François Truffaut’s 1959 “The 400 Blows” starts with a declaration of love. Not for the troubled enfance whose eloge he’s about to sing, but for the City of Paris in which the saga of Antoine Doinel — four more films, following Antoine and his many travails with his many loves through to the age of 34, would come over the next 20 years — is about to unroll. (In a later chapter of the cycle, “Stolen Kisses,” Truffaut shares another perspective, following a love letter on its trajectory through the underground pneumatic system.)
I thought of that great sweeping pan of a panorama this afternoon when I took my thermos coffee on the plateau atop the Maison de l’air that looks out past the descending fountains of the parc Bellevue in the 20th arrondissement and towards the fullest and most glorious view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. (Yes I know, close-up from the Place Trockadero across the River is cool too, but in Bellevue you don’t have to deal with the tourists. Unless you tell.) At 120 years, Gustave Eiffel’s dream sure looks good. It’s hard to imagine that the defining, most outstanding feature in the Paris skyline — with all respect to the blue and red monstrosity of the Centre Pompidou, which looks like a hippy relic who forgot to pack up his tent — was once greeted with horror by Maupassent (that anti-Semite) and others, much as old fogies like me wince at any prospect of changing our beloved Paris.