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Paris Is Us on Netflix: Crowdfunded Love Story in a Crumbling Paris

Putting up with the intoxicating waltz of a cheesy and stormy love story staged in Paris post-attacks

Everywhere I have been going for the past ten days, it seems impossible to ignore the Netflix release poster of Paris is Us. Though none of my friends have liked it, it is probably the most watched French film on the Internet over the past week.

 


A contemporary love story

 

Paris is us on Netflix

 

Both high on molly, Anna and Greg fall in love at first sight during an electro music festival in Paris. Greg, played by French actor Grégoire Isvarine, is a selfish, quick-tempered French boy who has average career and lifestyle aspirations. She, on the other hand, is quite an endearing, lively, but emotionally unstable waitress played by Swiss actress Noémie Schmidt.

A year after they meet, Greg unilaterally decides to move to Barcelona for a job, assuming Anna will follow him. The couple starts to break apart.

Whether depicted in an enchanted musical or as a postcard capital, the City of Lights is often shown on film through the prisms of clichés.

Anna only agrees to visit him for a few days, before calling off last minute. It’s a life-saving decision: in a series of metaphorical shots, the plane she was meant to take crash-lands, leaving no survivors.

For the rest of the film, Anna desperately tries to cope with anxieties so strong they end up overwhelming the viewers too. The budget wide-angle camera Black Magic Pocket hunts down Anna’s run to nowhere; the couple’s aimless wanders around the city giving a pretext to witness real events that occurred between 2014 and 2017 on Paris’ streets.

 


Paris Syndrome

 

Paris is us on Netlfix

 

Whether depicted in an enchanted musical (An American in Paris, Vincente Minnelli) or as a postcard capital (Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen), the City of Lights is often shown on film through the prisms of clichés.

Here, strolling along with the characters of Paris Is Us, the spectator’s sightseeing trip focuses on the casual street chaos rather than on the development of the plot. The city becomes a character in and of itself. Paris is not only a decor but rather a ground that is conducive to play.

In Paris is Us, Parisian youth is seen as a lost, petrified generation that fears everything: tomorrow, unemployment, reality, and who prefers to resign

Written by a mysterious director going by the stage name Elisabeth Vogler, who the French press suspects being a collective of young cinematographers, Paris Is Us’ leitmotiv reveals a wild desire for artistic freedom. The production of the film was entirely funded thanks to Kickstarter: the platform enabled the team to raise over a $100,000.

For them, it was all about capturing the political and participatory potential of a momentum that they experienced on the streets. “Something is happening in Paris, there is a tension, [it is] a time of changes,” said actress Noémie Schmidt in an interview to the French HuffPost. “As artists, we had to tell this story.” To do so, they made a film whose script is almost fully improvised.

 


Climate of fear

 

Paris is us on Netflix

 

Following the Paris attacks in 2015, the State of Emergency is declared by a French governmental decree. These laws allowed for the strengthening of the state’s arsenal to repress dissent, subsequently resulting in the police handling the regular protest movements more violently in Paris. More generally, today Parisians run into armed soldiers patrolling around the city on a daily basis.

But let’s put the situation in perspective: for decades Paris’ social life had been as lethargic as its museum’s facades and its youth had been longing for change. The attacks provoked a wave of solidarity, a lust for life, and the current protest movements are seen by many as an exercise in participatory democracy.

The sequence of traumatic events that shook the French capital city three to four years ago appears as a reflection of Anna’s inner self.

In Paris is Us, Parisian youth is seen as a lost, petrified generation that fears everything: tomorrow, unemployment, reality, and who prefers to resign – seemingly because they feel they won’t be able to change anything. The directors felt the urge to represent this microcosm of millennials who have been mortified by the tragic events that occurred in 2015.

Anna extensively delves into poorly-phrased existential questionings, along the lines of “is our physical world a virtual reality?” Here is an actual quote from Anna in the film: “It’s like we were both living in a big dream, somewhere in a sort of data center, someone else’s big dream, a dream that could repeat endlessly.”

 

Paris is us on Netflix

 

For most of the movie, the spectator is left wondering whether he is witnessing Anna’s sinking into insanity or a Parisian version of the apocalypse.

The sequence of traumatic events that shook the French capital city three to four years ago appears as a reflection of Anna’s inner self. The real drama is decontextualized and used as the background of a banal toxic love story.

Elizabeth Vogler’s Paris Is Us attempts to shake up French cinema with a fiction shot on the go, using rather creatively a variety of renowned filmmaking techniques.

In the end, the team of filmmakers succeeds in drawing on an impeccable hit list of references, from Terrence Malick’s introspective dialogues about love to nods to David Lynch’s aesthetics. But their repetitive use of the same images, among which a fragmented swirl of an unidentified wall, makes you dizzy.

Removing French political life from its actual context made Paris is Us a cinematographic equivalent of Fake News

Shooting most scenes in a single take, they really made the most out of Paris, doing whatever it took. Their cinema reminds us of the postwar generation of French filmmakers. François Truffaut, one of the leading directors of the New Wave movement, said in a 1980 interview that the process of making independent films from scratch away from traditional production companies allowed the movement to bloom in Paris – its main scenery.

We would have loved to love this film, but it clearly lacks a script. More importantly, removing French political life from its actual context made Paris is Us a cinematographic equivalent of Fake News.

Finally, it looks as if the couple misses out on all the events that the filmmakers guaranteed to embrace in their promotion. We are left with the characters’ cringe ambitions and inhibitions, coming across as some sort of apathy: Anna and Greg seem unaffected by the world that surrounds them. Paris becomes a vague, shrinking scenery in the distance.

Marion and Antoine - are in a relationship and they like to write movie reviews together. Marion Ravel is a French musician and writer based in Paris. For years she has been living in London, where she worked as a model. Antoine Goldet is a documentary film-maker, freelance video journalist and reporter. He graduated from Columbia School of Journalism in 2015 and co-founded the documentary production company Amok Films in 2018.
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