
In the first quarter of 2003, amid a bad economy and a general fear of travel during wartime, there were an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent fewer Americans visiting France, compared to the same period a year earlier, according to preliminary statistics issued by the French Government Tourist Office.
Last year, about 2.7 million Americans visited France.
The French-American friction followed last year's reaction to a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in France. American Jewish groups advised Americans attending the Cannes Film Festival to speak out against the incidents — or to stay away.
Allen, who is Jewish, showed up in Cannes and said that he "never felt the French people were in any way anti-Semitic." Now, the director says he hopes the two nations will put their differences behind them.
Recently, President Bush — headed for the Middle East — stopped in Evian, France, to meet with French President Jacques Chirac. The two men smiled and shook hands for the cameras.
For his part touting France, Allen stood in the courtyard of a Manhattan theater, and said: "The United States and France have been great friends and great, great allies going back many, many years."
His defense of France is timely: In his latest comedy film, "Hollywood Ending," Allen plays a filmmaker whose latest movie bombs at home and is a hit in France. His agent tells him: "Here, you're a bum, there you're a genius."
The filmmaker responds: "Thank God the French exist."