An American in Paris on a Roman Holiday

September 04, 2016

Alternate title: LIVING THE DREAM. In July I went to Paris and Rome and I was in movie-loving-heaven. If you're a fan of foreign cinema, hopefully this post will give you some ideas if you find yourself in the City of Lights or the Eternal City. I'm also going to link to some resources at the bottom of the post if you're trying to plan film-themed things to do on your trip. I was only there for 6 days total (3 days in each city) so I didn't get to do everything on my list. But that just means I have unfinished business there and I *have* to go back! ;)

One of the locations at the top of my list in Paris was Le Champo Cinema. At some point I'd like to time my visit with their Les Nuits de Champo, an overnight movie marathon that includes breakfast! But for this trip I only had time to stop and snap a photo. Le Champo was one of the haunts of the New Wave directors before they became famous. Chabrol called it his "second university" and Truffaut called it his "headquarters."

I missed out on what is probably the most important New-Wave-related location, The Cinémathèque Française, but it's at the top of my list for my next visit!

I wasn't planning on spending any time in Pigalle while I was in Paris (this street that I was walking down was lined with sex shops, so it's not really my jam lol) but our tour guide led us this way to get back to the hotel after dinner. I wouldn't venture this way alone, but I'm really glad we ended up here. Pigalle is the backdrop of so many of my favorite French films, it was almost as unreal to me to see that up close as it was to see the Eiffel Tower.

Bob le flambeur (1956)

One of the spots at the TOP of my list was Cine Corner in the Latin Quarter of Paris. It's a tiny blink-and-you-might-miss-it shop on Rue de l'École de Médecine. They have a gigantic selection of classic foreign films (and also American movies, but I can easily get those at home.) Check out the French How to Steal a Million poster on display above!!

All of the movies sold here are Region 2, which means you'll need a region-free DVD player at home to be able to watch them. If you're a foreign film fan you've probably already got one, but just in case, this is the one that I have. No programming was necessary, it plays any region disc right out of the box!

If you don't understand French, you'll need to find discs with English subtitles. On the back of the DVD it'll say "sous-titres: Anglais" if it comes with English subs. I can understand very minimal French, so I try to stick with movies that come with subtitles, but if I'm desperate to see something I'll buy it without them. I found a few Alain Delon movies that were missing from my collection and couldn't resist bringing them home with me.

The guy at the desk was incredibly friendly and sweet and helped me find some of the movies I was looking for. When he was ringing up my order he let me know that some of the films were subtitle-less. When I acknowledged that I was totally fine with that he teased me and said "oooh, you want to learn French with Alain Delon, eh?" YES, YES I DO! ;D

I'm sure it was kind of already obvious that I was an Alain Delon fanatic at this point anyway, because when I noticed this book on the shelf behind the counter I had let out an audible gasp, and then just pointed at it with a big grin on my face. Smooth, Kate.

I called my parents from my hotel room that night and was joking that I had seen the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe and yet finding this book was the highlight of my day. I'm (mostly) kidding ;)

This one could seem kind of weird to some people, but please bear with me... it was very important to me. I went to visit Francois Truffaut's grave on my first day in Paris (it was actually the first thing I did in the city. Montmartre Cemetery was right next to my hotel.) I really wanted to get flowers or something, but I didn't know if that was silly or strange and I also didn't know how to really buy anything at all yet (I was VERY nervous about talking to anyone when I first got there since I don't speak French) When I got there I found that a few other fans or loved ones had left flowers, though, so I decided it was okay to come back again with flowers before I left Paris.

On my last morning in Paris I stopped at a little florist shop on Avenue Rachel, which leads to the cemetery, and bought a rose. I paid my respects, and sat on a bench in the cemetery and wrote in my trip journal for a while. On my way back up to the main road I took some pictures on the steps. I didn't realize until I got home and re-watched The 400 Blows that Truffaut had shot a scene on the very same steps.

The 400 Blows (1959)

My next stop was Café de la Paix. In May I went to see Anna Karina at The Film Forum, and she recounted the story of hers and Godard's first date at this very cafe. (I wrote more about that anecdote here) It was so thrilling to sit there knowing that one of the most iconic actress/director relationships began in the exact same spot. This cafe kind of played a pretty important part in the eventual creation of Vivre Sa Vie, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, etc.!

A little later in the day I went to The Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé. They were showing Le Samourai and I had purchased my tickets online before I even left home. (A HUGE thank you to Fussy for recommending this theater!)

