Sighting/siting/citing the city: the construction of Paris in twenty-first century cinema.
Article Type:
City overview
Motion pictures (Production and direction)
Motion pictures (Location)
Motion pictures (Methods)
Durham, Carolyn A.
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Name: Post Script Publisher: Post Script, Inc. Audience: General; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Business, international Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2007 Post Script, Inc. ISSN: 0277-9897
Date: Fall, 2007 Source Volume: 27 Source Issue: 1
Event Code: 290 Public affairs; 120 Organizational history
Product Code: 7813000 Motion Picture Production; 7810000 Motion Picture & TV Production; 7815100 Film Repackagers; 7816000 Services for Movie, TV Production NAICS Code: 51211 Motion Picture and Video Production; 5121 Motion Picture and Video Industries; 51212 Motion Picture and Video Distribution; 51219 Postproduction and Other Motion Picture and Video Industries SIC Code: 7819 Services allied to motion pictures; 7812 Motion picture & video production
Geographic Scope: France Geographic Name: Paris, France; Paris, France Geographic Code: 4EUFR France

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Given cinematic conventions of the location of romance, it seems all but inevitable that a television series called Sex and tire City should end its final season in Paris. Indeed, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), newly arrived from her native New York, reasonably contends that it is not her first visit to the capital of France--not, that is, "'if you include the movies." What at first seems merely a casual coincidence may then be equally predictable when, in the last episode of the same season of ER, Dr. John Carter (Noah Wylie) similarly abandons his home in Chicago to join the woman he loves in Paris. Little wonder then that by the time the actor Tom Cruise traveled a few weeks later to what he characterized as "the most romantic country in the world" to propose to the actress Katie Holmes at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, a site equally prominent in both televised romances, their real life drama was widely perceived by the media as just one more performance set in the city of love in the spring of 2005 (qtd. in Reynaert). (1)

In a similar turn toward Paris, the American movie industry has in recent years largely abandoned the practice prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s of filming remakes of French films in order to revitalize an international tradition of making movies set in France and especially in Paris. After what N. T. Binh describes in the most current and comprehensive overview of Paris films to date (Paris au cinema: La Vie revee de de la capitale de Melies a Amelie Poulain) as a "long eclipse" of almost forty years (118), Hollywood released five such films almost simultaneously. Lawrence Kasden's French Kiss, Billy Crystal's Forget Paris, Sydney Pollack's Sabrina, Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear), and Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You all appeared between 1994 and 1996. Although these films share the same portrayal of Paris as a cliched signifier of the romantic and the picturesque, still visible, as we have seen, on contemporary television, they also mark the beginning of a broader and much more diverse trend. When Ron Howard's much anticipated The DaVinci Code was released in the spring of 2006, it became the fourteenth English-language film to have used Paris or France as a setting since the beginning of the twenty-first century, having been preceded by Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat (2000), Paul Demeyer's Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000), Jesse Peretz's The Chateau, Roman Coppola's CQ (2001), Chris Nahon's Kiss of the Dragon (2001), Baz Luhrmann's Moulin rouge (2001), Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity (2002), Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale (2002), Neil Jordan's The Good Thief (2002), Jonathon Demme's The Truth About Charlie (2002), James lvory's Le Divorce (2003), Norman Jewison's The Statement (2003), and Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004). (2)

Given that France and the cinema have been inextricably linked since the projection of the first films of Melies and the Lumiere brothers in the late nineteenth century and that the Forum des Images in Paris currently houses well over 10,000 films set in

the capital alone, the addition of thirteen more to this corpus may well seem insignificant, particularly since the latest arrivals are primarily mainstream genre films, works of popular culture that do not necessarily merit close critical attention on their own. Taken together, however, these films can help us understand how the long tradition of screening France has begun to evolve in the early twenty-first century. To what extent, for example, is Paris, the mythical French city of luxury and romance, increasingly shown as a modern and multicultural world capital? How have a number of different directors incorporated New Wave and postmodern strategies of filmmaking, many of French and European origin, into their work? In a context in which intertextual awareness is inevitable, how do these films repeat, rework, or subvert the overly familiar image of a city that has long enjoyed an independent existence as a global visual icon? In short, to draw on the title of this essay, how do these films sight Paris? What predecessors do they cite? Most importantly, how has a postcard-pretty Paris been reconstructed as an essential site of meaning in contemporary filmmaking? (3) In the pages that follow, I will focus my discussion on Before Sunset, The Bourne Identity, Kiss of the Dragon, Femme Fatale, and The Truth About Charlie. These five films both share traits that lend themselves to comparative study and exhibit a number of techniques that are more widely representative; at the same time, however, they are also sufficiently diverse in their approach to the representation of Paris to allow for complex consideration of the questions raised above.


Before Sunset, the most recent of the five films and the only one that cannot be classified as a thriller, may seem like a strange place to begin. Yet this familiar story of a cross-cultural romance in which an American man and a French woman spend a few hours walking through Paris provides an especially useful transition to the concerns of twenty-first century filmmaking precisely because of its apparent familiarity. Linklater's film inevitably recalls the conventional representation of the city privileged on movie and television screens and appears to invite the critical focus on national stereotypes that has characterized previous studies of similar films by Pierre Verdaguer and Brigitte Humbert, among others. Initially, audience expectations are informed not only by our prior knowledge of Paris on film but also by the film's own prequel in which Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first meet nine years earlier and spend a similar day walking through Vienna. Thus the reviewer Philip French, for example, characteristically notes the disappearance from Before Sunset of the eccentric local characters and exotic locales that in his view infused Before Sunrise (1995) with a sense of cultural specificity and authenticity: "Unlike Before Sunrise, they [Jesse and Celine] have no amusing encounters with Parisians and Paris itself, though looking beautifully dappled in the early evening light, is just a background for their talk."

Although Before Sunset is certainly interested in the relationship between Jesse and Celine and clearly privileges dialogue over action, the film also foregrounds the particular importance of place from the very beginning. The opening credit sequence consists of a montage of shots of the primary settings of the film, projected in reverse order so that we move from the courtyard where the film will end back through the streets, passageways, quais, and parks of Paris to stop outside the bookstore where it will begin. Each image is held long enough to allow us to register what we are seeing, and together they present a realistic introduction to the topography of the city. What is most striking about these images, however, is the total absence of the couple who will inhabit them in the course of the film. The omission of the film's protagonists and the temporal reversal of a montage consisting entirely of exterior shots serve to erase Jesse and Celine and their particular story from the film before it has even begun so that the possible cinematic locations of Paris are highlighted as independent, autonomous, always available spaces. Linklater's use of a similar strategy to a very different purpose in Before Sunrise clarifies this point. In the first film, the same spatial montage accompanies the closing rather than the opening credits so that we revisit the places where we have already watched Jesse and Celine fall in love; the removal of the lovers from these images thus empties the locations of the film of their pre-established meaning in order to emphasize the painful separation that has taken place.


