Friday, September 24, 2010

Paris on film, Part Four: Entr’acte

So far, we’ve examined Hollywood perspectives on the French capital. These two anthology films provide a palate-cleansing transition to the Gallic sensibility – Parisian films made by Parisians.

In reverse chronological order:

Paris, Je T’Aime

18 short films, 22 directors, including the Coens, Alfonso Cuaron, Alain Chomet, Olivier Assayas . . . . Remarkably, it’s good! Striking, taut vignettes that veer from the comic to the tragic and make good use of the different arrondisements both in terms of setting and mood. Besides, when are you ever going to see Alexander Payne play the ghost of Oscar Wilde again?

Six in Paris

Much harder to find, and more problematic to watch. The six are Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer and Jean Rouch. According to Sean Axmaker’s introduction on, the project was pushed forward by actor/producer/director Barbet Schroeder (who acts in one sequence here and shows up in a sequence of “Paris, Je T’Aime 40 years later). The technological revolution of 16mm cameras with direct sound allowed this sextet of New Wave artists to unlock the camera from the tripod and have some fun, resulting in short narratives that, once again, span the humorous and the tragic.

What distinguishes “Six in Paris” from its latter bookend is the lack of awe. In it, the locales serve the story, do not draw attention to themselves (save for a brief, searing remark that no one goes to the Arc D’Triomphe save for tourists and politicians). For native filmmakers, Paris is at once much more and much less than myth – it’s home.

Next: Paris, the auteurs’ playground

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