Skip to main content

Paris in Film

Since I can't live in Paris at the present, one way I get my Paris "fix" is through cinema.  In the odd chance that there is anyone else like me out there (that is, ridiculously obsessed with the City of Light), I thought I would post a little about my go-to movies about Paris for when I am missing it most. 

There are tons of movies out there in which Paris is the backdrop. But there are few movies, in my humble opinion, in which Paris is the star. The three movies below are ones that, to me, really capture the true essence and beauty of Paris and leave me feeling both satisfaction and yearning for my beloved city.

1. Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (better known as just Amélie)

Amélie is not only a great Paris movie, it's an outright great movie - period. (probably my favorite movie of all time). And while I think it's the cat's meow, I have come to understand that it is not for everyone. It is very quirky in a very French kind of way...if you don't know what I mean, you will just have to watch it. And just so you know...it is a French film. Which means it is in French.  So unless you're fluent, subtitles are a must!

The story takes place in Montmartre - the area of Paris that was formerly home to the impressionists & post-impressionists and is still home to la vie Bohème and, of course, the famous Moulin Rouge.  The movie follows the life of Amélie Poulain, a shy waitress played by Audrey Tautou, who sets about doing good deeds to make others' lives a little happier. But what about poor, lonely Amélie? Of course there is a love story involved, but not in a cheesy rom-com sort of way. If you want to watch a  unique movie that will make you feel good AND give you great views of Paris, then I highly recommend this film.
Photo Credit: J. Boyer-Switala (2008)
And if you are ever in Montmartre, you can dine at Le Café des Deux Moulins where Amélie worked (see photo above).  I had a glass of wine and some melon and prosciutto there once. There is  plenty of Amélie memorabilia there and even the Polaroids of the traveling gnome!

2. Midnight In Paris

I must admit, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is giving Amélie a real run for its money in the favorite movie ever category! The first two and a half minutes alone are worth watching over, and over, and over again (yes, I've done that...is there a problem?!) Even if you don't care to watch the whole movie (which is utterly inconceivable to me and I must vehemently point out that you are missing a truly amazing film!) you should at least watch the first two and a half minutes as it showcases Paris' beauty and splendor to a really fantastic soundtrack!

The story really well written - witty, thoughtful, and honest. It appeals to multiple generations (case in point: it even captivated my fidgety 11-year-old son). However, it is particularly charming if you know your "Lost Generation" literature/history.  I absolutely love Owen Wilson's character, Gil Pender. How could I not? Gil (also my grandfather's name!) is me in male form. His thoughts and feelings about Paris are so much my own, that it is like Woody Allen was inside my head as he was writing the script. This movie was perfectly cast and really brings to life some of history's finest writers and artists. In fact, my literary crush on Hemingway was furthered by the spot-on portrayal in Midnight

My favorite line, however, was spoken by Marion Cotillard's character, Adriana. She says, "That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me." *Sigh* Exactly.

And for the record, the soundtrack is amazing. I rarely buy entire albums on iTunes, but this was well worth it!

3. Paris, Je T'Aime

Of the three movies listed, Paris Je T'Aime (translation: Paris, I Love You) probably gives  the best insight into modern Paris' many faces. It is a series of 20 vignettes, each written and directed by the likes of greats such as Wes Craven, the Coen brothers, and Gérard Depardieu, and stars tons of top actors such as Natalie Portman, Juliette Binoche, Elijah Wood, and Steve Buscemi. The common themes: Paris and love. 

Some stories are sad. Some are funny. Several touch on the modern social and political issues facing Paris today, such as the perceptions (or perhaps more correctly, misconceptions) of its Muslim population, not to mention its African and Asian populations. Some are through the eyes of Americans - the one with Steve Buscemi and his encounter at the Tuileries métro station is hilarious, yet rings true. And of course, one vignette tackles the gritty subject that intrigues yet horrifies many: the Parisian mime. 

