Sunday, 8 May 2016

Dennis Hopper - I hold you responsible.

Wednesday 4th May, 2016

Camping Les Mures where we are staying is a pleasant enough site situated by the sea half way between St Maxime and St Tropez. On the old Mas, next to the reception it says that it was established in in 1951, predating by five years the moment when director Roger Vadim asserted that God had reinvented women at nearby Beach Tahiti in the form of the teenage Brigitte Bardot. Larkin may have claimed that sex was invented iin 1963, but the French had been working on the project for more than a decade before the moment London swung. Bill Haley had barely Rocked Around the Clock when Brigitte transformed the 20th century's preferred female archetype from Bacall style femme fatale into girlish simpering sex kitten. 

Brigitte Bardot, St Tropez 1956
This moment, filmed around St Tropez, is one of the key moments of modern cultural history announcing the arrival of 'youth culture' in the form of the svelte, bikini clad Ms. Bardot. The rest is history as they say; Jagger pouted and twitched and soon Western culture embraced the puerile, and we were all 'Rockin' in the Free World'. 

I don't know who actually owned the scrap of land that Mas Les Mures occupied, presumably an impoverished vigneron trying to eke out a living selling local, wholly disregarded vin de table. He was sitting on a gold mine, St Tropez transformed itself in a just a few years from seclude bohemian enclave to chic resort for 'tous le monde' pulling off that peculiarly French trick of seeming exclusive and popularist simultaneously. It's astonishing to consider that there is little more than ten years years between Bardot's beach moment and the completion of the first phase of the massive holiday complex at Port Grimaud. This phenomena reflects one of the other cultural sea-changes of the second part of the last century, the power of mass media to redefine our habits and beliefs.

Pablo and Brigitte at St Tropez - high culture meets pop culture
These days Les Mures is a medium sized campsite with views across the bay from the beachside pitches towards St Tropez. Presumably it has made some local family quite rich, I hope they remember to say salut to Ms Bardot occasionally. Having said that, the place is hardly chic, more Caravan Club by the Med, particularly at this time when its clientele are, like us, older people holidaying out of season. However there must be a Dutch school holiday now as well, as a number of the beachside pitches are occupied by families from the Netherlands. 

There is still a small vineyard next the Camping Les Mures' entrance. The fact the old Mas has a view of St Tropez is pure luck... like winnimng the lottery.
Les Mures Beach has a view straight across the bay to St Tropez

All of this would be fine and we might have lingered for a while but for the fact that our arrival appeared to have coincided with some kind of large scale Harley fest.

The 'must have' male accessory of the moment
The fact we have swarms of middle aged men cruising about on their beloved chrome encrusted dream machines is also a testament to the power of mass media to create contemporary myths. Whether it's a 'Born to be Wild' fantasy, or some kind of sinister Hells Angel inspired mobile flash mob, judging by the bandana and faded denim clad figures crowding the local cafés, owning a Harley Davidson is more about conforming to a collective myth of macho individuality than simply having an enthusiasm for shiny new 'vintage' motorcycles. This is where the noise comes in, half the fun is not just riding up and down the same strip slowly creating an ever more extensive bouchon, but also emitting an earth shattering roar as you do so. And these machines are wondrously growly and thunderous. In the end it all about having a male menopausal moment that is both fun, and a tad transgressive. So I realise that it is a vain hope that any of our latter- day part time Dennis Hoppers might opt for a quieter, yet equally popular ways of re-asserting their fading virility, such as eloping with their secretary or taking up free-fall sky diving. No, I realise they have an inescapable inner compunction to show-off loudly. Likewise, we have an equal compunction to find some peace and quiet. Time to move on.


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