25 December 2020

Various: Paris vu par (1965)


It was Barbet Schroeder's idea to give a bit of pep to the Nouvelle Vague by having a number of players – we can hardly call them 'members' as this was never a movement – make a movie. And the result was six shorts by noted directors, each taking a part of Paris in which Paris vu par was made: Saint-Germain des Prés (Jean Douchet); Gare du Nord (Jean Rouch); Rue Saint-Denis (Jean-Daniel Pollet); Place de l'Etoile (Eric Rohmer); Montparnasse and Levallois (Jean-Luc Godard); and Pharmacie la Muette (Claude Chabrol). In all, the six films last 95 minutes and are an excellent display of the cinematic talent of the time.

Two of the shorts end in death, two in broken relationships, two prominently show street scenes, and two essentially men at work. Douchet shows a one-night-stand in which the man says he's going to Mexico, although he's in fact a model in a life class; Rouch has a woman arguing with her partner about changing their lives, although when she's presented with the opportunity she turns it down: oddly, this seems very Rohmerian, concerning an essentially philosophical issue; Pollet again turns to Claude Malki as a shy person reluctant to enjoy the pleasures of the prostitute he's paid; Rohmer, with his paranoid shirt salesman, seems to be suggesting a man-to-man confrontation is to be avoided, whereas man-to-woman handle accidents in a very civil fashion; in Godard's short, as in Montparnasse where the metal sculptor throws his fickle girlfriend out, in Levallois her car bodywork lover does the same; and finally Chabrol's film has the son of an endlessly arguing couple (Chabrol himself and his own wife (and actrice fétiche) Stéphane Audran) wearing ear plugs to silence the rowing and so not hear his mother's cries when she falls down the stairs and cracks her skull – when the son leaves the house, ironically he stands by Pharmacie la Muette – La Muette is an area of Paris, the silence ear plugs give, and the permanent state of his mother.

Brilliant stuff, but was it impossible to find a female director, such as Agnès Varda?

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