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Americans Ready To Invade

231239-335228-thumbnail.jpg"At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn't. Something evil had taken possession of the town."

We're steeling ourselves here in Paris. The Maginot Line has been strengthened, the street barricades are going up, shutters are being closed, the children are being picked up early from school. The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is about to begin. In little more than a week "The Da Vinci Code" - the movie, will be released to cinemas across the globe and the rubberneckers will descend on Paris in their millions. Their primary target?- le Louvre and its "Moaning Lisa" by Leonardo.

At the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, Hollywood will unveil its version of Dan Brown's "novel you'd read on a plane" yarn of "what if Jesus married Mary and they had a family" (40 million copies sold). Two days later, the movie will open on 100,000 screens around the world. In the States alone, SONY Pictures has spent an estimated $45-million on a marketing campaign. And the official French, British and Scottish Tourism Boards along with Eurostar and hotel chain Novotel have all signed partnership contracts with Sony to mutually promote the film and Da Vinci-related travel.

Paris is bracing itself for the onslaught of Code Freaks.

Already thirty companies have sprung up to offer Da Vinci Code tours. I'm thinking of getting in on the action myself. "See, Sophie couldn't have hidden behind "The Virgin of the Rocks" - in the book the canvas of the painting is described as bowing out as her body is behind it but the actual painting is on wood panel, not canvas."

But hang on, didn't Dan Brown state at the beginning of the book "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate". Yeah right. The book says that at the explicit demand of French President François Mitterrand, the Louvre Pyramid in Paris was constructed with 666 (the Devils Sign, yawn yawn) panes of glass. In fact the pyramid contains 603 diamond-shaped and 70 triangular panes of glass, totalling 673. Count them. And, again, in the book, Sophie and Langdon go to Saint Lazare's station so that les flics believe they went to Lille. But the trains for Lille don't leave from the Gare Saint-Lazare but from Gare du Nord. Der and double der.

Paris 1575
And really...this one is a howler - Paris wasn't founded by the Merovingians . The city was settled by Gauls by the 3rd Century BC. The Romans, who knew it as Lutetia, captured it in 52 BC under Julius Caesar, and left substantial ruins in the city, including an amphitheatre and public baths. The Merovingians didn't rule in France until the 6th century AD, by which time Paris was at least 800 years old.

Credibility Danny Boy. But, you know, never let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.

(The book annoyed me so much that halfway through I hurled it across the room - although I did go back and finish it later. Still reckon it's shite.)

This is one movie I won't be seeing. For starters, I just can't see Tom Hanks as the hero.

Despite Brown’s claims to accuracy, a writer who thinks the Merovingians founded Paris and forgets that the Popes once lived in Avignon is hardly a model researcher. He also states that the Church burned five million women as witches whereas the real figure is somewhere between 30,000 to 50,000 victims. Not all were executed by the Church, not all were women, and not all were burned. Brown’s claim that educated women, priestesses, and midwives were singled out by witch-hunters is patently false.

Anyway. I'm nit-picking. Don't let me spoil your fun. Want somewhere to stay? The Ritz Hotel (of Dodi & Diana fame) offers a $900 night in Room 512 - bathrobe, breakfast and illustrated copy of the book included - where the opening shot of the movie was filmed.

Chateau de Villette on the Paris-outskirts, which appears in 20 chapters of The Da Vinci Code as the home of bad guy Sir Leigh Teabag...sorry, Teabing, is charging $9,000 a day for a rental.

Coming back to le Louvre - it initially refused access to the film company, but was overruled by President Jacques Chirac, and so the actors and cameras moved into the museum's corridors for a week of night shoots last July.

Saint-Sulpice church has had 200,000 Da Vinci tourists since the novel was published in 2003.
They come to photograph the obelisk and the strip of brass set in the stone floor that runs from the obelisk across the sanctuary.

Some read the notice in French and English posted beside the obelisk, informing them that what they think they're looking at - a mystical pagan sundial called the Rose Line consulted over millenniums by wise men of the world - is in fact an 18th-century scientific device for measuring the parameters of the Earth's orbit.

"Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best-selling novel, this [the line in the floor] is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a Rose-Line. It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. Please also note that the letters P and S in the small round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church, and not an imaginary Priory of Sion."

The church has no apartment where a caretaker nun lives - in the novel, Silas, the psychopathic albino adherent of Opus Dei, batters a caretaker nun to death in the novel with one of Saint-Sulpice's brass altar candlesticks. There is no secret chamber in the floor underneath the brass meridian strip where a clue to the existence of the Holy Grail may have been hidden.

Teenage prostitutes do not, as Dan Brown wrote, solicit outside the church on Place Sulpice - for one thing there's a Police Station next door. This claim particularly annoys Parisians. That's a very chic end of town.

A record 26 million tourists came to Paris last year and 7.3 million visitors filed past the Mona Lisa - an increase from 6.7 million in 2004.

Interestingly, Eurostar staff have found more than 1,000 copies of The Da Vinci Code left behind by passengers on its trains. Maybe it's not meant to be read on choo-choos.

But I'm sure the film will make a killing. And it's probably very entertaining, Tom Hanks nonwithstanding. Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno are in it so it can't be all bad. Just don't take it as gospel.

p.s. If you've not seen it before, check out Claude Lelouch's masterpiece "Rendezvous" - a full-on early morning fang through Paris in a Ferrari Testerosterone (275GTB). Goes past le Louvre, too.

And....an interesting blog Here at davincicode-opusdei.com

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Reader Comments (4)

1,000 copies left on train? Just shows how forgettable this book is...
May 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBec
this book is depleting the ozone layer man
May 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermushroom
"The Da Vinci Code" is a heap of shit, and "Digital Fortress" by the same author will have you rolling in the aisles for the computer errors. Stale plots, cardboard characters (duplicated in each book) and excruciating writing.

BUT no one sells 40 million copies of a book without good reason. If you switch off all such monitors, Brown's doing something many writers have forgotten to do: *entertain*. Okay, it's sheer mindless entertainment akin to vegging out in front of tv, and about as interesting and memorable when you wake up next morning. But it works. And it sells.

May 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLou
From this http://cyberoutlaw.blogspot.com/ New York reader - "One of the things I do each morning, while riding the subway to work, is take surveys. These surveys are very informal, no scientific formulas or written statistics, just silent head counts and mental tallies that sometimes make for interesting observations. The best surveys usually involve reading material, books in particular. I call it my Who's Reading What on the Subway Survey.

Yesterday morning, I counted one person reading Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, another had Frank Herbert's Dune, then there was John Grisham's The Broker, James Patterson's Lifeguard, and the real eye-opener, five, yes five, different people reading The Da Vinci Code. The last time I saw that many people within the same relative amount of space reading the same book was when Robert James Waller's Bridges of Madison County camped out at the top of the bestseller lists for over two years. I haven't read The Da Vinci Code, probably won't, so I'll keep any uninformed opinions to myself, however, it does make for an interesting observation. I've known people who will not read a book unless it appears on a bestseller list. Likewise, there are others who frown upon bestsellers in general, regardless of the content or quality."
May 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterMalcolm Lambe

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