What is it about Paris? Emily of “Emily in Paris” will tell you it’s the pain au chocolat. And she’s not wrong although the list of things that make Paris mythic is long and different for everyone.
Emily is cute and the show is cute and has been critiqued more than a sentimental retread of “Sex in the City” deserves, which is also kinda coming back minus the sex, i.e. Samantha. Unfortunately “Emily in Paris” is Paris seen through the eyes of a particularly shallow American so it’s all sort of Emily in a theme park but lots of folks have found it amusing.
Including me. Although the reason I enjoyed it had very little to do with Emily or Paris. I was stuck on it because there weren’t any masks. Because strangers got into lifts together and crowded into parties and went to work in offices where they put their heads together to yes, occasionally read an oh so important memo but more often than not to do something semi-lascivious. With no masks.
This had happened to me once before – watching for the wrong reasons. On Jan. 12 of 1988 I broke my back in a ridiculous boating accident – the outboard motorboat I was in crashed headlong into a 90 foot yacht — and I was consigned to the couch for the foreseeable future. And I spent the next month watching the Olympics. That is to say, I spent the next month watching people do something I could no longer do — move.
So “Emily in Paris” gave me the world before COVID foreclosed on all our innocent options and I watched it like a glutton.
I was even more besotted with “Call My Agent” which gave me my business back. Because of course the film and television and theater worlds stopped dead in their tracks a year ago and the only exceptions are massive studio productions that can afford the COVID protocols and the inevitable work stoppages when the protocols fail. But safe in the offices of the busiest talent agency in Paris, work goes on and with it the soap opera of the workplace and the dizzying pace of the business in full throttle. It gave me a healthy, detached dose of stress and I loved it.
Plus this is Paris for Parisians so the vernacular is in high gear and no one would be caught dead eating pain au chocolat.
When I really need to detach from the reality that it’s been a year now since life changed forever, I watch “Lupin.” Because Omar Sy! Ooh la la! And because the storytelling is so much fun and the conceit that Omar Sy is channeling Arsene Lupin, a gentleman thief (created by Maurice LeBlanc in 1905) who wears a top hat and gets away with everything, gives me hope.
Wouldn’t it be great to get away with everything? I’m sure this yearning is what caused the Roaring Twenties which, you may remember, came on the heels of the Spanish Flu, which caused even more misery and heartache than COVID-19.
But back to Omar Sy! Ooh la la! because why not. You may remember him from “The Intouchables” a French film based on a true story about a Parisian aristocrat who’s been crippled by a hang-gliding accident and who hires a quick-witted and irrepressible ex-con from a banlieue outside Paris to be his arms and legs. Omar Sy rescues the aristocrat from his despair and rage and does himself some good in the bargain. If you haven’t seen the film, treat yourself. It’s just so much fun and so well done that you might forget for a few moments that you feel as hemmed in as the aristocrat in his expensive wheelchair.
While we’re on the subject of loss and recovery, do not miss “Sound of Metal” which makes the cut here because the girlfriend’s father is French and at the end of the film they go to Belgium which isn’t France but there’s lots of kissing on both cheeks and good food. I’ve written about “Sound of Metal” before — see Film Maven Part One for the details. In brief it’s a story about a drummer who’s losing his hearing played by Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of” — a fabulous crime and punishment mini if you haven’t seen it) with a story by Derek Cianfrance who knows a thing or two about heartbreak (“Blue Valentine”).
The drummer is determined to get his life back at all costs. And this determination to reclaim what’s gone makes him miss the nirvana right in front of him.
Life move him inexorably forward. And he misses it — his chance to change and grow and land somewhere new.
I keep thinking about this — how this past year keeps proving how stubborn and how stupid the human race can be. The number of infections goes down… and we open back up. And then the number of infections goes back up — because, hello, the virus hasn’t changed — so we lock back down. And then the numbers go down… and we open back up…
It’s really a wonder we’re not extinct, we certainly deserve it.
And yet we keep beating the odds. Lucile Randon, a yes, French nun, just had her 117th birthday. 117 — and she had COVID last year and beat it! Now if that doesn’t give you a lift, I give up.
Although it does beg the question — if life begins at 40, and now maybe lasts for another 77 years, that’s a lotta future. What are we gonna do with it? Because there’s no going back…
(Thank you so much for all your emails. Reach me at WelcomeToThePandemic@gmail.com. And find me on Twitter at @epagenyc or on Facebook at ElizabethPage.)