The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 7: Movies set in Paris

Sometimes I get a little homesick for Paris. Strange, considering I’ve only been there once, and that was some time ago. But, every once in a while I need to watch a film (or two) set in Paris to get my fix.

First up, the very excellent Before Sunset. It stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and is the sequel to Before Sunrise (set in Vienna). I’m not a huge fan of either Hawke or Delpy, but I just can’t get enough of this film. It’s a pas de deux; Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meet again in Shakespeare & Co., 9 years after they failed to meet up again in Vienna six months after their first meeting. It’s a very quiet film; there’s not much drama, but a lot of talking. It probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy its intimacy.

Second, La Vie En Rose (La Môme), starring Marion Cotillard as Édith Piaf. The role won Cotillard the Best Actress Oscar, an award incredibly well-deserved. I took everyone I knew to see it in the theatre, merely as an excuse to see it again. Gerard Depardieu also stars, and Jean-Pierre Martins (from the French rock group Silmarils) played Piaf’s lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan. I’d listened to some of Piaf’s songs before, but this film cemented my admiration and love of chanson. Cotillard lip-syncs, but it would have been difficult for her to match Piaf’s unique voice. Unlike Before Sunset, La Vie En Rose is full of drama; Piaf’s life began in Belleville, and her father was a circus actor, her mother a singer. She traveled with the circus until her father left her with family at a brothel. When she returned to Paris she eked out a living singing in the street, where she was discovered. That part of her life alone would be enough for a film, but there’s more. Always more.

And third, the film Fauteuils d’orchestre (Avenue Montaigne), with Cécile de France, Albert Dupontel, Dani, Sydney Pollack and Valérie Lemercier. Jessica (de France) comes to Paris and finds work in a café across from an arts complex. An art auction, a piano concert and a Feydeau play are occurring on the same evening, and the resulting meetings of all the other characters with the cheerful Jessica are the meat of the film. The interconnectedness is charming; it’s a film that never fails to leave me smiling.

So there you are: three films that help evoke Paris for me. Do you have a place you’re fond of? Or is there a film that evokes a remembrance of a favourite place?

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