The primacy of place over people that initially appears to distinguish Before Sunset from Before Sunrise continues to structure the film as a whole. With the exception of an early episode that takes place in a cafe and the final scene set in Celine's apartment, the entire film unfolds out-of-doors where the composition of shots consistently includes the world that surrounds Jesse and Celine as an integral part of what we see. They emerge from Shakespeare and Company, the English-language bookstore located in the Quartier Latin whose cross-cultural identity makes it the geographical equivalent of the lovers' relationship and the logical setting for their reunion, to stroll through the streets of Paris. That the film has as its conscious objective the desire to take its audience on a walking tour of the legendary city of the flaneur is explicitly announced within the text itself. (4) The single extended interior sequence in the film ends when Jesse suggests they leave the card to continue walking: "I'd like to see a little bit more of Paris."


The rest of Before Sunset is similarly self-conscious and self-referential. On the one hand, we are encouraged to believe not simply that we see the "real" city of Paris but, more importantly, that we see it realistically through what reviewers describe with considerable accuracy as "long, uninterrupted takes" (Ebert) and "unbroken traveling shots" (Bradshaw) filmed in "real time" (Ebert, Zacharek, Scott). The closeness with which the camera follows Jesse and Celine through the streets of the Latin Quarter and the insistence with which it records every turn they make create a clear impression of contiguous space that will seem credible even, perhaps especially, to someone who knows Paris well. After all, as Celine and Jesse take the first right turn after the bookstore on the Quai de Montebello, the street sign for what is indeed "St Julien-le-Pauvre" is clearly legible behind them, and when they turn left at the next corner, visible signs for "Serge Kaiser" and "Le Navigator" correctly identify shops they would logically pass. The literal accuracy with which Linklater maps the neighborhood as Jesse and Celine begin their stroll leads the viewer to expect that the process continues, that continuity of style guarantees that of space, even as subsequent turns recorded with identical care begin to lead us toward unanticipated sights and street signs cease to be in focus.

On the other hand, what we actually experience is, of course, a "reel" Paris, an artificially constructed city created by the same editing process foregrounded in the opening sequence of the film. Once Celine and Jesse turn right a second time to pursue a course that would logically take them toward St Germain des Pres and into the heart of the Latin Quarter, we in fact see them walk toward the St. Paul church and on to "Le Pure Cafe," sites located in reality near the Bastille on the opposite bank of a river the characters (unlike the actors) have never crossed. Since the rapidity with which Jesse and Celine arrive at the cafe after leaving St. Paul constitutes a conventional cut to continuity, it serves as a sharp contrast to the substitution of one bank for another, which introduces such a glaring discrepancy into the familiar landscape of Paris that it seems plausible to believe that Linklater fully intends for us to notice it, even if not all members of the audience necessarily do. This argument is reinforced not only by the general self-awareness and irony that characterize the lovers' dialogue throughout the film but also by the geographical dislocation that is subsequently required to return Jesse and Celine to the left bank to allow them to board a bateau mouche. (5) The contrast between the city we are invited to see and the one we are actually shown, between the Paris we might visit and its cinematic equivalent, mark Before Sunset as a consciously self-referential work, despite its surface realism. Indeed, in Before Sunset, Linklater has brought to realization the analogy proposed by Edmund White between the flaneur and the filmmaker: "Flanerie is the best way to impose a personal vision on the palimpsest of Paris. It's a bit like being a film director who puts together his own take on a place by selecting only those scenes that conform to it" (187).


Once Jesse and Celine step onto the boat, the interplay between the represented and the referential, which discretely structures their stroll through the city, is suddenly foregrounded as a central concern of the film. In further support of Linklater's self-awareness as a film maker, Before Sunset now highlights the tension between the realistic and the romantic in a dialectic that is generally characteristic of films about Paris, including those in which it is never openly acknowledged within the text. In a perfect coincidence of place and plot, up until this moment the couple's movement through the ordinary, everyday landscape of the city has reflected the wandering nature of a conversation that has remained essentially superficial, generally evasive, occasionally misleading, and largely impersonal. In particular, Jesse and Celine have carefully avoided any honest expression of the love they clearly feel for each other, constantly substituting references to sex-innuendoes, allusions, jokes, suggestions-for emotional intimacy. In deed, the indisputably romantic adventure they had in Vienna the first time they met has been safely relegated to the domain of fiction. They have become characters in the "very romantic" novel that Jesse has written, whose popularity with readers worldwide confirms that "everyone wants to believe in love."

This mise-en-abyme of the film we are watching, as well as of its prequel, prepares us for the central passage, the centerpiece, of Beyond Sunset, in which we unexpectedly find ourselves in the heart of the familiar Paris of Hollywood. It is the American, of course, who insists on getting on the boat the Parisian has never before deigned to board: "They're for tourists," notes Celine, pointing out the obvious. "Wow, Notre Dame, check that out," enthuses Jesse almost at once, just as the camera reveals the celebrated cathedral to the audience in a classic postcard-pretty shot that we have all seen many times before. On what we are suddenly aware is a spectacularly beautiful day, the bateau moves down the Seine, under Pont Neuf, the most famous of Paris bridges, and past a painter with his easel. For the moment conversation too turns to the monuments of Paris, and as Jesse mentions the Eiffel Tower, we glimpse the symbol of the city in the distance. "I forgot about how beautiful Paris is," confesses Celine; "Not so bad being a tourist, is it?," reflects Jesse. In this particular case, at least, Kristen Hohenadel's assertion that "one single shot of the Eiffel Tower shouts romance" may be fully accurate (11); in any event, it is indeed at this precise moment, in this celebrated setting, seduced by the stereotypical beauty and romance of Paris, that Jesse and Celine finally begin to talk honestly and intimately about how much they have meant-and might still mean-to each other. Moreover, the effects of this view of Paris continue throughout the final sequence of the film, in which Jesse and Celine are first tightly framed in the interior of a taxi and then enclosed in her apartment; in both cases the camera shuts out the surrounding city as if to leave romantic Paris undisturbed in their visual memories, which now, at last, inform their conversation. From the end of the boat ride until the conclusion of Before Sunset, the words romance and love recur repeatedly in the film's dialogue, and this time the end of the movie finds the lovers still together.

