Feb 24th, 2021, 12:15 AM

5 Films for Americans in Paris

By Sarah Affonso
Image credit: Unsplash/Charles Deluvio
French films to watch over the mini-break about Americans in Paris, other than 'An American in Paris'

The beautiful city of Paris came to a halt on the 17th of March when President Emmanuel Macron announced a mandatory home lockdown. Unfortunately, the city has not been the same since. While Paris has not completely lost its charm, our new 'masked' way of life can sometimes get in the way. Whether it's stolen glances and sultry smiles on the metro or the common 'bisous', life in Paris has been altered. When reality seems to let me down, I often find comfort in escaping into the make-believe worlds of Nora Ephron, Wes Anderson, and Woody Allen to name a few.

Therefore, during these unprecedented times, what better way to experience Paris than in the comfort of your very own bed, through a rose-colored screen. Follow five separate journeys of Americans in Paris as they navigate their way through this bustling city of love, light, and adventure. Whether you are a remote learner at The American University of Paris or already find yourself in this magnificent city, here are five films to watch over the upcoming mini-break that allow you to explore the city of Paris in all its glory with not a single mask in sight. 

Funny Face

Image credit: Creative Commons/fred baby

Watch Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star opposite each other in this classic musical comedy directed by Stanley Donen. Released in 1957, Funny Face tells the story of how a young, rather philosophical bookshop clerk played by Hepburn is discovered in Greenwich village and is soon whisked off to Paris to become a model by the charming photographer played by Astaire. Maggie Prescott, a renowned but feared magazine editor played by Kay Thompson transforms Hepburn from a grungy shop owner into a Givenchy clad supermodel. The elegant outfits against the backdrop of Paris could not be more stunning. In this unintentional Cinderella story, Paris is a beautiful supporting character, complementing Hepburn in every way.

Julie and Julia

Image credit: Creative Commons/Prachatai

Nora Ephron directed some of our all-time favorite romances like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, however, this time round she makes her audience fall in love with post-war Paris and the art of French cooking. Ephron tells two parallel stories of Julia Child, a middle-aged American woman in Paris with a passion for French food who is determined to revolutionize French cooking for the "servantless American housewife" in 1961, and Julie Powell, an aspiring food blogger from Brooklyn, attempting 524 recipes over 365 days. Julia Child takes us along on her journey starting all the way from her first day at Le Cordon Bleu to the day she receives a hard copy of her finished cookbook, and as usual, the city of Paris and all its quirks seems to effortlessly shine through the film.  The beauty of the movie is that while it crosses over time frames, it also highlights the stark contrast between modern-day New York and Paris in the late 50s and early 60s. The worlds inhabited by the two women seem poles apart, but it does not take long to soon realize that maybe they are not all that different. 

Midnight in Paris

Image credit: Creative Commons/PAN Photo Agency

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris allows its audience to view the city through the eyes of the protagonist Gil Anderson, played by Owen Wilson, who is on holiday with his wife Inez, played by Rachel McAdams. Gil, a 'hack' screenwriter from Hollywood harbors the dream of someday writing a novel. Not surprisingly, he finds inspiration all over Paris, both in reality and within a realm of make-believe. One night Gil finds himself lost in the city when, at the stroke of midnight, a Peugeot full of revelers invites him to join their party. Among the members of the group are Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. This nostalgic writer is soon taken on a journey back into the Jazz age and all its legends. The movie transports one to Paris in the 1920s and gives us a peek into the city when it was home to renowned artists from Pablo Picasso to Gertrude Stein. The beauty of the film is that Allen does not spend a moment trying to explain the absurdity of the events. In fact, I believe it is the city of Paris as the backdrop that makes all the magic in the film seem so believable and effortless. 

Paris Blues

Image credit: Creative Commons/Nathan Hughes Hamilton

Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook are two American jazz musicians thriving in the city of Paris. It is only when they fall for two beautiful American tourists, Lillian Corning and Connie Lampson, do they begin to realize that Paris is a whole lot different when you're in love. The men are eventually faced with the ultimate decision when they have to choose between love and music. Paris Blues gives the viewer the pleasure of enjoying Paris both for the first time with Lillian and Connie, but also as locals with Ram and Eddie. Midnight strolls hand-in-hand around the city and romantic lunch dates along the Seine with a complete soundtrack by Duke Ellington will leave you dreaming about your own love story in this city of romance and endless possibilities. 


Image credit: Creative Commons/Tiger500

Breathless, or À Bout De Souffle, by Jean Luc Goddard, is a cult film from the French New Wave in the 60s. In this classic, we see a small time thief played by Jean-Paul Belmondo stealing a car and then meeting up with a young American journalist played by Jean Seberg. He even tries to convince Seberg to run away with him when he realizes that the cops are after him.  The real beauty of the film is the way it has been shot with on-location shooting. A unique element of the French New Wave was that directors chose to film live, and in the actual setting of the event, that is exactly what Goddard has done. While we see the two main characters, we also get to experience everyday people, traffic, and vendors going about their lives in the background of Paris in 1960. 

These films are sure to evoke the romantic sense of Paris, so take some time to relax and watch these masterpieces over your break!