I’ve always suspected that I liked Carla Bruni. Her marbled look on the steps of the Élysée Palace in Paris, shaking blue-pale hands with each visiting despot – you knew she couldn’t quite work out how she’d got there, like Jean de Florette in his tax collector’s office, only in Christian Loboutin flats. Her three-part series playing her favourite love songs (21 March, 1opm) suggests that the supermodel, chanteuse, and wife of the former president Nicolas Sarkozy absolutely needs to be connected to the wellspring: wine, Françoise Hardy, Gainsbourg, Tammy Wynette.
She’s there, talking unstoppably for over an hour each time, like a one-woman justification for the French way of life (despite technically being Italian). Sometimes she talks so much you wonder if the producers will be minded to include any music at all. How does love feel to Carla? “I’ve written a song about it! I will translate: He looks like someone make hope coming. Streets are like gardens.”
The stones of the city sing to Bruni. The sunlit granite springs into heat. (Not a frequent occurrence on Radio 2.) “How can a stone be alive? How can a stone be impatient! Well when you’re in love you feel like walls are changing. You feel like even a piece of wood could talk to you.” (A frequent occurrence on Radio 2.)
The whole thing is recorded to give the impression that Bruni is sitting with her tousled hair falling around her eyes, a kerosene lamp at the centre of a velvet-swagged table, while she discusses love with the confidence and enthusiasm of a never-out-of-work interior decorator. She chooses a recording by Georges Brassens in which he sings that he wants to live exclusively underneath his lover’s skirt (“very male”), and gives little insights into the moment she and Sarkozy met. “A song came out right away!” insists Bruni. I thought (distantly) of Sylvia Plath biting Ted Hughes’s face during their first encounter at a student party. (Plath: “There is a panther stalks me down:/One day I’ll have my death of him.” Now, that’s a feeling.)
“I met my husband at a party,” Carla notes – with a somewhat disappointed sigh. “Not very interesting, is it?”
Carla Bruni’s C’est La Vie
BBC Radio 2
This article appears in the 14 Mar 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Putin’s spy game