In two important essays that Verdaguer has devoted to the representation of France and the French in American movies, he finds Julie Delpy's Celine too "cosmopolitan" and "bilingual" to include in his discussion ("La France vue par l'Amerique" 266), and he classifies The Bourne Identity among those films in which Paris "is simply used as a backdrop" ("Hollywood's Frenchness" 444). In relation to his primary interest in stereotypes of national identity, Verdaguer's second point is certainly well taken since for all practical purposes there are no French characters in this story of international intrigue in which secret agents of different nationalities converge on Paris to track down a rogue spy who has lost his memory. (6) Indeed, The Bourne Identity introduces a question, pertinent to all five films addressed in this essay, that Patricia Parkhurst Ferguson raises in the context of nonvisual literature: "Is Paris France? Or is it the cosmopolitan Other, an alien site ..., the great escape for women and men whose fortunes we follow in so many novels both French and foreign?" (1052). The use of the interrogative is particularly appropriate in the case of The Bourne Identity where Paris plays a highly paradoxical role. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) comes home to a familiar city that is also totally foreign to him; at once the capital of France and the center of the global world, Paris is a place of refuge where Jason is constantly on the run.

In filming Paris through the eyes of a character who is recovering from amnesia, Liman makes the viewing audience's own sense of the city as both overly familiar and yet also a constantly renewed source of visual pleasure an integral part of the film. At the sight of Paris on screen, spectators of The Bourne Identity are subject to the same curious combination of emotions--an impression of deja vu and a sensation of nostalgia-that Jason experiences within the diegetic city. Appropriately, then, Bourne's return to Paris is announced by a version of the same classic shot of Notre Dame and the quais and bridges of the Seine that Jesse points out to us in Before Sunset. Indeed, Jason opens his eyes to see the cathedral as Marie (Franka Potente), who has driven him back to Paris overnight, awakens him from a deep sleep, recalling film theory's traditional analogy between the viewer in the darkened movie theater and the dreaming sleeper. Subsequently, most of the action of The Bourne Identity takes place in the first arrondissement of the capital, the historic center of the city that Marie-Christine Vincent and Francois de Saint-Exupery describe in Paris vu au cinema as "one of the most filmed" areas of Paris, so that moviegoers are particularly likely to have seen previously many of the film's specific locations--the rue de Rivoli, the Hotel Regina, the Pont Neuf, the Samaritaine department store, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place Vendome--on screen (4). Although the obligatory chase scene, whose popularity with reviewers owes more to the appeal of the action itself than to its setting, takes place in a working-class neighborhood in the twentieth arrondissement better known to fans of French films set in Paris, this is a case in which the exception clearly proves the rule. In explaining that he filmed the chase in Belleville precisely because "[il] souhaitait s'eloigner des cliches touristiques auxquels les cineastes etrangers nous ont habitues," Liman simultaneously reveals his knowledge of the cinematic Paris that he uses elsewhere in The Bourne identity (Vincent and Saint-Exupery 260).


In keeping with the conscious negotiation of his relationship to a Hollywood canon of Paris films, Liman incorporates into his own movie a series of scenes that constitute both interior duplications of his strategies for filming Paris and broader reflections of those that produced the "cliches touristiques" of his predecessors. Although The Bourne Identity necessarily includes the recurrent episodes of violent action required by the genre, the visual rhythm of the film is actually determined by four passages of exceptional beauty that temporarily interrupt the development of the plot; as in the case of Before Sunset, the geographical "centerpiece" of Liman's thriller is as decorative as it is meaningful. Filmed for us and from our point of view, these aerial panoramas of the Paris landscape foreground the metaphoric suturing of the audience into the diegesis of the film as well as the powerful tools of the medium itself. Only the movie camera and the editing techniques available to modern filmmakers can create these images, which can only be viewed from the perspective of the spectator.

The first of the four set pieces in the film is exemplary for the way in which Liman colors his painterly version of picturesque Paris with the conventions of romance. In a manner similar to that used by Linklater in Before Sunset, the relationship between the protagonists of The Bourne Identity is displaced onto the city, which therefore serves at once as the site of romance and its metaphoric substitute. As Jason and Marie embrace for the first time, the camera tracks away from the couple, out of the bathroom, down the corridor, and outside the building to reveal the sign that identities their location as a hotel room, which the camera will re-enter only some seconds later to show us a close-up of Marie in bed. In the meantime, Liman replaces the lovemaking we know to be taking place with a lovely nighttime panorama of the Eiffel Tower in a second confirmation in this set of films of the monument's ability to connote cinematic romance. Indeed, the Eiffel tower will also be the first thing we see the following morning when the lovers emerge from their hotel into the street.

Although from this point on the couple on the run will have little time for intimacy, the film has carefully established an association that allows the additional panoramic views of Paris, which punctuate the action, to remind us that this is a love story as well as a spy thriller. (7) Indeed, subsequent overhead shots of Paris function in and of themselves to fuse the two dramas, as they privilege an urban topography that also figures Jason's attempt to map his own location at the heart of an international conspiracy and as the primary target of a global network of secret agents converging on Paris. Thus, the second aerial sequence of The Bourne Identity reveals the Arc de Triomphe at the center of the spider web formed by the twelve avenues that radiate away from the monument in different directions. The third suggests a similar configuration of ambiguity, of potential entrapment or evasion, through a long shot of the bridges of the Seine, which both isolate the central islands of the city and connect them to opposing riverbanks. In contrast to this conventional picture of historical Paris, whose romantic associations and twilight illumination recall our initial view of the Eiffel Tower, Liman's final Paris panorama shows us a modern replica of the second. The image foregrounds the huge cube, framed by surrounding skyscrapers, that marks the site of La Grande Arche de la Defense, the counterpart of the Arc de Triomphe. This unconventional, disorienting, geometric, almost abstract version of the now familiar landscape characteristic of the film fittingly portrays Paris as the global center or international intrigue: "Is Paris France? Or is it the Cosmopolitan Other, an alien sight?" (Ferguson 1052).

Kiss of the Dragon proposes yet another way of addressing this question. The only film of the five considered in this essay in which the traditional cinematic identity of Paris as a favorite destination for tourists and lovers is relentlessly foregrounded is also, paradoxically, the only one in which the capital of France really does appear to be a foreign city. Reviewers who tend to dismiss Nahon's first film as a predictable martial arts vehicle, conceived by Jet Li himself to celebrate his physical prowess but with, as Roger Ebert puts it, "no deeper meaning and no higher skill involved," evidently miss the movie's irony. (8) In fact, Kiss of the Dragon is a good deal more curious and amusing than its genre might suggest, and both its interest and its humor are entirely dependent not only on the film's setting but also on the audience's prior knowledge of how Paris has traditionally been filmed. In opposition to Before Sunset and The Bourne Identity, where conventional shots of Paris are used knowingly but relatively sparingly and always in contrast to more realistically filmed sequences set in somewhat less familiar locations, The Kiss of the Dragon revels in the narrative and geographical stereotypes that are the only appropriate setting for parody.

