France Vive la Revolution!

A splashy bicentennial erupts in fireworks, parades -- and politics

It was a spectacular souffle of politics, parades and visual extravaganzas -- all steeped in historical symbolism, spiced with controversy and served up to the world with characteristic elan. France threw itself a revolutionary birthday party last week, and the world joined in the celebration, as President Francois Mitterrand recalled the glory of 1789 as the "birth of the modern era."

The festivities began with a tribute to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, attended by President George Bush and 33 other world leaders. Then Mitterrand inaugurated the glittering new $400 million steel-and-marble opera house overlooking the Place de la...

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