Paris in Movies
Paris Movie Walks identifies locations from about 100 Hollywood films. I had always thought I had pretty much covered virtually all Hollywood movies about Paris, give or take the odd roll of celluloid that is quietly decomposing somewhere in a MGM storage room. But far from it:
Since 1900, Hollywood has produced approximately 800 films that were set in Paris. 800!
That is one thing I learned from the recently opened exhibition “Paris vu par Hollywood” which will be shown in Paris City Hall until 15 December 2012 (entrance free, Mondays through Saturdays from 10 to 7).
Another thing is this great quote from the director Ernst Lubitsch who set more than a dozen movies in Paris without ever bringing one of his cameras there.
“There is Paramount-Paris and MGM-Paris, and of course the real Paris. Paramount’s is the most Parisian of all.”
I want to kick myself for not having found that quote myself, before writing the book – I certainly would have used it.
Or, better still, I would have used the version of the New York Times article about the exhibit:
“I’ve been to Paris, France, and I’ve been to Paris Paramount, Lubitsch said – Paris Paramount is better.”
(The NY Times article was also kind enough to mention my book Paris Movie Walks.)
Most of the 800 films set in Paris, however (as you may suspect from the Lubitsch quote), were “set” in Paris as much as Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale is set in Bohemia (a country, according to the Bard, with a coastline and a desert).
These films were shot in the 1920s and 1930s when theatrical convention was still alive and viewers did not require technically complex back projections to suspend their disbelief – if the director said that this was Paris, then Paris it was. (Reading a roll call of “Parisian” Hollywood films, also in the exhibit, I was able to establish, with a certain relief, that I had not missed anything major.)
The exhibit features clips from about 70 movies and much other stuff besides: from the Audrey Hepburn’s bolero jacket made for her by Hubert de Givenchy for Love in the Afternoon (1957) to studies for the pastry served in Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette (2006) and Mary Pickford’s lunch receipt from the restaurant at the Hotel Ritz.
There are also storyboards for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and, perhaps the stars of the entire show, statues made by the sculptor Dante Ferreti for Martin Scorsese’s recent Academy-Award-winning movie Hugo Cabret.
There is quite a lot to discover, both about films that you will be familiar with and about films that you had never heard of: movie poster, costumes and stills – and the movies themselves, of course.
Having seen in the clip from Absinthe (1913) to what levels of depravity alcohol can drive you, you will be think twice about ordering wine for your dinner, that’s for sure.
And when you come out of the show, you can immediately start to identify the movie locations around you: there is the Pont d’Arcole across the Seine, as seen in Something’s Gotta Give … there is the Pont des Arts on your left, as seen in many a movie kiss …
… so why not just walk home instead of taking the Metro to your chosen Paris apartment?