La Parisienne in cinema

Between art and life

The term la Parisienne denotes a figure of French modernity. There is significant scholarship on la Parisienne in the fields of art history, fashion theory and culture and cultural histories of Paris However, there is little written on the (re)appearance and function of the type in cinema. This book is intended as an introduction to la Parisienne and her iconography in cinema, and deals predominantly with visual and narrative conventions, derived primarily from nineteenth-century art, literature and visual culture. The iconography of la Parisienne can be categorised according to the following concepts: visibility and mobility; style and fashionability, including self-fashioning; artist and muse; cosmopolitanism; prostitution; danger; consumption; and transformation. The book argues that la Parisienne is a type which exists between art and life, and the figure that emerges from this blurring of art and life is la Parisienne as muse. It considers the cosmopolitanism of the Parisienne type, in the sense of 'anyone' and 'anywhere', and argues that la Parisienne was conceived as feminity as such. The book explores the relationship between la Parisienne, fashion and film, and looks at la Parisienne as femme fatale within the context of French film noir. It traces her development in nineteenth-century art and literature, and examines the way the Parisienne as courtesan is (re)presented in cinema. The book also investigates the contribution star personae of Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Anna Karina, and Jeanne Moreau have made to the Parisienne type in cinema.

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Shortlisted for the Richard Wall Memorial Award, honoring books on film and broadcasting, 2018


‘"La Parisienne", as Chaplin explains, stands for an image of the city personified by a female figure. In the mid-nineteenth century, this became synonymous with the figure of an urban woman, an emblem of modernity whose mode of dress expressed her identity. She can be both artist and muse. Her class origins are not fixed: she might come from the demi-monde or the bourgeoiseie. In context, she can embody sexual openness and experimentation, or refined elegance and restraint. 'In her deft, dense, intriguing book, Chaplin has delineated an area of research; she has also created a space or set of possibilities for studies that can take her project further, deeper, into more specialised areas or specific forms of critical engagement.'
Philippa Hawker
Australian Book Review No. 42
July 2018

‘In this well-researched and insightful monograph, Felicity Chaplin presents the figure of the Parisienne in cinema “between art and life”, concentrating on 1950s and 1960s French and Hollywood film. She covers approximately four films per chapter, over six main sections, using “Parisienne” as both a noun and an adjective, and writing of what she terms the “Parisienne-ness” of her subjects…This book is a valuable addition to film studies, fashion studies and general cultural studies. The style is engaging, and the research is wide-ranging and thought provoking.'
Dervila Cooke, Dublin City University
H-France Review Vol. 18, No. 92
April 2018

‘Hopefully, Chaplin's detailed, comprehensive and persuasive study will set the stage for keeping the spotlight on the Parisienne into the twenty-first century.'
Joe Hardwick, University of Queensland
Australian Journal of French Studies Vol. 55, No. 3

‘This book is an important analysis of the history of fashion, art, media, literature, and French culture. It is a tool for students and researchers with an interest in discussing the peculiar theme of the Parisienn e , but it also offers insights into a range of different subjects such as the intricate relationship between fashion and cinema, as well as further topics such as social mobility, cosmopolitanism, and self–fashioning.'
The Journal of Dress History
January 2020


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