Hi hi, everyone! I’m still in Paris happily annoying every poor Parisian with my crappy French and I’m sure drinking too much wine and too many lattes! As I was preparing for this trip I thought back to when I started to want to travel to Paris.
Of course, everyone wants to go to Paris, right? But why? What inspires us to go? Was it one too many readings of Madeleine? Was it seeing pictures of the Eiffel tower as a child and wondering what that was? If you were like me, it was because you saw a certain movie and were enchanted.
That is how I felt when I saw the following movies (and one extremely awesome bonus). Now, I could get all fancy pants French film studies on all ya’ll referencing Au Revoirs les Enfants, 400 Blows, The Grand Illusion, Un Chien Andalou, and Belle de Jour—and they are great movies—but that’s not how I roll. I roll in popcorn pop culture goofy giddy stuff that just makes me happy. I like to think I’m a mix of high brow and low brow, so that is what this list is going to feature.
I hope they inspire you to make a trip to Paris yourself one day! Or at least to watch one of these movies. So, here they are:
1.) AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
As you know, I love MGM musicals and Gene Kelly, so add Paris and you had me at Bonjour! Truly such a beautiful musical and love letter to Paris. And mythical Paris, but still Paris. Even though the majority of scenes happened on the back lot of Hollywood. And remember that crazy black and white party they had? That has to be one of the top ten best parties on film ever. Right up there with the party Holly Golightly held in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Leslie Caron rocked the heck out of this film and was the perfect match to Gene Kelly—especially in that great George Gershwin musical number which I think is one of the best pieces of film ever. EVER.
2.) LA BOUM!
I remember watching this in eighth grade French class and loving every flipping minute of it. The way the teens wore their scarves. The amazing relationship the main character has with her grandmother. Imagine being a young teen with Paris as your favorite make-out place. Does it get any better than that? Je pense que non!
3. THE RED BALLOON
I remember watching this film in my first French class and of course was immediately charmed by it. Although life looked pretty tough for the main character, whose only joy came from a red balloon. Later in a film studies course in college we dissected the film and all of the underlying themes of hope floating, despair, etc. But still I always smile when I think about the blue and red balloon meeting. Sigh!
4) YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT
I think this film kicks Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s behind! So much lighter and sweeter and just delicious!
It’s like MGM and sixties France made out and had a baby! I’d so date this baby! I mean, the colors and dancing. The movie even has GENE KELLY in it!
And could we talk about the outfits too?
I don’t know about you, but looking at this image—you just don’t get American teenagers. They seem so very very French to me! Oh, it is wonderful!
5.) BETTER OFF DEAD
I know. This really has no right being on this list. it’s not based in Paris and I don’t think a single word is spoken in French. The movie is genius for many things. But there is this wonderful scene where the mother doesn’t even attempt to know French and just says, “frawnch” for French. So darn funny! To this day I have a group of friends that happily just banter back and forth lines from this movie (as well as other bad eighties movies watched at slumber party movies) that we actually started a movie blog about it.
Here is the dinner clip.
Doesn’t this make you want to watch the whole movie and hear that paper boy say, “I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!” Classic!
And lastly a confession. One of my favorite glimpses of Paris was actually on TV—from (grimace) The Facts of Life Go to Paris. Jo’s Parisian boyfriend was crazy hot, and Blair fell in love with Paris instead of finding true love.
What are your favorite French films? Or favorite French references in any media?