Nahon's film, which begins as the Air France jet on which Liu Jian (Jet Li) is a passenger lands at the Paris airport, immediately establishes his importance not as a policeman on foreign assignment but as a tourist on his first visit to France. Moreover, his performance in this part continues to take priority throughout the film as Jian's actual profession, which repeatedly requires him to fight and kill the many enemies who want him dead, assumes the supporting role of guaranteeing that his first trip to Paris conforms to the nightmare, rather than the fairy tale, version of the trope. Thus, in informing a customs officer that he is in Paris "for pleasure," Jian initiates a pattern of ironic commentary recurrent throughout the film. "First time in Paris? Great. You're gonna have the time of your life," his first would-be assassin enthusiastically assures him. "Welcome to gay Paree," murmur two prostitutes suggestively as they kill the man Jian has been sent to protect. "Paris is a nice city, once you get used to it," affirms his local contact shortly before he too is murdered. Only after Jian has singlehandedly destroyed most of the Paris police force does inspector Richard (Tcheky Karyo), Jian's nemesis, suddenly take issue with his brand of tourism: "Johnny, Johnny, I'm disappointed in you. Coming to Paris for the first time and instead of enjoying yourself, you're doing all this useless running around." Richard's persistence in calling Jian by the American name "John" or "Johnny," despite the inclusion in Kiss of the Dragon of a certain number of cultural references to China, seems clearly designed to reinforce his status as the representative tourist of Hollywood films set in Paris.

Even those reviewers who acknowledge "John"'s role as a tourist inexactly locate this "stranger" in a "strange land" (Ebert) or a "strange country" (Clark). Although Paris, as seen through the eyes of the film's protagonist, is indisputably foreign, the audience of the film, in contrast, is taken, at least initially, on a tour of a thoroughly familiar city. Indeed, during the cab ride from the airport, the standard opening sequence of films about tourism, (9) Nahon's camera visually emphasizes two traditional symbols of France: the French flag flying at the Arc de Triomphe and the golden-hued statue of Joan of Arc outside the Hotel Regina. Predictably, we also see the Eiffel Tower, not once but twice, both by day and by night, prior to the engagement of the dramatic action. Subsequently, however, Jian's visit to Paris adopts a much less conventional approach, in keeping with Nahon's parodic intentions. The hero's second car ride through the city takes him through the same celebrated area of Paris favored in The Bourne Identity, from the Place du PalMs Royal to the Place de la Concorde, where his arrival is marked by another sighting of the Arc de Triomphe, shown in soft focus behind him. The customary romance of this exaggeratedly conventional shot, however, has already been undermined by the unexpected perspective we are given of the Grande Roue and the Obdlisque in point-of-view shots taken from Jian's hiding place beneath the car.

More in keeping with an actual tourist than his cinematic counterpart, let alone a man sought by the entire Paris police force, Jian next travels by metro to the Gare de l'est. The deadpan seriousness with which he listens calmly and attentively to the subway employee's politely detailed explanation of the route he should take--"Direction Bibliotheque to Chatelet, then line 4, direction Clignancourt, and you're right there"highlights the incongruity of the passage within the developing context of the film and provides an unexpected moment of comic relief. Elsewhere, Nahon uses a similar strategy in reverse. As we watch Jian perform a Chinese ceremony in memory of his murdered friend, the background shots of the city below clearly suggest that we are in Montmartre, so much so that the absence of the familiar landmark, which should in that case be visible, proves highly disorienting. In fact, the film has put us on the very steps of Sacre Coeur, so close to one of the principal tourist attractions of the city"Aux yeux des cineastes etrangers, ce monument ... symbolise a lui seul Paris" (Vincent and Saint-Exupery 102)--that it has paradoxically beconle as invisible to the audience of Kiss of the Dragon as it is indifferent to the film's protagonist.

The disjunction between the tourist and the action hero also informs Jian's requisite ride on a bateau mouche. One might expect the martial arts battle, which rips the boat apart, to clash with the perfectly conventional shots of the quais of the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, pont Alexandre III, and the Grand Palais that accompany the fight sequence. The fact that neither the speed nor the violence of the action in any way alters either the beauty of the setting or the visual pleasure it gives the viewer foregrounds the self-referential function served by the juxtaposition, which brings into full consciousness our awareness of the inviolable and immutable perfection that a certain Paris landscape no doubt owes to its celluloid immortality. This passage appropriately serves as a prelude to a chase sequence that takes place in the underground passageways beneath Paris; the hero of Kiss of the Dragon runs under a bridge, through a tunnel, into the sewers, and onto the subway in what constitutes a microcosm of the literary and cinematic trope of "mysterious Paris" (see Meral 5-16). (10)

The portrait of Paris as the city of crime and corruption might seem to preclude the focus on romance that remains an integral part of its movie myth in Before Sunset and The Bourne Identity. Indeed, the solitude of the hero and the importance of prostitution to the plot of Kiss of the Dragon suggest the demystification of Paris as the city of love in favor of its alternative, albeit equally conventional, image as the site of sexual freedom and adventure. Initially, Jessica (Bridget Fonda), one of the prostitutes who works for Richard, terrifies Jian, and his repeated rejection of her attempts at companionship serves primarily to emphasize his naivety and innocence. But Jessica, the farmer's daughter from North Dakota whose own first trip to Paris turns out to be anything but the "fairy tale" she expected, is also the hero's double and ultimately his ally. In the same dynamic that informs the director's approach to the city of tourism, grounded in the discrepancy between what we see and what we know, Nahon uses the couple to celebrate and to subvert at one and the same time the romantic myth of Paris. In yet another central passage set near the river, we see a willfully celibate, indeed, virginal martial arts expert and a reluctant prostitute and single mother take a nighttime stroll along the Canal St-Martin, "Fun des paysages des plus romantiques de Paris" (Vincent and Saint-Exupery 174). In the absence of the slightest hint of any love interest or erotic attraction between Jian and Jessica, the scene, filmed and acted conventionally--the lights of the city reflect beautifully in the water, the couple almost appears to embrace (11)--constitutes a clever visual parody of the cliche of the romantic walk along the Seine. The final shot of the film in which we see Jessica and Jian gazing fondly at her sleeping daughter in a pastiche of the happy family and the Hollywood ending, functions similarly. (12)

For Ebert, Femme Fatale, a movie "about seeing and not knowing what you see," offers another version of the contrast between sight and knowledge that Nahon uses to parody movie cliches in Kiss of the Dragon. Although Ebert's interest, like that of other reviewers, lies primarily with the narrative tricks that the film plays on its audience as much as its characters, it may be the movie's geographical location whose self-referentiality is most playfully deceptive. (13) De Palma's film is once again set in France and principally in Paris, but it actually-and quite literally-takes place in the movies themselves, as the title suggests and the opening sequence confirms. As the credits appear on screen, the only dialogue we hear is from Double Indemnity, and Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), the femme fatale of De Palma's film, initially appears as a reflection on the television screen she is watching; the illusion thus created that she is positioned within Billy Wilder's movie is verified by the subsequent superimposition of Laure's image and that of Barbara Stanwyck in a visual fusion of the original femme fatale and her contemporary reproduction. In further diegetic references to the self-enclosed universe of the cinema, the first dramatic sequence of Femme Fatale takes place at the 2001 Cannes film festival, which is shown on television screens or shot through security cameras and where the screening of Regis Wargnier's Est-Ouest alternates with the revelation of Laure's duplicitous role in a robbery.