Follow on BloglovinBut my favorite is most certainly the last. You can't help but love Carol, the mail carrier from Denver, who narrates in her very American accented French. This one makes me cry every time because she speaks what my heart has felt and I could never quite put into words. Sitting on a park bench she says,


And then something happened, something that is hard to describe. Sitting there in a foreign country, far from my job and all the people I knew, a feeling came over me. As if I recalled something, something that I had never known and for which I had been waiting. But I didn't know what it was. Maybe it was something I had forgotten. Or something I had missed my whole life. I can only tell you that at the same time I felt joy and sadness. But not a great sadness. Because I felt alive. Yes. Alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris and the moment that I felt that Paris had fallen in love with me.

Comments

Hi! Bonjour! I've seen the movies you listed-- I do not have my very own copy of Midnight in Paris -- yet! But I will soon. I so love the city and that is my favorite movie about it. What a love story Woody Allen made about Paris. French Kiss is up there on my list, as well as Forget Paris. Les Misérables with Liam Neeson. Have you read The Greater Journey-- Americans in Paris by David McCullogh yet? I just finished it and loved it. Okay, enough for now! I am so happy to have found you! Bonne Année!
I love your blog and am so glad to have come across it! Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite movies-nothing could be better than Paris with the Lost Generation.

I also love your posts on the Holocaust in France. On my last visit to Paris I visited the Memorial de la Shoa but at the time was not aware of the Vel D'Hiv memorial. Next time, I want to visit there and definitely spend more time in le Marais.

Looking forward to reading more posts in the future :)

Although Spanish was my major in college and my number one love, I'd still move to a small apartment dans Paris in a second.

Popular posts from this blog

La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv (The Vel d’Hiv Round Up)

Photo Source: 1st Art Gallery
Every Holocaust survivor – every ghost of those who did not survive - has a story to tell. Each story is unique, yet equally tragic. Some we have heard more than once, while others lay silent, buried in the dusty pages of a nation’s shame…
Occupation and Anti-Semitism 14 June 1942 marked the two-year anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Paris. By this point, many French had joined the Résistance, while others felt it in their best interest to collaborate with the Nazi regime. Many Jews had fled France, and those who remained behind lived in chronic fear. The Jewish Decrees (France's version of the Nuremberg Laws) saw the Jews of Paris stripped of their livelihoods, property, and rights. As in other occupied areas of Europe, the French Jews were required to wear the yellow stars of David. Inscribed with a single word in the center, Juif (Jew), the badges had to be sewn neatly on the left side of the chest. Failure to do so could land a person in jail – o…

Les Femmes Tondues

It is no great secret that some French collaborated during the Nazi Occupation of France. Some did it for less than admirable reasons, such as political gain, anti-Semitism, or true fascist ideology. Other people were frightened and saw no end to the Occupation, while some were motivated simply by the desire to survive. Many women who collaborated fall into the latter category. Food, clothes, and fuel (among other items) were scarce during the Occupation. Nearly everything needed to sustain life was rationed, and much of France's food and other necessary commodities were shipped to Germany. One way to ensure warmth and a full belly was by making nice with a German soldier. 
In a desperate attempt to survive, some French women took on German soldiers as lovers. It return, the soldier ensured the woman's basic needs were met. Not all women had affairs for material gain - some simply slept with German soldiers because they were lonely. Either way, these sexual liaisons produced man…

La Belle Époque

Introduction Marion Cotillard's character in Midnight in Paris wants to live in La Belle Époque France as she believes it to be Paris' Golden Age. She won't get much of an argument from me - although I'd be more inclined to say I'd like to visit (not permanently reside in) La Belle Époque.
In English, La Belle Époque translates to The Beautiful Age and  arose out of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. It spans post-Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) through the onset of WWI (1914). And beautiful it was...well, if you were not poor urban workers, anyway.  The People
The ever-expanding bourgeoisie adopted many of the values and ideals from their Victorian neighbors in the north and their own aristocracy (they were aristocratic wannabes). They valued morality, propriety, and modesty, and spent their leisure time partaking in wholesome activities such as strolling through les jardins du Paris (think Maurice Chevalier in the opening scene of Gigi where he sings his creepy, yet…