June 30, 2012

Paris is always a good idea!

Having just subscribed to Netflix for our  #frenchfilmchat on Twitter, I have also had the pleasure of revisiting the films of my favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn. Of course, I absolutely love Breakfast at Tiffany's and Roman Holiday, but I never realized how many of Audrey Hepburn's other movies were set (and filmed) in Paris - 9 to be exact!  Like Audrey, I love exploring Paris, though unfortunately, not swathed in Givenchy couture, sparkling in Cartier diamonds, or arm-in-arm with Carey Grant, Peter O'Toole, Fred Astaire, or Gary Cooper.

My first memory of Audrey in Paris was in Sabrina (1954). Sabrina Fairchild is the daughter of a chauffer catering to a wealthy New York family. Sabrina's unrequited love for David (William Holden), the younger of the Larrabee brothers, goes unnoticed until she returns from a two-years in Paris. The scenes depicting Sabrina's stay in Paris are clichéd, complete with romantic vistas and Piaf's La Vie en Rose, but none of the movie was actually filmed on location in Paris. Nonetheless, the film emphasizes the idea that Paris is transformative: "Paris isn't about changing planes; it's about changing your outlook!" Sabrina leaves Long Island the invisible daughter of the Larrabee driver and returns the object of not only David's affection, but of his frosty older brother, Linus (Humphrey Bogart), as well.  Who can forget Sabrina's/Audrey's affirmation that "Paris is always a good idea"?

My next visit to Paris with Audrey was in the 1957 film, Funny Face. This time, Audrey plays Jo Stockton, a Greenwich Village book shop clerk, whose beautiful yet intellectual look lands her a modeling job in Paris. Despite Jo's belief that modeling is "chichi and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics," she accepts the offer to go to Paris to associate with her idol, Professor Flostre, founder of empathecialism (a funny, beatnik-era philosophy). Call me girly, but I love the make-over scenes and photo shoots, especially the scene in the Louvre with Audrey Hepburn juxtaposed against the Nike of Samothrace. I don't know which is more beautiful and graceful, the Winged Victory or Audrey, floating down the stairs in her red Givenchy gown! Don't you just love her dance moves, especially remixed to AC/DC's Back in Black for the 2007 Gap skinny black pants commercial? "Sometimes a girl wants to dance! It's nothing more than a form of expression, and I could certainly use a release!"

The next Audrey Hepburn film set in Paris was 1957's Love in the Afternoon, with Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier. Audrey plays Ariane, a young French cello student and daughter of detective Claude Chavasse.  Ariane becomes involved with an American libertine being investigated by her father for having an affair with a married woman. This is not my favorite Audrey Hepburn picture, but I did enjoy the charming Maurice Chevalier, the music including Charles Trenet's C'est Si Bon, and of course, the lovely scenes in Paris (the Ritz Hotel, the Palais Garner, the Château de Vitry)!

We return to Paris with Audrey and Cary Grant in 1962's Charade.  Audrey plays Regina Lampert, a recently widowed American in Paris. Reggie gets caught up in her husband's murder and an elaborate plot to find a "quarter of a million dollar treasure" (How much would that be worth today?!). She  is confused by her feelings for Peter/Alex/Adam/Brian (whatever his name is!), played by Cary Grant. Charade takes us on a fast-paced chase around Paris, including scenes along the Seine, in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées, on a bateau mouche, in the Métro, and in the Palais Royal.

The final Audrey in Paris film that I've seen is 1966's How to Steal a Million with Peter O'Toole. Audrey plays Nicole Bonnet, grand-daughter of a wealthy art collector/forger, forced to steal one of her grandfather's "masterpieces."  Again, my favorite aspects of this film are Audrey's wardrobe (M. Givenchy is even given a nod when Nicole is disguised in a scub woman's clothing: "Well for one thing, it gives Givenchy a night off!"), the cool 60's cars and fashions, and above all the scenes in the Paris streets, the Ritz Hotel, and the hotel particulier at 38, rue Parmentier, in Neuilly (16e arrondissement).

I have yet to see Paris When it Sizzles (1964), Two for the Road (1967), or Bloodline (1979), but they are definitely on my list. Audrey and Paris are always a good idea!