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Associated Press
Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder's "Love in the Afternoon."

5 Films Set in Paris

September 24, 2008
by Michael Koegel
Experience Paris without ever leaving your sofa: watch these five films set in the City of Light. Pass the freedom fries, s'il vous plaît! Ooh la la!

Breathless

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Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1960 French New Wave film stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg as a couple running from the law on the mean streets of Paris. Like a French “Bonnie and Clyde,” the duo’s romance is spurred on by their petty crime spree. Nobody ever looked sexier smoking a cigarette than Belmondo. Nobody.

Goddard and François Truffaut ushered in the French New Wave with films like “Breathless” and “Jules et Jim.” Full of jump cuts and handheld camera shots, their black-and-white films influenced moviemaking across the globe.

Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese all list the French New Wave as influences on their work, as does Bob Rafelson, the creator of the 60s TV show “The Monkees.”

Love in the Afternoon

Billy Wilder's 1957 romantic comedy “Love in the Afternoon” stars Gary Cooper as a wealthy playboy and Audrey Hepburn as a cellist intrigued by her detective father’s cases. When Hepburn learns that Cooper’s life might be endangered by one of her father’s clients, she goes undercover to try to warn him. Romance ensues. Much of the film was shot at the Ritz, and there are plenty of views of the Place Vendôme out the window. Hepburn’s father is played by Maurice Chevalier, solidifying the film’s French pedigree.

Audrey Hepburn starred in a string of other hit films shot in France, including “Funny Face,” “Paris When it Sizzles,” “Charade,” “How to Steal a Million,” and “Two for the Road,” and so she clearly knew her way around the 8th Arrondissement. Her charitable work for UNICEF and the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund has raised millions of dollars for children in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Her last film was Stephen Spielberg’s “Always.” Hepburn died of colon cancer in 1993.

Marie Antoinette

Sophia Coppola’s first film, “Lost in Translation,” was about a newly married, privileged young woman abandoned in a strange land. “Marie Antoinette” (2006) could be subtitled “Lost in Versailles”; the theme remains the same but the environment is decidedly different. Coppola seems to have gotten unfettered access to Versailles. The restless young queen wanders through the Hall of Mirrors and plays peasant girl in the grounds outside of the Grand Trianon, which makes for fascinating viewing.

Coppola took the phrase “Let them eat cake” very seriously in this sympathetic film of the bored, ill-fated queen, played by Kirsten Dunst. Everything in “Marie Antoinette” looks as if it was spun from sugar and tumbled off the top of a wedding cake, including the sets and the costumes. Check out her shoes! The anachronistic soundtrack continues in the same sweet vein, with songs like Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy.” This film is a virtual feast.

Amélie

Set in Montmartre, “Amélie” or “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” (2001) stars Audrey Tautou, a French actress who was touted at the time as “the new Audrey Hepburn.” Unfortunately, her next big film, at least in the States, was “The Da Vinci Code,” which ended all of that talk. But “Amélie” is a delightfully eccentric film. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Delicatessen”) and written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, Tautou plays a quirky, shy waitress who changes the lives of the people around her.

The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations offers photos of sites where “Amélie” was shot. Among the links is one to the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, where that rather weird and unfortunate thing happens to Amélie’s mother.

Paris, Je T’aime

And for those of you with short attention spans, there’s “Paris, Je T’aime,” a 2006 compilation of short films by the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven and others.
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