Un, deux, trois, action! Countdown to Paris
In preparation for our trip to Paris this Friday, I’ve been watching Netflix movies set in the City of Light.
First up was the French film Paris, the Juliette Binoche and Romain Duris movie about the parallel lives of several Parisians. It has the subtlety of a Raymond Carver short story with the the way it weaves the stories together, if only casually. While strong performances by Binoche and Duris carry the film, I’m not sure it did a lot to enlighten me about Parisian life and culture.
So the next choice was obvious — a 180-degree change of pace with From Paris with Love, a John Travolta/Jonathan Rhys Meyers action-thriller-spy flick, which an IMBD.com user succinctly summed up: “This movie is basically about two guys going around blowing stuff up in Paris.” An awful movie on the one hand, but on the other, it did open with an artsy, shaky montage of Meyers driving along The Seine with views of the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Pont Alexandre III, not to mention the beautiful soundtrack opener of Madeleine Peyroux’ J’ai Deux Amours.
The problem is my third choice was Two Days in Paris, a (anti)-romantic comedy written, directed and starring Julie Delpy. The movie was funny and, of the three, really gives you the best sense of place. The problem is Delpy does too good of a job bringing the stereotypes of Parisians as rude, sex-crazed and intolerant and of Americans as clueless and self-absorbed to the screen. I could see myself in Jack’s (Adam Goldberg’s character) shoes, as the witless bystander who doesn’t understand a word that’s being said as Delpy converses with her family, ex-lovers and racist taxi drivers. As it is, Jack is probably better off not knowing. In one scene, as Delpy and Goldberg are kicked out of a cafe, Delpy turns and says that the cafe staff are giving Paris a bad name. Exactly.
All of this got me thinking about what films would make my personal “Top 10 List of Movies Set in Paris,” with the caveat that these are movies I’ve actually seen. So yeah, I’m sure that leaves out a whole bunch of films that are better than the ones on my list.
First the easy calls: Midnight in Paris, Before Sunrise, Last Tango in Paris and Breathless, probably in reverse order. Go ahead and add Paris and Two Days in Paris to the list, and that gives me six solid choices that could arguably make anyone’s top 10.
Now it gets a little tougher. How about Before Sunset, the sequel to Before Sunrise? I liked the follow-up set 10 years later but I wonder if it stands on its own merits, or if there’s lingering nostalgia from the original Richard Linklater film, which also starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? While some critics prefer the sequel (which Hawke and Delpy co-wrote), to me, the original was so bitingly poignant that it was a shame Hawke and Delpy felt compelled to make a sequel. When the first movie ended, you were left wondering whether Hawke and Delpy would keep their promise or whether they’d live a lifetime of wondering how things might have been. That’s what made the scene at the train station so powerful and lasting — we all have our “what if” moments. Why ruin the endless possibilities?
I’ll add Before Sunset to my list, which I realize gives me three Julie Delpy movies.
The final three? I’m down to choosing between the Bourne Identity, Julie & Julia, Da Vinci Code, Taken, Everyone Says I Love You, Frantic, Forget Paris, Prêt-à-Porter and French Kiss. For some of these films, I’ve only got vague recollections of plot lines. Weren’t Forget Paris and French Kiss the same movie, you know, sort of When Harry and Sally Went to Paris?
I’ll play it safe and put Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You and Roman Polanski’s Frantic in the 8th and 9th spots.
But I can’t in good conscience put any of the others onto a top 10 list (Sorry Meryl). Okay, I could put Bourne Identity on there but while some of it was filmed in Paris, it really wasn’t a movie set in Paris.
What to do? I guess I’ll put this list aside until Hugo gets to Netflix.