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These 10 Streaming Films Will Make You Love Paris Even More

These 10 Streaming Films Will Make You Love Paris Even More: Mars Distribution

Mars Distribution

That one of my first responses to the attacks in Paris last week was to turn toward movies, both obscure and classic, that take place in the city makes a small amount of sense. Who could really blame me in wanting to escape the senseless horror by retreating into a safer, cozier fiction? But there was more to it than that.

I learned about Paris through movies more than anything else. Years before I visited, I fell in love with the fictional version of the city, perpetually filled with quirky characters at once more frenetic and more wise than I was, and doubtlessly more beautiful. (These were, after all, the movies.) Even when I finally did get there, the drama of my life at the time — wandering the streets as a heartbroken youth, which is only fitting — ran parallel to the movies replaying scenes in my head. Paris, more than anywhere else in the world, is forever intertwined in my brain with cinema.

So I started thinking of movies that turn Paris into a character instead of just a setting — movies that let the city breathe more easily than the reality of the moment, while connecting me to the real-world place again in the faux-intimacy that cinema can create. It does no good in any practical terms, but here are ten movies that let Paris appear as magical, strange and wonderful as it really is.


JULES ET JIM (1962)
Available on Hulu
Paris is just one of multiple settings in Francois Truffaut’s New Wave masterpiece, but the whole thing feels Parisian in some inexplicable yet essential way: restless, romantic and melancholy all at the same time. It helps that the movie wouldn’t exist if Truffaut hadn’t famously picked up Henri-Pierre Roché’s novel on the banks of the Seine.


BELLE DE JOUR (1967)
Available on Hulu
Another classic of French cinema beloved by all, Luis Brūnel’s tale of a young woman who moonlights as a prostitute while her husband is at work is at once humorous, complex and effortlessly sexy — as any movie with Catherine Deneuve in the lead role is likely to be.


NIGHT ON EARTH (1991)
Available on Hulu
Upon the release of Jim Jarmusch’s international round-robin of stories about the relationships between cab drivers and customers, much was made of the LA segment, which features Winona Ryder and Gena Rowlands. But Béatrice Dalle and Isaach De Bankolé’s portion, about cultural differences and the importance (or lack thereof) of sight, is a winner. Especially because of the great/terrible punchline.


THREE COLOURS: BLUE (1993)
Available on Hulu
This was the first movie I turned to last week. A meditation on grief — Juliette Binoche plays a woman who loses her husband and daughter in a car accident — Blue goes from harrowing to uplifting, without being overly cosy or trite in the process. Complicated, beautiful and fascinatingly oblique.


AMÉLIE (2001)
Available on Netflix
The Paris in this movie is, of course, the most cartoonish of all of the versions offered in this list — although Populaire comes close — but that doesn’t make it any less real, in its own way. Sure, there’s no pixie-ish Audrey Tautou making the lives of all around her better unknowingly (sadly), but there’s nonetheless something instantly recognizable about the world she inhabits onscreen.


PARIS, JE T'AIME (2006)
Available on Hulu
A second anthology, but this time each story takes place inside Paris’s confines, with an international cast and crew — the Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuarón and Sylvain Chomet directed segments — telling stories set in different parts of the city, ranging from comedy to tragedy and almost everything in between. You’ll be surprised that Wes Craven is such a softie.


CAFE DE FLORE (2011)
Available on Netflix
Two parallel stories unfold at the same time in this relationship drama from writer and director Jean-Marc Vallée. In contemporary Canada, a man is torn between his current girlfriend and his ex-wife, while in 1960s Paris, a single mother has to deal with her child having a crush on his friend, both of whom have Down syndrome. The stories are connected, but to say more would ruin the experience.


POPULAIRE (2012)
Available on Netflix
As magical and ridiculous as Amélie, Populaire is the rarest of movies: a romantic comedy that will have you believing that typing speeds can make all the difference in the world. It’ll also make you wish that the versions of 1959 Paris and New York on show were real and could be visited at any time, but that’s almost beside the point.


LA MAISON DE LA RADIO (2013)
Available on Netflix
And now for something not completely different, but certainly different enough — a documentary about a day in the life of Radio France, the French equivalent of NPR. (Well, more like the BBC, but that’s like the British version of NPR kind of; it’s complicated.) It’ll likely make you want to listen in, if only you spoke French.


GIRLHOOD (2014)
Available on Netflix
Set in the suburbs of Paris, Girlhood is a complex, fascinating look at race, class and gender in contemporary France, with a 16-year-old girl falling in with a local gang and her life changing in ways she’s not even aware of. It’s difficult viewing, but all the more important for that.


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