When the action then moves to Paris, the change of location is marked by a shot that is intriguingly parallel to the one that opens the film. We see De Palma's femme fatale through the window of a taxi in which an image of the symbol of the city replaces that of the archetype of her role: the reflection of the Eiffel Tower is now superimposed on Laure's face. For much of the film, however, the Paris with which the heroine is associated constitutes a willful rejection of the idealistically romantic vision traditionally promoted by Hollywood. Appropriately, it is the soon-to-be American ambassador to Paris (Peter Coyote) who, to his immediate regret, enthusiastically conjures up the classic conception of France as "a fabulous country, the queen of Europe, the art, the history, the sense of language, Stendhal, Racine, Balzac." Not only does Laure counter with a description of a place where horrible things happen, but, more importantly, the ambassador's homage is positioned at the beginning of Femme Fatale's lengthy dream sequence and so explicitly relegated to the domain of fantasy. Indeed, the second time we see the Eiffel Tower, albeit beautifully lit at night from a bridge over the Seine, the icon serves as backdrop to Laure's final performance as femme fatale in which she shoots both her unarmed husband and her disarmed lover in cold blood.

The Paris of Femme Fatale can be most accurately located within the world of postmodernity in another variant of Ferguson's view of the city as "the cosmopolitan Other, an alien site." De Palma's version of this metaphorical setting lies closer to what James Clifford describes as "the new world order of mobility, of rootless histories," characterized in particular by the substitution of "non-places" for the anthropological or "real" localities of an earlier era (1, see also Tomlinson 108-10). That the mythic city of tourists and lovers should also incarnate the topography of postmodernity is not surprising for a site that has traditionally served as a refuge for expatriates and exiles and has increasingly become the multicultural crossroads of Europe. In this "place of departures, arrivals, transits," we watch De Palma's femme fatale, a woman without a past and with no fixed identity, arrive, depart, and then return (Clifford 30); and much of the film takes place in the anonymous, impersonal, indistinguishable settings of global postmodernity--in airports, restrooms, sex shops, bars, and cafes; on airplanes, urban streets, and bridges such as the suggestively named "Passerelle" Debilly where the film's fantasy sequence concludes. Two of the longest and most significant scenes in Femme Fatale are set in a hotel, whose definition as "a place you pass through" makes it Clifford's ideal "figure of the postmodern" (17). Moreover, the Sheraton Hotel in Paris is directly attached to an international airport; and the repetition of the action that unfolds therein reinforces the sense of deja vu that already emanates from the generic lobby, empty corridors, and identical rooms of the place itself, located at one and the same time both nowhere in particular and anywhere at all. (14)

In keeping with Femme Fatale's self-reflexivity and intertextuality, which make the text itself as fundamentally postmodern as the world depicted within, the film contains an unusually complex example of mise-en-abyme. Although reviewers tend to view Laure--the creator of illusions and the mistress of deceptions whom we first meet in the guise of a photographer-as De Palma's diegetic representative, in fact, that role is at least shared, if not superseded, by Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas), the film's professional photographer. Irrespective of the role that Laure assigns to him as fake kidnapper and betrayed lover in the plot she directs within De Palma's adroit film noir, Nico's fundamental purpose is to take photographs of Paris, and he does so repeatedly. In particular, he takes pictures from his balcony of the square below his apartment, which features a church, a street, and a cafe where crucial episodes of the film take place. In an act of autogeneration that figures the filmmaking process, Nico digitalizes and prints these images to create his "masterwork," a huge collage that visually duplicates within the film one of its key locations. De Palma's frequent use of a split screen to juxtapose the "real" cinematic site to its photographic replica foregrounds postmodernism's tendency to expose the artificiality of the boundaries that distinguish "reality" from its representations. Moreover, a collage made of shots of the Paris landscape highlights the conscious (re)construction of the city that we have already encountered in Before Sunset. Nico's pictorial montage, like its cinernatic counterpart, metaphorically recreates Paris as what Brian McHale identifies as a "zone," whose juxtaposition of noncontiguous spaces and contradictory perspectives makes it the ultimate site of postmodernity (45). The origin of the term is particularly pertinent in this context; in the poem entitled "Zone," Apollinaire transforms the cityscape of Paris into the symbolic landscape of modern Europe.

Femme Fatale begins in the movies and ends in Nico's collage of Paris as the repetition of the same musical motif underscores the common artistry and artificiality of the two settings. Even before the camera slowly pulls back to show us the completed montage for the first and only time, the reason for selecting this particular landscape as the privileged site of the film has become clear. This "corner in Paris that fascinates" Nico is located in Menilmontant, a traditionally popular neighborhood in the city's twentieth arrondissement; his balcony overlooks the Eglise Notre Dame de la Croix, which dominates the picturesque square named for Maurice Chevalier. Unlike Liman, who filmed the chase sequence of The Bourne Identity in this same general area in order to distance hicnself from the cliched representation of Paris prevalent in American cinema, De Palma revels in all the connotations of the Parisian singer and actor who once singlehandedly represented Frenchness in Hollywood movies set in the capital of France. Indeed, the "deja vue" sign posted on a kiosk in the street now seems to represent those films every bit as much as it does the internal repetitions of De Palma's own plot. The alternative ending of Femme Fatale, in which Nico and Laure meet "in reality" in front of a bar on the square called "Le Paradis," is openly coded as conventional movie romance, even as it paradoxically returns us to the kind of typical "small town centre" that figures the antithesis of the "non-places" of global postmodernity (Tomlinson 109). As the camera pauses at the end of Femme Fatale on a full-screen view of the reproduction of the Place Maurice Chevalier, seen on a scale and from a distance that visually erases Laure's presence and story from the photographs to leave us only with a nostalgic panorama of the old-fashioned square, this image is curiously reminiscent of the ceramic replicas of the city's neighborhoods sold to tourists in souvenir shops throughout Paris. Ulti mately, illusion and fantasy do triumph in Femme Fatale--spatially, if not dramatically.

