Top 10 Paris Films
I’ve just returned from a holiday to Paris, and before I went I marathoned a lot of films I know that take place in Paris (including Taken, against my better judgement). Here are ten of the best.
Last Tango in Paris
You can’t talk about France without mentioning something a little racy, and Last Tango in Paris is certainly that. The erotic drama follows a steamy and troubled affair between a recent widower from America and a young Parisian woman. The film was widely criticised for its portrayals of sexual violence, and a lot of it ended up being cut before it was released in the US.
Whether you love or hate him as a director, Baz Lurhman’s films are always something of a feast for the senses, and his Parisian musical-come-tragedy Moulin Rouge is potentially his most extravagant to date. Set in the old glory days of Montmartre it’s a visual delight of courtesans, ruffles, elephants and diamonds, and if you allow yourself to get into the spirit of it all then it really is brilliant. The Tango version of “Roxanne” is a particular highlight.
Amelie is one of the most well known and successful French films of recent years, and helped bring delightful star Audrey Tautou into the limelight. She plays Amelie, a slightly odd but well meaning waitress in Montmartre. It’s one of the most fun and inventive romances of recent years.
More grim than the Paris we’re used to seeing on film, none the less this Liam Neeson actioner is actually pretty good. The somewhat chaotic Parisian roads make an ideal setting for the numerous car chases, and the seedy back streets in the less touristy areas fit in well, too. That being said, the scariest aspect of the film is still without question Neeson’s attempt at an American accent. I don’t think he tried at all.
Though it is set in Paris, almost the entirety of Michael Haneke’s brutal but brilliant Amour takes place inside one stifling apartment. It won the 2012 Palme D’or award at Cannes, and it’s easy to see why as it’s one of the most affecting films I’ve ever seen. A no-holds-barred look at the grim truths of aging, Haneke manages to make a hugely affecting piece of cinema without laying on much in the way of sentimentality. One of those films that’s really really good, yet you never actually want to watch it again.
I rarely make it through a list post without bringing Disney into proceedings, and today will be no exception. The Aristocats was the last project approved by Walt before he passed away, and it follows a group of pampered cats who are kidnapped by a Butler after a dispute over their owner’s will. They wind up in Paris meeting Scat Cat and his friends and getting involved in some excellent musical numbers. “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” is one of the best Disney songs, hands down.
I know Casablanca is in Morocco and therefore it doesn’t seem all that relevant to bring up a City in France, but there are flashbacks back to a romance in Paris, and Casablanca has provided us with some of the most quotable film lines of all time and “We’ll always have Paris” is definitely up there.
Funny Face follows a book shop assistant who becomes a reluctant model and ends up on a fashion jaunt in Paris. Aside from the fact that we’re expected to believe that Audrey Hepburn is anything other than one of the most beautiful women to ever exist (funny face? Her?!) the film is really, really fun. It takes a look at all of the cities main sights, especially in the song “Bonjour Paris.” Though it’s lesser known Kay Thompson who steals the film, especially with the memorable “Think Pink.”
It’s not an easy thing to describe Holy Motors. Set on the streets of Paris, it seems to follow an actor and his driver around Paris as she takes him to various jobs delivering different performances, only there never seems to be any cameras actually following him. Dennis Lavant is excellent in the lead role, playing with relish a range of characters including an old woman beggar, one half of a motion capture sex scene, a man on his death bed and a weird old man known as ‘Monsieur Merde’ (That’s Mr. Shit to you and I) who likes to eat flowers and kidnap Eva Mendes. Weird, but totally wonderful if you accept you’ll never have a clue what’s going on.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
There have been countless adaptations of Victor Hugo’s grim novel (including a weird, heavily edited and altered Disney version) but it’s William Dieterle’s 1939 version that I’ve chosen. Starring Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda, the gypsy wrongly accused of murder, it’s one of the better tellings of the story of the strange resident in one of Paris’s most famous landmarks.