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when Paris becomes a caricature

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In “Emily in Paris”, Lily Collins embodies Emily, a dynamic young American who has just arrived in the French capital. His goal ? Bringing its all-American efficiency to the French marketing agency “Savoir”. During the first two seasons, she worked, yes, but above all Emily walked the streets of an imaginary Paris, made pretty alleys and blue skies, berets and clichés, each bigger than the other.

The third season of Netflix’s hit series premieres on December 21, and like previous seasons, there will be no crowded subway trains, no noise, and no traffic. Darren Star’s creation conveys a completely fantasized idea of ​​Paris, which he was not the first to have imagined.

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Over the years, many directors have idealized the French capital. For worse or for better. Animated films, auteur films or blockbusters, a brief overview of all these films which have contributed to making Paris a cliché.

“The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain” by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Who better than Jean-Pierre Jeunet with “Amélie Poulain” transformed Paris forever with sepia filters and romantic-shifted dialogues? Crowned by four Césars in 2002, the feature film which features Audrey Tautou is surely one of the contemporary films which has contributed the most to the poetic idealization of Paris. In “The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain”, Amélie mainly walks around Montmartre, where she works. And if the reviews were mostly positive when the film was released, several still pointed out that the director’s idealization of Paris was problematic, like Serge Kaganski in “Liberation”, May 31, 2001:

“The Paris of Jeunet is carefully ” cleaned up “ of all its ethnic, social, sexual and cultural polysemy. That the Other is pleasant and presentable when he is far away. I will be answered: so what? Jeunet does not claim to represent the Parisian population exactly, his film is a stylized fable, not a documentary. Yes, okay, Jeunet has the right to style Paris as he sees fit; and we also have the right to find its stylization questionable, withdrawn into an old-fashioned and narrow idea of ​​France and totally disconnected from any contemporary reality. »

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“A Monster in Paris” by Eric Bergeron

Eric Bergeron’s animated film shows Paris in the 1910s, during the flooding of the Seine. Released in 2011, this feature film reveals the capital in a romantic and above all musical light. With a 100% French cast (Matthieu Chedid and Vanessa Paradis in the title roles), “A Monster in Paris” tells the story of the encounter between a giant grasshopper-like monster, Francoeur, who turns out to have a real talent for singing and guitar, and a cabaret singer named Lucille. Throughout the film, we stroll along the Seine and Montmartre while discovering a Paris with art deco accents. Inspired by the paintings of Alfred Sisley as much as by the fantastic machines of Jules Verne, the film is entirely turned towards the creation of a mystical Paris. Even the font of the title is inspired by a very Parisian lettering: that of Hervé Guimard, which is found on the signs of the Parisian metro entrances.

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“Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen

2011 was definitely a good year for the city of light. In “Midnight in Paris”, by Woody Allen, Gil, an American passing through the capital (played by Owen Wilson) takes a trip back in time every evening, at midnight, to the Paris of the 1920s. He then meets Ernest Hemingway , Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali or Luis Buñuel. And this is how he strolls through a literary and artistic Paris, always nocturnal, and often in the rain, because for Gil, nothing is more beautiful than Paris in the rain. The latter lives in a fantasy of Paris, and he explains it in the film:

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How could an artist propose a book, a symphony or a sculpture capable of competing with a big city? Look around you, there is not a street, not an avenue that is not an artistic expression… “.

We want to say that yes, in Paris, there are many streets and avenues that are not artistic expressions. But let’s say that this is the magic of cinema.

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“Love Songs” by Christophe Honoré

What could be more Parisian than Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier directed by Christophe Honoré? In “Les Chansons d’amour”, released in 2007, the director films an idealized but original Paris. The action takes place in the 10th arrondissement, less represented in the cinema and therefore (a little) less caricatural. Ode to the Place de la Bastille, one of the songs in the film poetizes this stronghold of the capital, and raves about the beauty of Paris in the rain:

“It’s raining ropes on the genie/From the Place de la Bastille/We walk under a gray sky/Pierced by thousands of needles/It’s raining ropes on the genie/The heavy clouds give way/From the water for the people of Paris/For the naked angel on the column »

But since for once, a director is talking about places other than Montmartre or Pigalle, let’s grant Christophe Honoré that “Les Chansons d’amour” is a little less cliché than the other films on this list. Indeed, he idealizes Paris less than its inhabitants, melancholic and sentimental.

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“Ratatouille” by Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava

In “Ratatouille” we celebrate French gastronomy, but above all Parisian cuisine and its great restaurants. In Pixar’s feature film, the capital is more symbolic than a real representation of Paris in 2007, when the film was released. An idealized atmosphere wanted by the animation team, confides Sharon Calahan, the director of photography, in the bonuses of the film:

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“When we went to Paris, it was sunny, but the light was silvery and diffused, everything felt soft, warm and welcoming. I wanted to find that in our film. The film is not lit with strong colored light and harsh shadows as is usually the case, because I really wanted to celebrate this particular color that you only find in Paris. »

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As for caricaturing Paris, we could also have cited the last season of “Sex and the City” directed (yes, well) by Darren Star, with his love scenes on the bridges of Paris; or chance encounters in the metro in “Jeanne and the Great Boy”, by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau; or even the Paris gangster of Jean-Luc Godard in “A bout de souffle”.

But the star of cartoons in 2022 remains “Emily in Paris”. And one thing is certain, it is that even if Emily sports in this third season a very Parisian fringe, she still has not grasped the true essence of the capital.

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