Cemeteries get a lot of cinematic attention on Halloween, but in France they don’t really consider that American import anything more than a commercial holiday for stores to sell candy to kids. The real holiday is actually Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day, on November 1st. On this bank holiday families traditionally visit the cemeteries to pay their respects and place flowers on the graves of their loved ones.
Growing up in Arizona I rarely ever saw actual tombstones (except in Tombstone, AZ, of course), just the flat marble plaques embedded in immense lawns that were easily maintained — like the many golf courses — by groundskeepers on riding mowers. Actual tombstones were reserved for the creepy graveyards I saw in horror films and Halloween haunted houses. And those were just made of painted foam. So I was quite fascinated by the cemeteries of Paris. They didn’t seem real to me with their crumbling sarcophaguses (aka sarcophagi…they’re both correct), dramatic statues, and authentic stone and marble tombs. It was hard, at first, to believe the often heart-sick inscriptions were made by real mourners and not set decorators.