The 50 best films set in Paris: 1994-2004

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'La Haine' (1995)

'La Haine' (1995)


A quick glance at the list below gives some idea of the schizophrenic state of French cinema at the turn of the century. Though still reeling from the blow dealt by the advent of television in the preceding decades, the industry was beginning to find its feet again, thanks to new funding initiatives and cheaper technology. Yet in Paris, as elsewhere in the country, the fresh independent talent failed to cohere into a movement akin to the New Wave of the 60s.

Instead, Parisians were treated to wildly differing portrayals of their city, some of which reinforced certain stereotypes – the romanticism of Linklater’s ‘Before Sunset’, the belle époque hedonism of Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ – and some of which drew attention to social segregation within the city – Kassovitz’s ‘La Haine’, Richet’s ‘Ma 6-T va crack-er’. Those films that made it big abroad (‘Amelie’, ‘Les Triplettes de Belleville’) tended toward a romantic escapism that masked Paris’s new taste for gritty social realism.

31

La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

Twenty-four hours in the Paris projects: an Arab boy is critically wounded in hospital, gut-shot, and a police revolver has found its way into the hands of a young Jewish skinhead, Vinz (Cassel), who vows to even the score if his pal dies. Vinz hangs out with Hubert (Koundé) and Saïd (Taghmaoui). They razz each other about films, cartoons, nothing in particular, but always the gun hovers over them like a death sentence...

32

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Arguably the quintessential subtitled film for people who don’t like subtitled films (it’d be a dust-up between this and ‘Cinema Paradiso’), Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s rose-tinted Parisian romance is wheeled out once more to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Likely to be the role for which actress Audrey Tautou will be remembered until her dying day, the film is all the more interesting for remaining an eccentric one-of-a-kind that feels every bit the product of...

33

Va Savoir (Jacques Rivette, 2001)

Rivette revisits familiar ground with this leisurely tale of romantic intrigue and possibly dark deeds among members of a theatrical troupe and their various acquaintances, but while it certainly lacks the edge of Paris Nous Appartient, it nevertheless exerts immense charm. Balibar is the Parisian diva returning after three years in Italy in a production of Pirandello's Come tu mi vuoi; Castellitto is her lover, leading man and manager...

34

Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)

Another post-modern mix of myth, musical, comedy, romance and unfettered pastiche from the impressively inventive Luhrmann, here ransacking pop culture's iconographic archives - rather than the real Paris of 1900 - to mount a hyperkinetic update of the Orpheus myth. Naive, lovelorn writer/composer Christian (McGregor) is taken up by bohemians like Toulouse-Lautrec to put on a show at the scandalous showplace of the title...

35

Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)

Irreversible pitches you straight into the abyss, revealing Cassel pounded to a pulp and his assailant's head staved in with a fire extinguisher; then it swivels into the past, negotiating the real-time agony of Bellucci being raped in an underpass, regressing ever backwards into the chaste light of earlier that day. Rest assured it all ends happily ever before. The title doesn't merely toy with the idea of undoing time, corruption, ruin and such shackles...

36

The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)

Bertolucci's engrossing, elegant film is a seductive adaptation by Gilbert Adair of his novel The Holy Innocents. In Paris, as a student in the spring of 1968, Matthew (Pitt) is a young American usually to be found glued to the smoke-stained silver screen at the Palais de Chaillot. There, during a demo against the government's firing of Henri Langlois as head of the Cinémathèque, he meets and falls in with Isabelle (Green) and Théo (Garrel)...

37

Les Triplettes de Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)

The new century is shaping up to be a fine time for world animation, not least for child's eye features packed with the old fashioned virtues of fantasy, adventure, ingenuity and derring-do - and more or less faithful to traditional cel-animation aesthetics. Miyakazi's Spirited Away may have the scale and sweep to josh with Pixar's Finding Nemo, but clock the Francophone 'toons: Senegalese fair tale Kirikou and the Sorceress, the Tintin-esque Bécassine...

38

L'Esquive (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2003)

At first, Kechiche’s follow-up to the admirable ‘La Faute à Voltaire’ looks set to be a fairly routine account of life in the Maghrebi hood, with 15-year-old Krimo mooning over Lydia while his ex insists to any kid who’ll listen that they haven’t in fact split up. But what makes it all so interesting is that Lydia’s practising a Marivaux play, so Krimo – against all expectations, including his own...

39

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 1994)

It looks like a walk in the park – and a coffee stop, and a float down the Seine – but Linklater’s magic-hour impromptu lights up passions and possibilities most films don’t dream of. A more seasoned follow-up to ‘Before Sunrise’, in which Ethan Hawke’s rambling young American and Julie Delpy’s French student waxed romantic over one charmed night in Vienna, it’s some companion piece: a modest resumption of a love story...

40

Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005)

Garrel’s leisurely, bittersweet revisitation of May ‘68 and its discontents, which won him the directing prize at Venice, is something of a pensive answer-song to Bertolucci’s silly sexfest ‘The Dreamers’, especially in casting one of its stars – who just happens to be Garrel’s lookalike son, Louis – in the lead role. Perhaps a temporary moratorium on les événements can be declared for cineastes d’un certain age...


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