Paris, December 28, 1895 – the brothers August and Louis Lumière publicly show a projected moving picture as a short film. That day was the very beginning of the movie industry and movies as we would come to know them. Since that time, Paris has had a long history at the center of the international movie industry.
Parisians love their movies. So much so that Paris has more movie theaters per person than anywhere in the world. Unless you are a diehard film addict and cinema trivia buff, do not get an argument with a Parisian about film details. They will win. The French take cinema seriously and seemingly know endless details about films. Not just the names of movies, but the names of actors, directors and producers, filming locations and nearly any other minutia you may want to know about any movie.
The following movies are only a few that have been filmed in Paris. The city is so glorious, everyone wants to be there, even while working.
Paris native Jean-Luc Godard directs this 1960 classic that revolutionized filmmaking. Godard once said, “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl,” and this movie has both. It is the story of a dangerous criminal trying to avoid prison by hiding out in Paris with an American girl he met a few weeks earlier. The plot twists are shot in low light and filmed with a hand-held camera. Along with the subject, this movie presented a bold and original style that was a huge break from traditional filmmaking up to that time. An important example of French New Wave cinema. Black and white with English subtitles. (click image to order from Amazon)
La Femme Nikita
Want a second chance in life as an assassin after murdering a policeman and being addicted to drugs? Then this is the movie for you. Written and directed by Luc Besson, this thriller is packed with action as the plot unfolds. During the thrills, a simultaneous story plays out of Nikita as the sweet and beautiful girlfriend of a drugstore worker who can tell him nothing of her other life. English subtitles. (click image to order from Amazon)
The Da Vinci Code
The movie adaptation of the book stars Tom Hanks and is directed by Ron Howard. Co-star Audrey Tautou is the beautiful French actress speaking in English with a lovely French accent. Wonderful scenery around Paris and even inside the Louvre! See the description of the book, but The Da Vinci Code is a fun thriller/mystery whether or not you believe in the alleged cover up by Roman Catholic Church.
The Bourne Identity
The 2002 film adaptation of the novel of the same name. Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, the spy who is at the center of this edge-of-the-seat thriller with many scenes set in Paris. See the description of the book, but get ready for fast action when watching this suspense-filled movie.
Martin Scorsese’s movie based on the transcendent tale written by Brian Selznick in the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Hugo is an orphaned boy who lives inside the walls of a Paris train station. As he tends to the clocks in the station, he also hides a broken automaton and a notebook left to him by his father. Isabelle, a toymaker’s goddaughter, finds Hugo and they become friends. Hugo’s quest to revive the automaton and the history of Isabelle’s godfather are intertwined in a beautiful movie.
Beautiful music, beautiful love story, psychedelic scenery and staging and all set right smack in the middle of Montmartre, Paris. Ewan McGregor as Christian types away on a manuscript in a garret under a Mansard roof with a window overlooking Paris. Nicole Kidman as Satine lives in an elephant seemingly in the clouds above Paris. It is sheer spectacle with mind-blowing imagery that created a new kind of movie. And, Paris at the beginning of the 1900s is at its core. David Bowie’s song is covered by Beck (plus a number of crazy mashups of melodies and lyrics), the Moulin Rouge is beyond belief and it is just plain stupendous.
An American in Paris
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron are under the direction of Vincente Minelli in this 1951 dancing tour de force! Even though the story of Gene Kelly being torn between love and career leaves a little to be desired, the extraordinary stepping makes this movie a must see. The dancing is inspiring and the movie is fun – and set in Paris!!! (Or, on a Hollywood set that looks like Paris.) You will know the George and Ira Gershwin songs from the beginning notes. Winner of 6 Academy Awards! It will make your heart smile. A musical.
Well, this movie has Audrey Hepburn in it for style, Cary Grant for comedy (and of course, for style), and it is set in Paris for beautiful scenery. How can you not watch it right now??? Released in 1963, this romantic-comedy-mystery-whodunit has great dialogue between the stars while they try to evade Hepburn’s menacing pursuers. International intrigue and style – a great combination – in a movie that has been called the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made.
“Paris is always a good idea.” Is there a better line that could be written? Nothing in this black and white movie is set in Paris, but Billy Wilder directs the movie that stars Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. Supposedly, Bogey, who plays Linus Larrabee, was unhappy during all of the filming – doesn’t look like it and who could be with Audrey Hepburn hanging around?? Back to the movie: Sabrina, played by the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, goes off to Paris for 2 years of culinary school, one to learn to cook, and two, to forget playboy David Larrabee. She returns an elegant and astonishing young woman who wows anyone who lays eyes on her. Sabrina doesn’t forget David, but in the end, learns that she was looking for real love in absolutely the worst place.
The 1958 film winning 9 Academy Awards set in… where else… Paris! Vincente Minnelli directs Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, Eva Gabor and others in the story of a courtesan and wealthy Parisian. At first the story set in 1900 is only platonic, then, well… you know what happens next. It is a lively musical said to the be the last great musical of the MGM studio. Worth a watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.