Paris in the Movies: A Timeless Film Set

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Paris in the Movies: A Timeless Film Set
In early February, it was announced that Fifty Shades Darker – the sequel to the high-grossing erotic drama Fifty Shades of Grey – would be shot in Paris. The filming of the sequel is said to be taking place during the first half of 2016, and it is reported that there are at least 10 films currently scheduled for production in Paris. The choice to film in Paris is a sign of a robust industry that will not be deterred (or intimidated) by the city’s attacks last November. New limitations have been placed on productions as a result of the attacks, such as restrictions on gunshot sounds while filming outside. Appealing tax breaks make filming in Paris financially attractive to outside production companies as well. Filmmaking in Paris has been around for over 100 years. The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie and Louis Jean, are widely regarded as the world’s first filmmakers. They also hold the honor of having the first paid public film showing in the world. The brothers’ film show – the first of its kind – was held in Paris on December 28, 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Café. The brothers famously directed L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, a film that is a legend in the cinema world for its purported effect it had on moviegoers. Film lore goes that the scene of the moving train shocked and startled the audience so much, that some people fled the theater out of fear that a train was about to hit them. Since these French brothers (born in Besançon) began making pictures, the world took notice, and filmmaking is now a multi-billion dollar industry found in nearly every corner of the globe. And Paris, a timeless beauty of a film backdrop, is one such corner. There are countless famous films, old and new alike, which are practically synonymous with Paris. Many musical films have found a home in Paris, such as An American in Paris, Les Misérables, Moulin Rouge, Gigi, and Funny Face. One of the greatest scenes in Funny Face is the musical number called “Bonjour, Paris!” which features Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire traipsing about the city in notable spots like Pont Alexander III, Opera Garnier, Montmartre, Notre Dame, and of course, la Tour Eiffel. With lyrics like: “All good Americans should come here to die!” and “I’m strictly a tourist, but I couldn’t care less!”, it’s a cheesy number that is impossible not to love. Speaking of love – in Paris, romance is always en vogue, so it is no wonder that so many films about love have been shot in the city. Famous tales of amour like Before Sunset, French Kiss, and Sabrina, correctly believed Paris was necessary to some (if not all) of the shots. Even animated films find a place in Paris, from The Aristocats to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and more recently, Ratatouille. Paris has always been a favorite for directors of heists and thrillers, with films like The Bourne Identity, Ocean’s Twelve, The Da Vinci Code, Taken, and Frantic, all shot in its winding, dramatic streets. Recent massive hits like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie and Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, further cement the city’s reputation as an ideal setting for film. So, what is it that makes the City of Light so fitting as a film set? Perhaps it is that the spirt of Paris carries through – regardless of the film’s subject matter – and the city’s magical and mysterious quality aids in the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Because in Paris, anything can happen.

Lead photo credit : Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.


  • Patou Schneider
    2016-03-24 14:48:24
    Patou Schneider
    I hope that your question was a rhetorical one- "what makes Paris so fitting as a film set?" It's the most iconic European city-like my hometown, New York, is probably the most iconic American city. I'm a confirm Francophile and spend alot of time in Paris, and I love the films that pay homage to the usual Parisian landmarks...however, the films I find most interesting are the ones that feature the lesser known, less touristic districts. Cliches abound in French films made by many American (and a few French) directors...we know those and love them. Looking outside of the box-stories outside of the box-are far, far more interesting and depict the world we live in now.