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This chapter focuses on the courtesan as the form of prostitution most usually associated with the figure of la Parisienne. Parisiennes Marie St Clair (Edna Purviance), Lucile (Catherine Deneuve) and Satine (Nicole Kidman) are all cinematic incarnations of the courtesan. In Charles Chaplin's A Woman of Paris, Marie leaves her unnamed provincial town to reinvent herself in Paris and becomes the kept woman of wealthy man-about-town Pierre Revel. In Alain Cavalier's La Chamade, based on Francoise Sagan's novel of the same name, Lucile, a hedonistic young woman, is kept by the generosity of the older affluent bachelor, Charles (Michel Piccol). Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge draws both directly and indirectly on the diverse iconography of la Parisienne as courtesan, derived from nineteenth-century art, literature and mass culture, and on this iconography as it has been reworked in cinema.

La Parisienne in cinema

Between art and life


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