Double-Feature Introduction: Two Perspectives on Paris

Parisian Gargoyle, courtesy of Wikipedia
A city both beautiful and sinister.

In real life, I gather friends together for themed double-feature movie nights a couple times a month in the summer and winter. Moving forward, I’ll translate the more interesting double-features into posts for your enjoyment. Check out the introduction to the first set after the jump. 

Few cities exert as great an influence on world culture as Paris. Along with New York and London, it is one of the most aspired-to and mythologized cities in the west. UNESCO recognizes its food as one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, its native poetry weakens knees around the world, and its streets have inspired some of the finest writers and artists any other country has to offer.

Yet America’s relationship with France has always been complicated. In the earliest days, they were nothing but a boon: their philosophers inspired our founding fathers, and their government provided us with funds, weapons and soldiers when we staged a revolution. Without LaFayette’s support, General Washington would be a footnote in history; twenty years later we fought the Franco-American war. The French showed the rest of the world how to mount a national resistance to occupying Nazis and are remembered as milquetoasts and accomodationists. In more recent years, Americans have celebrated the life of Julia Child, idealized Paris as the City of Lights and the City of Love, and held up French food and water as symbols of people and social norms worthy of derision.

LayFayette Square, in my old hometown
LayFayette Square, in my old hometown

This dichotomy, while always present in post-war American culture, has only intensified since September 11, when France’s leaders began to openly criticize American foreign policy at a time when our national wounds were still raw: Some Americans saw the criticism as a welcome breath of fresh air, feeling that it reflected their own hesitations about our country’s administration of the War on Terror; other Americans understandably took offense, feeling that such open opposition at such a sensitive time deliberately undermined our efforts pursue justice in the wake of terrible acts of terrorism. Still others, becoming ideologically entrenched in individualistic neoconservativism, began to understand France’s very social and political system to be threats to their personal values.

Gravy Boat’s first double-feature will highlight two movies coming at Paris from very different ends of that spectrum. Join me later in the week for a brief discussion of Before Sunset, and then on Monday for a quick look at Taken.

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