Musicals, mysteries, and a whole lot of Audrey Hepburn.
Paris has inspired every type of artist over the years, from Impressionist painters to literary giants. But the city perhaps shines the brightest on the big screen, serving as the backdrop to countless movies over the past century. Even before French directors like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut launched a cinematic movement in the 1960s, Hollywood showcased the beauty of Paris in breezy musicals and romances. And since then, we’ve seen the city shine in animated films, white-knuckle thrillers, gritty biopics, and more. Regardless of the genre, one thing’s for sure: The City of Light sure knows how to steal a scene. From Amélie to Ratatouille, here are 35 movies that will transport you to Paris—no plane ticket required
When I think of Paris on film, I think of scenes from Amélie. The quirky 2001 romantic comedy follows the titular character, played by Audrey Tautou, as she flits around her hometown of Paris, observing strangers around her. Though she’s struggling with her own loneliness, she becomes fixated on improving the lives of others, often from afar and with no recognition. The feel-good film was supposedly filmed in over 80 locations throughout the city, so it alone is a whimsical trip through the City of Light. —Megan Spurrell, associate editor
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The genius of Jean-Luc Godard’s hard-boiled dystopian sci-fi flick from 1965 is that it uses the Paris of its day to create a world that feels utterly unlike the place we think of as Paris, then and now. Shooting at night, Godard used the glassy Modernist high-rises of La Défense and other then-new developments on the outskirts of the city to depict the cold, computer-run autocracy of Alphaville, a Brave New World sort of place into which a Humphrey Bogart-ish American detective (played by Eddie Constantine) must go to seek the people’s freedom. The marriage between noir and science fiction that Godard achieved here is one that numerous other filmmakers would seek to replicate, with Ridley Scott in Blade Runner being perhaps the greatest example. —Jesse Ashlock, U.S. editor
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Vivre Sa Vie (“My Life to Live”) is a 1962 French New Wave drama film directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
Nana (Anna Karina), a beautiful Parisian in her early twenties, leaves her husband and infant son hoping to become an actress. Without money, beyond what she earns as a shopgirl, and unable to enter acting, she elects to earn better money as a prostitute. Soon she has a pimp, Raoul, who after an unspecified period agrees to sell Nana to another pimp. During the exchange the pimps argue and Nana is killed in a gun battle. Nana’s short life on film is told in 12 brief episodes each preceded by a written intertitle.
Karina was best known for the string of films she made with Jean-Luc Godard, including A Woman Is a Woman and Pierrot le Fou
Danish-French actor Anna Karina, star of Bande à Part and Pierrot le Fou and collaborator with New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, has died of cancer at the age of 79, her agent said.
Karina, who epitomised 1960s chic with her elfin features and big kohl-rimmed blue eyes, starred in seven films made by her ex-husband Godard, including Alphaville.
“Anna died yesterday in a Paris hospital of the effects of cancer,” her agent Laurent Balandras told AFP, adding that she passed away in the company of her fourth husband, American director Dennis Berry.
“Today, French cinema has been orphaned. It has lost one of its legends,” culture minister Franck Riester tweeted.
Karina was still a teenager when she hitchhiked to Paris from her native Denmark to try to become an actress. She developed a successful modelling career before being spotted by Godard while walking along the Champs-Elysees. Godard offered her a nude scene in Breathless, his first film, but she refused.
They were a couple when, at barely 21, she won best actress at the Berlin film festival for his 1961 film A Woman is a Woman. They divorced in 1965. “We loved each other a lot,” Karina told AFP in an interview in Paris in March 2018. “But it was complicated to live with him,” she added.
“He was someone who could say to you, ‘I am going to get some cigarettes’ and come back three weeks later.”
She later went behind the camera to make Vivre Ensemble, a romance between a history teacher and a free spirited young woman that ends in drugs and domestic violence.
Karina also had some success as a singer, recording Sous Le Soleil Exactement with Serge Gainsbourg.
Elsa Court unpicks the cinematic relationship between Agnès Varda and Jean-Luc Godard. With her new film, Faces, Places, in UK cinemas soon, and a retrospective currently on screen at the BFI Southbank, a reassessment of the often marginalised Varda feels more vital than ever
”L’art du cinema consiste à faire faire de jolies choses à de jolies femmes” – the art of cinema consists in having pretty women do pretty things. This quote, from Francois Truffaut, was how I chose to open my lecture – the last of four taught on the directors of the French New Wave at the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University last autumn – on Agnès Varda. I had decided to save Varda for last, and Truffaut’s quote, frequently remembered in the wealth of critical writing on the French New Wave, seemed to me a good entrée en matière to discussing the postfeminist narrative of Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962).
So far into the course, I had approached the movement according to its standard historical – and therefore predominantly male – perspective, placing the films of Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Alain Resnais within their cultural context in postwar France, stressing the way in which the young, anti-orthodox filmmakers simultaneously called for a reassessment of cinema as art and for a relaxing of the rules of filmmaking. By the end of the day, I had yet to discuss the New Wave’s inclusion of women and its representations of gender relations, which jarred with the movement’s professed radical attitudes towards both film and the changing landscape of France’s society and culture. My lecture on Varda deliberately approached her work through the perspective of her uniquely playful, even generous redressing of the codes of female representation within the movement and in French cinema in the broader sense. Continue reading “Behind Jean-Luc Godard’s Shades: Agnès Varda’s Ways Of Seeing”