Although The Truth About Charlie and Femme Fatale have much in common, including highly self-conscious representations of Paris and a passion for self-reflexivity and intertextual citation, De Palma's otherwise strikingly stylish work suddenly seems remarkably understated when compared to Demme's film. In the brief coda to Femme Fatale, De Palma is content to evoke the romantic Parisian setting of what is only implicitly a Maurice Chevalier movie; at the end of The Truth About Charlie, in contrast, Demme has Charles Aznavour appear in person to sing "Quand tu m'aimes" in front of the Eiffel Tower-and this is far from the only time we see the two Parisian icons in the course of the film. Indeed, the only possible excuse for the selection of such an uninspiring title for the film presumably lies in the fact that it references not-or at least not only--the mysterious Charles Lambert (Stephen Dillane) of Demme's own movie but also--and perhaps especiallyCharlie Koler, the equally enigmatic hero of Francois Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) who was played by Aznavour, as the film clip we see at the midpoint of The Truth About Charlie reminds us. Together, the two Charlies point to the divergent cinematic conceptions of Paris visible in Stanley Donen's Charade (1956), on which The Truth About Charlie is based, and in the early films of the French New Wave, by which Demme's movie is highly influenced.

Verdaguer once again sees the decor of The Truth About Charlie as only a "backdrop" to its plot, but in this case it would no doubt be more accurate to describe their relative importance in reverse ("Hollywood's Frenchness" 444). Although Demme's re-vision of Paris ultimately has less in common with the settings of either Donen's or Truffaut's films than might initially appear to be the case, he does share both Hollywood's conventional fascination with the city and the New Wave's passion for its rediscovery. The opening credit sequence of The Truth About Charlie immediately reveals a highly stylized conception of space as well as the importance of this particular place. In an abstract version of Before Sunset's realistic opening montage, The Truth About Charlie begins as the camera tracks across a map showing a birds-eye view of Paris on which the key locations of the film are identified by name or address; the movement of the camera through this graphic representation of the city thus literally "plots" the action of the film to announce that what happens may ultimately be less important than where it happens.

At the same time, the major tourist sites of the capital are also called to our attention, and the Eiffel Tower, in particular, is singled out. Its position on the map is marked by a schematic replica, which both recalls the tiny drawing of the monument in the title frame of the film and duplicates in advance the half-completed model of the tower we see near the end of the film. Although the Eiffel Tower makes a total of eight appearances in The Truth About Charlie, most often in location shots, Demme initially foregrounds the metaphorical value of the tower, its ability to function, in keeping with William Thompson's persuasive argument, as the "perfect symbol" of Paris precisely because it serves no other purpose; alone among the city's monuments, it exists only to symbolize the city (1138). This purely symbolic quality enables the tower, like Paris itself, to signify in multiple, diverse, and constantly changing ways; witness the metamorphoses of the monument and the city throughout the history of cinema.

As a whole, the opening sequence of The Truth About Charlie functions symbolically in a somewhat similar manner. Periodically Demme's camera tracks from the map of Paris to other iconic representations of the city, which is also figured, for example, in souvenir-style paintings of the Luxembourg Gardens, Montmartre, and a typical cafe. Other objects--passport photos, family snapshots, a diamond chart, phone books, a wine bottle, a man's hat, an appointment book, a greeting card-appear to be accessories to some familiar but still unidentifiable drama, as if we had metaphorically entered the property room of the movie itself. Indeed, in keeping with postmodernism's foregrounding of the creative process, the credit sequence of The Truth About Charlie introduces the raw materials, the disparate elements, out of which Demme's self-referential and auto-generative film will be constructed. These visual clues to the meaning of the film, still open, like Paris itself, to multiple interpretations, are accompanied on the sound track by De Phazz's "Jim the Jinn," whose clearly audible lyrics foreground the mystery and the mutability of identity in a thematic foreshadowing of the film to come: "I can change your sex / I can change your race / And the show goes on."

The nostalgic use of an iris shot to mark the transition from the opening credits to the first dramatic episode of the film also serves to frame the on-screen acknowledgment that The Truth About Charlie includes Charade among its most important generative elements. Indeed, in this context, the lyrics of "Jim the Jinn" appear to identify the director of the remake as the all-powerful jinni. In adapting Charade, Demme casts a woman rather than a man in the role of the police inspector investigating Charlie's murder, and he substitutes an Asian and two Eastern-Europeans, one female, for the all white, all male, all American trio of mysterious strangers of the original film. And the show does indeed go on, notably in the highly theatrical performance of Tim Robbins, whose incarnation of Lewis Bartholomew is a direct imitation of Walter Matthau playing the role in Charade. In general, although The Truth About Charlie retains the basic plotline of its model-Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) solves the mystery surrounding her husband's murder and missing money, and she falls in love with Joshua Peters (Mark Wahlberg)--Demme's adaptation of what was already a remarkably convoluted movie, whose repeated reversals and revelations make it impossible to summarize in any detail, is prominently characterized in both style and substance by the flamboyant, the playful, and the excessive.

These traits are without doubt a direct consequence of the film's Paris setting. In the many interviews Demme gave at the time that The Truth About Charlie was released as well as in the director's commentary that accompanies the DVD version of the film, he repeatedly cites the city itself as the only reason for remaking Charade. (15) Moreover, although Demme sometimes professes a desire to portray "the new, multicultural Paris" seldom seen in American movies (Edelstein), in fact the director's view of the city is clearly and constantly colored by its portrayal in Hollywood cinema. (16) Similarly, his fondness for the French New Wave is reflected not in the location shots of The Truth About Charlie but rather in the overall style of the film-the flashbacks, fantasy sequences, and intertextual allusions that disrupt traditional narrative structure; the use of odd angles and unusual points of view, exaggerated closeups, colored filters, and a handheld camera. Indeed, Demme's explicit engagement with the "deja vu," his preference for representation over reality, and his subversion of the authority of his model mark him as deeply postmodern.

