Paris in July 2012

Paris in July was one of the events I enjoyed the most last year and I’m really glad that Karen from Book Bath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea are organizing it again.

The rules are very simple. If you’d like to join all you have to do is review a French book or movie or write about something French. Music, art, cuisine. Anything you like. It’s not a challenge so you don’t need to commit to anything. Details can be found here Book Bath and here Thyme for Tea and here is the sign up.

I’ve been reading quite a lot of French books recently which I haven’t even reviewed yet, so this is certainly something I’m going to do.

While we are free to choose any French books we like, I will focus on books set in Paris. Possible choices are

Zola’s The Belly of Paris – Le ventre de Paris

Fred Vargas’ Have Mercy On Us AllPars vite et reviens tard. You cannot go wrong with Fred Vargas. She is one of the best crime writers writing today. If you haven’t read her yet, just pick any of her books.

Tatiana de Rosnay’s The House I LovedRose. While she is known as a French writer, this is one of the books she has written in English. It’s a historical novel set in 19th century Paris during the time when the city was undergoing major changes.

I hope to review a movie as well but I’m not sure yet which one it will be. Maybe it’s time to re-watch the movie which is possibly my favourite French film.

I know I will not be able to be as active as last year as July is also Spanish Literature Month.

Are you going to join? Do you already know what you will read?

Paris – A Movie by Cédric Klapisch (2008)

I watched this movie as part of Book Bath‘s and Thyme for Tea‘s event Paris in July.

Paris is an absolutely charming movie and I’m sure it will appeal to many people because it combines a good story with interesting character portraits, wonderful pictures of Paris and a great cast (Juliette Binoche, Mélanie Laurent, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel and Romain Duris). I feel really homesick now.  All the places to which I used to go while I lived in Paris can be seen: La Place de La Sorbonne, the Jardin du Palais Royal, the Bibliothèque Nationale. But we also see Ménilmontant where I used to live briefly after I had finished school.

Paris tells one main story, different smaller side stories branch out from it. The people of the main and the side story are only connected because they live in the same town and their paths cross but they don’t get to know each other. Parallel storylines don’t always work well but in this movie they complete each other and the outcome is nicely rounded. The movie has really only one flaw, a brief “All-you-need-is-love”-moment towards the end of the film. Watching this short part was like biting on a lump of sugar in an otherwise tasty cake.

The central characters are Pierre (Romain Duris) and Élise (Juliette Binoche). Pierre is a professional dancer whose best friend is his older sister Élise, a fortysomething divorcée with two kids. At the beginning of the movie Pierre is diagnosed with a serious heart disease that means his career as a dancer has come to an end. He is condemned to stay in his apartment and watch life go by. This offers a great opportunity to have him observe people, one of them is the beautiful Laetitia (Mélanie Laurent). Whenever Pierre is alone, walking the streets of Paris, mourning his career, contemplating his possible death, his reflections are accompanied by the music of Erik Satie. I liked that touch a lot.

Élise doesn’t belive in love anymore. She has been disappointed, doesn’t want to risk falling in love. When she goes shopping for her brother to the street market, near where he lives, she meets one of the vendors (Albert Dupontel) and there seems, from the beginning, a possibility for something between them.

Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) is an elderly professor of history. His story was for me the most touching. We learn about it because he falls in love with one of his students, Laetitia who lives in an apartment vis-à-vis of Pierre’s flat and he watches her. Verneuil is insecure but at the same time there is a lot of passion in him that has been stored away for a long time. Falling in love with a student reawakens him and brings out a very different person. There is nothing sleazy in this older man falling in love with a young woman. Unfortunately the beautiful Laetitia is one of those good-looking women who enjoys not only to play with men but who also likes to inflict pain. A nasty piece of work.

I loved the melancholy end of the movie. We  know from the start that there isn’t a lot of hope for Pierre. He needs a transplant and he may or may not survive the surgery. The last scene shows him travel through Paris in a taxi, on his way to the hospital.

Paris is a beautiful and touching movie and a homage to a city. I liked it even better than Paris, Je t’aime which isn’t bad at all either.

Paris in July – 2011 or French Books, Movies, Art and Music

Paris in July is an event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea. I think it should appeal to many as you can contribute almost anything as long as it is about something French (not Paris only).

All you have to do is either read a French book, watch a movie, share a recipe, post something on French art or architecture, write a travel piece or share your favourite French music. It is up to you.

I am, as usual, tempted to contribute many things but July is my busiest month work wise, therefore I’ll try to not put the bar too high. But let me share a few plans.

Books

The July’s book for my Literature and War Readalong is Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima mon amour. I will review the book and the movie.

I’m tempted to read and even re-read some Colette. I have never read her novel La Chatte, it would be a great choice for me. But I might also re-watch Chéri starring Michelle Pfeiffer and finally read the eponymous book as well. Zola’s Le ventre de Paris is also an option especially since there is a certain actuality to the topic as Les Halles, as I knew them all my life, are being torn down at the moment. Now these are just a few choices but my French reading pile is huge, I will certainly find something.

I could also imagine a post on French writers and their black cats.

Movies

I also have quite a little pile of DVDs here. I recently bought a Jean Gabin collection. I already watched Le Quai des Brumes and La Grande Illusion but there are some others that are very good. Another option is watching Les Misérables starring Gérard Depardieu. And I wanted to re watch the movie Paris, je t’aime. Despite it’s title it isn’t very clichéd.

Paris

I wanted to go to Paris in July but my workload will not allow it. Instead of that I might share a few extremely nice books on Paris that I found last year. There are a lot of themed guides around that are really interesting.

Paris: Made by Hand: 50 Shops Where Decorators and Stylists Source the Chic & Unique

Art

My favourite French painter is Gustave Caillebotte. He painted Paris like not many others. I might write in more detail about his work and background.

Music

When I think of French music, the first that comes to my mind is Air. I have all of their CD’s but I’m sure that’s not what people usually have in mind when thinking of French music. I’m also a huge fan of Edith Piaf. And there are many others that I could write about.

I hope this gives you an idea and tempts you as well. If you would like to sign up too here is the link.