When film was born, food was there. It was on the walls of the Salon Indien du Grand Café in the heart of Paris in 1895 that the Lumière brothers projected the first motion picture images. Not surprisingly, French cinema would come to share many of the traits of its cuisine. It could be earthy and rural, celebrating a countryside rich in rustic tradition. Or it could be refined, romantic, haughty, born of the passion and artistry that flowed through the Parisian streets.
The four films screening on SBS ONE as part of the Paris Film Season represent the latter. Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris (July 30) caustically reveals the slap-to-the-face that many foreigners experience on their first trip to Paris. It amusingly – and at times hilariously – captures the culture shock that many Anglo cultures undergo when confronted by the passion, insouciance and hedonism of the city.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (Aug 6) is one of the most precise cinematic representations ever filmed of the fantasy world that Paris is to many star-crossed lovers; its reality exists entirely within the hearts of those in love (or those seeking its warmth).
And Paris, Je T’aime (Aug 13) is the ultimate love letter to the Gallic capital, a testament to its temptations, alluring darkness and soaring charms presented in segments by some of the world’s most admired filmmakers ranging from the Coen brothers to Wes Craven.
Shot in black and white, Luc Besson’s Angel-A (Aug 20) is a fantasy drama and romantic comedy about a beautiful woman who becomes the guardian angel of a petty criminal. In this film, we are exposed both to the glamour of Paris and its sleazy underworld.
These are all movies that speak of the modern Paris. They are the cinematic representation of a city that is itself a portmanteau vision – the grand work of hundreds of artists over many centuries who have helped shape the collective perception of Paris as the 'city of love'. And of love in all its forms: of life (Jean Boyer’s ode to artistic ambition, Le Romance de Paris, 1941); of family (Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours, 2008); of youthful exuberance (George Roy Hill’s teenage weepie, A Little Romance, 1979), and of eroticism (Bernardo Bertolucci’smulti-layered Last Tango in Paris, 1972).
Like the best of Gallic gastronomy, Paris on film combines all that we cherish about the romantic notion of love. It’s undefinable, yet crucial to our lives, whether as polished, five-star artistry or raw, dirt-stained purity.
Films mentioned will air on the specified dates at 10pm, SBS ONE.
Photography by Brett Stevens
As seen in Feast magazine, Sept 2011, Issue 1. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.