Thus, to focus on one key example, the ability of Paris to signify love in all its forms can be interpreted as the primary motivation for the addition of so many characters and subplots to Donen's original film. We first meet Charlie, who appears in Charade only as a corpse, during a romantic tryst, and he frequently returns in flashback as Regina remembers their whirlwind romance. "Have you ever been in love in Paris?," she asks Joshua as their taxi drives past the Eiffel Tower; and what turns out to be more a command than a question will inform not only their own relationship but also those of a surprising number of other characters. Commandante Dominique (Christine Boisson), for example, has an affair with her lieutenant; Il-Sang Lee (JoongHoon Park) and Lola Jansco (Lisa Gay Hamilton), two of the mysterious strangers in search of Charlie's fortune, are romantically involved; Il-Sang takes up with Charlie's lover after Lola's death; Charlie now has a mother (Frederique Meininger) passionately devoted to her son; and so on. Of particular interest is the scene that takes place in the Palais du Tango, introduced, once again, by a nighttime shot of the illuminated Eiffel Tower. In the midst of a very sexy tango in which partners keep changing, conventional heterosexual coupling--Reggie and Joshua dance together as do IlSang and Lola--is complemented by a more fluid sexuality. Lola murmurs "I've got a crush on you" as she dances suggestively with Reggie, and Anna Karina sings "Let's dance the tango of romance" as accompaniment to the Commandante's particularly erotic turn with Regina.

Although Demme substitutes a number of different Paris settings for those of Charade, as in the case of the Palais du Tango, he also makes one addition of exceptional importance. The Saint Ouen flea market, located at the Porte de Clignancourt just outside the limits of the city, has little prior cinematic presence, unlike the film's other familiar locations, despite being 'Tun des plus grands sites touristiques en ile de France" (Vincent and Saint-Exupery 252). Yet this setting is not simply essential to the dramatic action of The Truth About Charlie, framed between two lengthy visits to the flea market; more importantly, le marche aux puces functions both as mise-en-abyme and objective correlative, not only for Demme's conception of the geography of Paris but also for the structure of his own film. The flea market, whose stalls and streets reproduce in miniature the topography of a city, has a seemingly infinite capacity to contain diversity, just as The Truth About Charlie encloses thematic excess, eclectic characters, autonomous episodes, exaggerated performances, and generic abundance within a single film. A microcosm of the global world, the flea market functions as the crossroads at which the characters and plots of Demme's film intersect. Although the appearance of Agnes Varda, like those of Aznavour and Karina elsewhere, is designed to incarnate Demme's passion for the directors of the French New Wave, her presence in the flea market more aptly evokes the cineaste of Les Glaneurs et une glaneuse (2000) than of Cleo de 5 a 7 (1961); like Varda, the director of The Truth About Charlie is also an indefatigable gleaner of visual images and tireless salvager of objets trouves. Ultimately, the collection of recycled, recombined, and recast representations of Paris, out of which The Truth About Charlie is constructed, suggests that Demme's "flea-market movie" (17) is metaphorically set in the fictional but familiar land of "kitsch," which, like cinematic Paris, is "a country all its own, unlike any other, but giving a sense of reassuring sameness" (Holquist 152).

Together, the five films discussed in this essay largely confirm Keith Reader's conviction that "any consideration of how Paris is depicted in the cinema will necessarily be an intertextual one," although this assessment may underestimate the degree to which textual representations also continue to interact with the referential city (409). (18) Given a tradition of recreating Paris on the studio lot, consecrated long ago by An American in Paris, and now enhanced by the apparently limitless possibilities of digitalizing the city, most recently incarnated by Moulin rouge, the desire of all five directors to shoot on location is not without interest. The unusual attention France paid to the making of The Da Vinci Code stems directly from the Ministry of Culture's discovery that 62% of foreigners decide to visit France after having seen the country in a movie ("Hollywood-sur-Seine"). In most cases, these spectators will come first to Paris where the footage they have seen of the "reel" city, genuine or not, will no doubt continue to inform their sight of the "real" city. If the representation of Paris in contemporary mainstream cinema has become interestingly postmodern both in its self-aware citation of other films and in its cosmopolitan updating of the city's historical sites, the symbolic power of Paris can clearly resist postmodernity's effacement of the distinctiveness of place. Before Sunset, The Bourne Identity, Kiss of the Dragon, Femme Fatale, and The Truth About Charlie demonstrate that the cinematic city, made up of different juxtapositions of a similar set of images, remains open to constant reinterpretation.

Works Cited

Apollinaire, Guillaume. "Zone." Alcools: poenes, 1909-1913. Paris: Gallimard, 1920.

Before Sunset. Dir. Richard Linklater. Screenplay by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke. Perf. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke. Warner Independent Pictures, 2004.

Binh, N. T. Paris au cindma: La Vie revee de la capitale de Melies a Amelie Poulain. Paris: Parigramme, 2003.

The Bourne Identity. Dir. Doug Liman. Screenplay by Tony Gilroy and W. Blake Herron. Perf. Matt Damon, Franka Potente. Universal Studios, 2002.

Bradshaw, Peter. Rev. of Before Sunset. The Guardian 23 July 2004.

Cinema and Nation. Ed. Mette Hjort and Scott MacKenzie. London: Routledge, 2000.

Clifford, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997.

Clark, Mike. Rev. of Kiss of the Dragon. USA Today 6 July 2004.

Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Femme Fatale. Chicago Sun Times 6 Nov. 2002.

--. Rev. of Kiss of the Dragon. Chicago Sun Times 6 July 2001.

--. Rev. Of Before Sunset. Chicago Sun Times 2 July 2004. Edelstein, David. "The Happy Hipster of Film." New York Times 27 October 2002, sec.2: 1, 22.

Femme Fatale. Dir. Brian De Palma. Written by Brian De Palma. Perf. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Antonio Banderas. Warner Bros., 2002.

Ferguson, Patricia Parkhurst. "Is Paris France?" The French Review 73.6 (May 2000): 1052-64.

Film and Nationalism. Ed. Alan Williams. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2002.

French, Philip. "Brief Re-encounter." The Observer 25 July 2004.

Hohenadel, Kristen. "Paris for Real vs. Paris on Film: We'll Always Have the Movies," New York Times 25 Nov. 2001: 11, 21.

"Hollywood-sur-Seine: Da Vinci Film." Le Nouvel Observateur (14-20 juillet 2005): 77.

Holquist, Michael. "Whodunit and Other Questions: Metaphysical Detective Stories in Postwar Fiction." The Poetics of Murder: Detective Fiction and Literary Theory. Ed. Glenn W. Most and William W. Stowe. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1983. 149-74.

Humbert, Brigitte. "Screening France." French Politics, Culture & Society 21.2 (Summer 2003): 81-94.

The Kiss of the Dragon. Dir. Chris Nahon. Screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Perf. Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tch6ky Karyo. Twentieth Century Fox, 2001.

McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1987.

Meral, Jean. Paris in American Literature. Trans. Laurette Long. Chapel Hill: U of NC Press, 1989.

Reynaert, Francois. "Les Choses de la vie." Le Nouvel Observateur 14-20 juillet 2005: 26.