There was a little cafe next door, and I was early, so I stopped to grab a bite to eat before the show. All of the salads on the menu were named after classic film stars! I was so tempted to get the Lino Ventura even if the actual salad itself didn't appeal to me at all. I just wanted to be able to say I ordered a Lino Ventura salad, lol!

Seeing Le Samourai on the big screen IN PARIS was indescribable. I won't even attempt to describe this experience because it's actually impossible.

In Paris I also saw The Ritz (the exact spot where Peter O'Toole puts Audrey Hepburn into a taxi and kisses her goodnight in How to Steal a Million. I DIED.) and walked along the Seine, where Jeanne Moreau jumps into the river in Jules et Jim, where Jef Costello tosses his pistol in Le Samourai. Everywhere you turn in Paris there is something to remind you of movies. Maybe that's why I loved it so incredibly much...

I didn't have quite as many movie-moments in Rome as I did in Paris (mostly because I watch more French films than Italian, as evidenced by the fact that I think all of my Roman film anecdotes are related to French movies anyway, haha!) but there were quite a few Alain Delon-related spots!

Above I'm in Piazza del Popolo standing outside of a Borsalino hat shop. Borsalino sponsored the French gangster film of the same name in 1970, which starred Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo. The movie title on the poster is literally the logo of the hat store.

On our way to the Colosseum, we passed the Arch of Constantine which was super exciting to me, because it plays a big part in the plot of the 1961 Rene Clement film The Joy of Living. It stars (SURPRISE!) Alain Delon, and with each re-watch it's been moving higher and higher on my list of favorite films. It's just a really fun movie.

I had to snap a photo of this mural in a little restaurant near the Trevi Fountain. It's a really great mural, isn't it? I wish I could have had an Anita Ekberg moment at the fountain, but there were so many people there you literally couldn't even budge. I wonder if there's any time during the year that it's less crowded (not that I'd actually go walking around in it, just to clarify, lol) or if it's this busy all year long. I'm also curious if it was such a huge tourist attraction before La Dolce Vita or if the movie solidified the fountain's iconic status.

Last but CERTAINLY not least -- I found one of the shooting locations for Purple Noon! And I found it by accident! We were wandering around Rome for hours and decided to walk up to this piazza to try to get a taxi. When we got there, I thought it looked familiar so I whipped out my phone, turned on my data, and opened up my map app. Sure enough, we were in Piazza del Popolo, the same spot where the first scenes of the movie were shot. I actually had some screenshots handy on my phone, ready for just such an occasion, and was able to stand in the exact same spot as Maurice Ronet and Alain Delon.

Do I look happy? I WAS REALLY HAPPY.

And finally here's my haul from Cine Corner! Most of my own souvenirs were dvds, books, and albums, and I think that's actually kind of perfect. Every time I watch one of these films I'll be taken back to my trip immediately :)

Here are some of the resources I used to find movie locations:

The Cine-Tourist
Movie Tourist
Welcome to Rome at the Movies
World Film Locations: Rome
World Film Locations: Paris


Millie said...

Can I just say that first of all I love all of this.

And second of all, that photo of you in the Purple Noon location is possibly my fave photo of you! YOU LOOK SO HAPPY! *heart eyes*

KC said...

Ah, so fun. Makes me want to go back to Paris. I pretty much obsessed over the museums when I was there. Clearly I missed a lot!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...


DKoren said...

I have been loving reading about your adventures overseas. I was supposed to go to to Paris in July, but that trip fell through due to tragic circumstances (the friend I was going to be traveling with died unexpectedly), so I've been sort of vicariously imagining Paris through reading your reminisces about it. I love the comment about learning French with Alain Delon! And I can't think of anything better to come home with than movies and books. The pictures you took are so great.

Thanks for writing about your trip in detail!

Michaela said...

I studied French cinema in Paris for a month this summer and I have to keep reminding myself that it actually happened, that I didn't just dream it. I actually saw Cine Corner, but I never went in -- I did, however, ask a lady outside of the shop for directions. I also felt like an idiot later because I went to La Filmotheque du Quartier Latin twice and apparently I walked right by Le Champo both times. *face palm* Like you said, this just means I have to go back to correct these things. Glad to see you enjoyed your trip! I'm jealous you got to see Rome!

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

This post was beautiful and amazing, and I am in awe of your intrepidness. Traipsing off to Europe to find places you've seen in movies -- it's the kind of thing I dream of.

Also, visiting the grave of a filmmaker who had impacted you so much is NOT weird. I have done that. It can be a very moving experience, and I know that I'm grateful to have been able to honor in that way a couple of people I would never have met, but who nonetheless are important to me.