There are a few cities that draw the camera crews in droves. So documented are they that most movie fans will feel somewhat familiar with them without having stepped foot within the city’s limits. One of these city’s is Paris. Who here hasn’t seen the Notre-Dame, in either real or animated forms? The Moulin Rouge is not only familiar to us through movies and artwork, but has an entire movie named after it. From the banks of the Seine to the entirety of Montmartre, Paris has been incarnated on the small and big screen too many times to count. Since I’m headed there next week, I popped in a few DVDs (yeah, I still watch DVDs) and got my Netflix and chill on (in the literal sense) to get me in touch with that certain je ne sais quoi.
Paris, Je T’Aime
A movie about the neighbourhoods of a city I have wanted to visit for some time: what can go wrong? The answer is NOTHING! I love neighbourhoods and any movie that showcases them is a movie I want to watch. Enter: Paris, je t’aime. Taking place in 18 of Paris’s 20 arrondissements, Paris je t’aime tackles the topic of love in a city renowned to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. Except each arrondissements is seen through the lens of a different director, which means each story of love is presented in a completely different narrative, aesthetic, and timing. From life to death, tackling topics like religion, disability, and even mime, the movie shows all kinds of love (in all stages too) happening all around Paris. One of my favourite shorts is the last one entitled “14e arrondissement,” where Carol (Margo Martindale) reflects on love and loneliness. This may not be the most obvious takeaway but Carol’s observations and positivity make it the most optimistic and uplifting shorts in the entire movie. The moment you truly connect with a city is the moment that city has taken residence in your heart.
Have you ever fallen in love with a movie? Its characters? If you have, then you understand how I feel about Before Sunset. Following its predecessor Before Sunrise (set in Vienna), the story picks up 9 years after the first movie. Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) are 9 years older, with 9 years worth of baggage, and find each other in Paris this time, where they spend an afternoon picking up where they left off. The characters are so real and their chemistry so palpable, you feel the fluttering butterflies of an incredible first date – as if you were on one with them. Except this isn’t the first date, it’s the impromptu second date after that amazing first date that was way too long coming. Jesse and Céline discuss the state of the world in one breath and tease each other in the next as Paris and Parisian life unfold behind them. The movie is bursting with so many scenes that would appeal to the travel obsessed, but one of the scenes that remind me of travel has less to do with the backdrop and more to do with the feeling Céline describes. If you’ve ever travelled solo for some time, you might be familiar with what she’s talking about.
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain
Since the day I saw it, Amélie has remained at the top of my all-time favourite movies (alongside Before Sunrise and Before Sunset). Montmartre is as quirky a character as the movie’s heroine and the cast of habitués at the Deux Moulins where Amélie (Audrey Tautou) works. Cross-processing the neighbourhood makes it all the more whimsical and attractive to Paris lovers and novices alike. At the heart of this quirky and whimsical story is love (of course), but in a less stereotypical representation of Paris, it’s about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Amélie secretly meddles in the lives of those around her, pushing them to a life of happiness and adventure. The tables are turned when one of her neighbours decides that her life can use a bit of meddling as well. If you didn’t know Montmartre before Amélie, it’ll make you a lover and a believer before the movie is over!
I don’t know about you, but that really got me all starry-eyed for Paris! I’ve never been to the City of Lights but I can tell I’m going to have a cinematically good time walking the streets of my favourite characters in their own milieux. À bientôt Paris!