Reader, Keith. "Cinematic Representations of Paris: Vigo/Truffaut/Carax." Modern and Contemporary France 4 (1993): 40915.

Ruer, Juliette. "Des Americains Paris." 31 Oct. 2002

Scott, A. O. "Reunited, Still Talking, Still Uneasy." New York Times 2 July 2004. Sharp, Joanne. "Writing Over the Map of Provence: The touristic therapy of A Year in Provence." Writes of Passage: Reading Travel Writing. Ed. James Duncan and Derek Gregory. New York: Routledge, 1999.

The Truth About Charlie. Dir. Jonathon Demme. Screenplay by Jonathan Demme, Steve Schmidt, Peter Stone, and Jessica Bendinger. Perf. Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg. 2002.

Verdaguer, Pierre. "La France vue par l'Amerique: Considerations sur la perennite des stereotypes." Contemporary French Civilization 20.2 (Summer/ Fall 1996): 240-77.

--. "Hollywood's Frenchness: Representations of the French in American Films." Contemporary French and Francophone Studies 8.4 (Fall 2004): 441-451.

Thompson, William. "'The Symbol of Paris': Writing the Eiffel Tower." French Review 73.6 (May 2000): 1130-1140.

Tomlinson, John. Globalization and Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.

White, Edmund. Le Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris. London: Bloomsbury, 2001.

Zacharek, Stephanie. Rev. of Before Sunset 2 July 2004 .


(1) In retrospect, the behavior of Carrie, who screams and jumps up and down in joy when she first sees the Eiffel Tower from her hotel balcony, both mimics Cruise's now notorious appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and foreshadows his subsequent engagement. In keeping with the facetious list of "Things I Learned in the Movies," which circulates regularly on movieoriented listservs, the view from the Plaza Athenee also reinforces the spectator's conviction that "the Eiffel Tower can be seen from every window in Paris."

(2) The thirteen films I reference are set entirely or predominantly in France, nine in Paris, two in rural France, and two on the Mediterranean coast. I have omitted other films in which only certain episodes take place in France, and I have deliberately excluded a film such as Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera (2004) in which the Paris setting is at once historically essential and essentially irrelevant.

(3) My title is borrowed from an endnote reference in an essay by Joanne Sharp to what she identifies as the traditional destinations of Western travel writing: "The three interdependent terms of sight, site, and cite are key to the experience of travel: the privileging of the visual the location of the traveler in key historical locations, and the intertextuality of places on the tourist trail" (206).

(4) Walter Benjamin consecrated Paris as the city of the flaneur in the early twentieth-century.

(5) The camera clearly identifies the boat as one of the fleet operated by "Croisieres Canauxrama," which can only be accessed from the Arsenal marina located in the canals on the right bank of the Seine and whose normal route takes it in the opposite direction from the stop on Quai Henri IV where Jesse and Celine subsequently disembark.

(6) Cross-cultural differences are of somewhat greater importance in the sequel to Before Sunrise, although they are still clearly not central and generally remain implicit. For example, Celine talks more and faster; she is more openly political, more wary, and more cynical. Jesse is more relaxed; he smiles and jokes more and talks openly about happiness; he is more interested in self-improvement than in solving world problems. The film does include specific references to the consequences of the war in Iraq for Franco-American relations.

(7) This association between the aerial panorama and the narrative of romance also informs the only non-Parisian use of the overhead perspective. The film's final high-angle, full-screen shot of the Aegean island of Santorini marks Jason and Marie's reunion at the end of The Bourne Identity.

(8) Although Nahon is, of course, French, Kiss of the Dragon clearly qualifies as what Verdaguer classifies as a "culturally American" film whose targeted American audience makes the nationality of the director insignificant ("Hollywood's Frenchness" 442). The fact that Jet Li promoted the Franco-American co-production on "The Tonight Show" further confirms the film's essentially Hollywoodish identity. Luc Besson, whose La Femme Nikita (1990) has frequently been perceived as an American action film whose cast happens to speak French, collaborated with Robert Mark Kamen on the screenplay, based on Jet Li's story. On the increasing difficulty of assigning specific nationality to contemporary films and the potential meaninglessness of the label "national cinema" in the twenty-first century, see, for example, Film and Nationalism and Cinema and Nation.

(9) Compare, for example, Roman Polanski's Frantic (1988) and Alain Resnais's I Want to Go Home (1989).

(10) The tunnel near the Pont de l'Alma bridge, the sight of Princess Diana's fatal accident, may be more familiar to media and celebrity buffs than to movie fans.

(11) In fact, Jian takes hold of Jessica's arms to try to get her to listen to him. In a similar "fake" romantic shot later in the film, Jian pulls Jessica to him and takes her in his arms in what turns out to be merely preparation for a joint jump out the window.

(12) In the scene in which Richard interrogates Jessica after she claims that she did not willingly help Jian, she articulates the selfreferentiality of Kiss of the Dragon. In a miseen-abyme of the film we are watching, Jessica refers Richard to "those movies with those Chinese guys kicking and screaming all the time" to support her story.

(13) The film has at its center a dream sequence so long and so familiar in its use of movie conventions that most spectators will have forgotten its illusory nature by the time it ends.

(14) Roman Polanski's Frantic (1988) may provide the model for the least specifically located of English-language films set in Paris. Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) can't tell where he is until he sees the Eiffel Tower and metaphorically he never gets off the plane. The movie is set in the airport, a generic hotel, a parking garage, a houseboat on the Seine, and the streets of Paris, lined by such unconventional Parisian sites as Pizza Hut, Gymtonic, and the Blue Parrot Bar.

(15) Demme's parallel interest in working with Newton appears to be subordinate to the importance of Paris; the actress suits the director's sense of the city as modern and multicultural.

(16) French reviewers appear to be more cognizant of the stereotypical portrayal of Paris than their American colleagues. Juliette Ruer characteristically notes the "carte postale" nature of the film, adding that Demme "en rajoute sur le cote 'canaille': beret, enguelades en fond sonore, pluie, danse lascive, Gauloises filtre, et femme tic tres homme."

(17) In his review of The Truth About Charlie, Edelstein uses a similar term--"a flea-market of a movie"--to describe the multicultural Paris that he finds visible in the film's casting and sound track.

(18) In fact, any consideration of cinematic Paris will also be a cross-cultural and/or transnational one as well, as the recent release of several French successors to the Hollywood films discussed in this essay emphasizes: Luc Besson's Angel-A (2005); Daniele Thompson's Fauteuil d'orchestre, released as Avenue Montaigne (2006) in the United States; Julie Delpy's Two Days in Paris (2007), which directly references Before Sunset; and the eighteen-episode Paris je t'aime (2006), whose multinational directors include the American filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen, Gus Van Sant, and Wes Craven.
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