by Robert Berry
For all Paris residents who are also lovers of cinema – a Venn diagram with a broad intersection if ever there was one – watching Woody Allen’s recent Midnight in Paris must have provoked a series of uncanny recognitions: the steps at the top of Rue de la Montagne Ste-Genevieve without the overspill crowds of drinkers from the Bombardier pub, entrance to Polidor on Rue Monsieur le Prince, but with the tables arranged slightly differently. Allen’s film presents an impossible geography of the city, with familiar corners leading to unfamiliar streets on the other side of town. It is, appropriately enough, a kind of oneiric dream Paris through which Owen Wilson sleepwalks, skipping across map references like a child playing hopscotch.
It is a curious fact of fiction that while fantasy writers – from J.R.R. Tolkein to China Miéville – will preface their novels with maps of imaginary territories and then cling to the relations between places there plotted with religious fervour, those authors who locate their dramas in real towns and cities will be much more likely to play fast and loose with cartographical fidelity. This is particularly true in the case of the cinema – and it would seem, amongst cine-cities, perhaps even more true of Paris above all. It is well known, for instance, that Jean-Pierre Jeunet, when filming his Amelie, deli berately stitched together those pebbledash corners of the city that could be mistaken for some quaint rural village.
Over the next few months here at the ÉCU- The European Independent Film Festival we will be sketching a cinematic psychogeography of our home city and we’d like to invite you to join us. Which Parisian streets are there that will inevitably send your mind drifting to the back seats of the movie theatre? Will the Eiffel Tower be forever associated with James Bond’s lunch date in A View to a Kill? When you walk through the Louvre do you find your attention drifting away from the old masters and back to Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey racing through its halls in Bande à Part? Write to us here at ÉCU and share your own cinematic cognitive maps of the city – and we’ll share some of our in return.