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PARIS — Each city has its own traditional kickoff to the fall social season — usually something to do with black-tie evenings at the opera. But in Paris, “la grande saison” opens with dinner and a movie at the annual benefit for the Fondation Claude Pompidou. Of course, the guests aren’t exactly movie junkies in sweatpants. The powerhouse crowd at Wednesday night’s screening of “Road to Perdition,”organized by the Comité des Champs-Elysées, included a president (Jacques Chirac, with his wife, Bernadette) as well as an ex-empress (Farah Pahlavi, the Shabanou of Iran), a scattering of aristocrats (Pierre d’Arenberg, Guy de Rothschild, Laure de Beauvau-Craon, Georgina Brandolini, Sylvie de Waldner) and, of course, an ex-first lady (Claude Pompidou, the charity’s namesake). Following the screening, everyone headed to the Four Seasons Hotel George V for a sumptuous autumnal dinner of veal, where such clotheshorses as Isabel Goldsmith, Betty Lagardere and Alejandra di Andia could flaunt their fall wardrobes under the crystal chandeliers.

But the party season really shifts into high gear this week. The world premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s new movie, “La Callas” was on Monday; The Matisse Picasso exhibition opens tonight followed by a Bernard Arnault-hosted dinner at the Pavillon Ledoyen, and the Biennale des Antiquaires’ gala preview is on Wednesday.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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