Becoming Madame: Capturing Paris on the big screen
Paris shot onto the big screen in 'The Artist', 'Hugo' and 'Midnight in Paris', but they are not the only film favourites set in Paris that ignite a love for the City of Light.
Academy Awards got me in a cinematic whirl. Since my time zone makes watching the Oscars live a little inconvenient, I tape the show (or whatever the modern technological equivalent of taping is nowadays) so I can watch the whole night in one long, exhaustively glamorous sequence.
I'm sure we can all agree that one of the major themes honoured at last year's 84th Academy Awards was la France. Not only due to the success of The Artist, director Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin, but also Scorsese's Hugo and Allen's Midnight in Paris. I'd even go so far as to say that Paris was last year's unabashed leading lady. Nothing, of course, against the marvellous Meryl Streep or her portrayal of the British leading lady, but one cannot however, deny la présence française. The accordion music in the background, the cafés and la Tour Eiffel glistening in radiant hues of spender through three of last year's top films. And it got me all excited.
The whirl the Oscars whipped me into revitalised some of the old charm and heavenly yearning I felt about Paris before calling it home. It's true that life through rose coloured glasses, la vie en rose as they call it here, fades ever so slightly when the fairytale gives way to the monotonous routine of every day. After all, no matter how far you run away, even to a marvellous city like Paris, you always wake up with yourself. You still have to pay your bills, make up your bed every morning, and take out the trash. But the movies bring back those giddy feelings, that feelings of being in love, only with a city casted in the role of lover.
Watching Robin Roberts, the ABC Presenter, on the Red Carpet all goo-goo-eyed over Dujardin's French charm as he kissed her hand and spoke to her in French brought a smile to my face. It's all so stereotypical and yet all so absolutely real.
Jean said in his acceptance speech, "I love your country!"
I must say, Jean, I love yours!
And to honour that adoration, here are a few of my most favourite films about, set in or starring Paris.
Sabrina, with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond, 1995. This was the film I watched the night before I left for Paris at the beginning of this adventure. It will always hold a special place in my memory for that, I suppose.
Something's Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, 2003. My favourite part is when she finally revisits the resturant she loves in Paris. The actual setting of the scene is a brasserie by another name, the Grand Colbert, and it does not have the scenic view of the Seine as the film depicts. It is, however, quintessentially Parisian with its high ceilings, waiters in black and white, silver trays, and booths sitting under chandeliers and against large ornate mirrors.
Two Days in Paris, with Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg, 2007. Written and directed by a Parisian, this film gives a good insider, although slightly exaggerated, and funny view of life in Paris.
Prête-moi ta main, or I Do (English title), with Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg, 2006. This is a French film starring a very funny French comedian and the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (of the Hermès bag fame). This was one of the first movies I watched in French during my self-imposed French immersion period (I was desperate to finally learn the language!) and it remains one of my favourite – a light-hearted, but real representation of French life.
Amélie, with Audrey Tautou, 2001. I saw this movie when I was a student back in Canada with a French-Canadian friend, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh how I would love to live in Paris!' Funny how life works out. The café where Amélie works in the film is a real place on rue Lepic near Montmartre and it's one of the places I enjoy going the most when I'm editing and writing.
Coco Chanel, with Barbora Bobulova and Shirley McClain, 2008. There have been a few Chanel movies released recently, but this one is my favourite. I really love it and re-watch it all the time. I love her spunk, her determination. I like to think that it is the most real adaptation of her story as well as it being beautifully set and written.
Gigi, 1958. This is an old film set in turn-of-the-century Paris, but it's charming and inspires that indescribable feeling people who love Paris get when they visit. If you haven't seen it, it's a worth a go.
Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, 2009. I loved the Parisian parts of this film. Nancy Meyers is also the director of Something's Gotta Give which is, of course, also set here in Paris and also on this list. I think Nancy loves Paris almost as much as I do. You can see it in her representations of the city and the life it offers. This is also a great flick for those who love cooking.
French Kiss, with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, 1995. I watched this film the year I was preparing to go on an exchange to France in high school. I didn't speak a word of the language at the time, but I remember being captivated by the street scenes throughout Paris. When I finally got here, I tracked down many of them to see how realistically they were portrayed. Many times nowadays I catch myself walking by them and not even paying attention. It's true what they say about the importance of being a tourist in your own city!
Amusez vous bien!!
Born south of the Mason Dixon line, Becoming Madame is a North American attorney, writer and professor living in Paris with her French husband. Since moving to France six years ago, she has learnt fluent French and now teaches law at the Université de Paris to French students. She writes and runs the blog Becoming Madame, which provides an inside peek into real life in the French capital – les marchés, Soldes, boulangeries, cafés, French cooking, traditions and living as an expat.
Photo credit: Coyau (head photo).
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