In Praise of Paris

Last night i saw In Praise of Love which brought back many memories of my last year in Paris. If Woody Allen makes the city his star in Manhattan, Godard does similarly for Paris. I was surprised and grateful that he seemed to think of the city in the same two ways as me: beautifully lonely and damp. Especially damp. It is raining or has just rained in nearly every scene. For every sunny day, i can think of a week of damp. This pattern started in early November and ended in April sometime. After the first month of rain it was hard to tell if damp was a part of the city or a part of my mood. I went everywhere with my clear plastic umbrella in tow. I was attached to that umbrella unnaturally. It was the first time that i actually wore out an umbrella instead of leaving it somewhere. The rainy night it broke outside my apartment i was in disbelief. I took the thing upstairs and fiddled with the innumerable metal rods that hung from the plastic. One tiny fastener ring had broke and the entire construction had fallen apart. I never knew what a complicated and fragile thing an umbrella was. It took a few weeks of denial, of keeping the thing in a corner of my kitchen, of going back to it several times with determination, until i finally gave up. After, i was surprised that any of these contraptions last longer than a few weeks. As luck would have it, it died in April.

The film also captures a gritty and post-industrial Paris i never knew. There is a certain long scene on the Seine across from a burnt out Renault factory. I won’t comment on the maybe-too-obvious symbolism, but i racked my brain for where this could be. I could name almost every other area pictured. In my 10 months there, i took insanely long walks in what i thought was every neighborhood in the city, but i must have missed some places. When i was there i remember noticing actually the lack of post-industrial spaces which made New York and other cities in the Northeast US distinctive.

Along with the damp, the decrepit, and the lonely, there is a heavy (and boring) rant on the lack of American identity, mostly focused on Steven Spielberg. Yawn. If there is anything i could say i miss the least about being in France it’s the nationalism disguised as anti-Americanism. I tried to not pay attention during those parts. This was easy because, call me slow, but i couldn’t really follow any of the plot of this puppy anyway. It was actually ok because i could snuggle down in the almost empty theater and just enjoy the beauty of the cities on the screen, and make a game out of trying to remember my French. In Prase of Love is slightly more coherent than his King Lear which i saw in Paris last year. But the funny thing was, after the lights came up, there was the exact same exhausted chuckle that came from the handful in the audience in both movies in both cities. Vive la similarity.

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