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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.

This book is a detailed study of the transnational and transmedia stardom/celebrity of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is one of the most interesting and important actresses working in cinema today, both in her native France and abroad. Her film career, spanning five decades, has seen her work with many significant French and international directors, as well as forging a remarkable collaboration with international auteur Lars von Trier. Her status as musician, style icon, muse to fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière and the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg has cemented her celebrity both in France and internationally. Gainsbourg’s transnational and transmedia stardom, predicated in part on her bilingualism and bicultural background, makes her a fascinating case study in contemporary stardom and celebrity in a global context. The book has two main aims: to provide a comprehensive account of Gainsbourg’s career, to chart its trajectory and pathways, to describe her star persona and to introduce readers to a range of her films as well as extra-filmic material on the actress, singer and style icon; and to position Gainsbourg in contemporary film history. It combines textual analysis of performance, costume, space, characterisation and narrative with archival research and extra-cinematic materials to interrogate the construction of Gainsbourg’s persona.

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‘What’s she like?’
Felicity Chaplin

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book describes that la Parisienne is a type which exists between art and life, and who exists on the boundary between representation and reality. The figure that emerges from this blurring of art and life is la Parisienne as muse. The book considers the cosmopolitanism of the Parisienne type, in the sense of 'anyone' and 'anywhere', and argues that la Parisienne was conceived not only as a figure of French femininity but of femininity as such. It explores the relationship between la Parisienne, fashion and film. The book shows at la Parisienne as femme fatale within the context of French film noir. Tracing her development in nineteenth-century art and literature, the book examines the way the Parisienne as courtesan is (re)presented in cinema.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

In iconographical terms, there are three motifs associated with la Parisienne as muse: she is depicted as inhabiting an artistic milieu; she is the subject of portraiture; and she is sui generis or self-fashioning. Many Parisiennes are described as muses not only to painters, poets and writers, but also fashion designers, musicians and filmmakers. In Elena et les hommes, Elena's status as Parisienne and muse is over-determined by real-life nineteenth-century Parisiennes upon whom her character is based. The main inspiration for Elena Sorokowska is Parisienne Misia Godebska, a Polish emigre living in Paris during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Raul Ruiz's Klimt, the space la Parisienne occupies between art and life forms the actual subject matter of the film. In Midnight in Paris, Adriana is depicted as self-fashioning through a selfconscious affectation of gesture.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

Paris has from the nineteenth century onwards been 'long-celebrated and decried as "cosmopolitan"' and perceived as 'the ultimate Cosmopolitan capital'. In terms of the cosmopolitan Parisienne in cinema, in the case studies that follow, this might be expressed as the relationship between character and setting. As la Parisienne, Gaby is associated with fashion, prostitution, consumption, social mobility, cosmopolitanism and danger. Pepe's encounter with Gaby inflames his nostalgia for Paris which, in turn, leads to his downfall. Sabrina tells the story of a chauffeur's daughter living on a Long Island estate who is sent to study cookery in Paris. Finally, central to the identity of the cosmopolitan Parisienne is the notion of transformation, which forms either part of the narrative proper to the films, as in Sabrina, or functions as a narrative subtext, as in Pepe le Moko and Model Shop.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

This chapter explores the relationship between la Parisienne, fashion and film within three contexts: including historical, industrial and textual contexts. The historical context forms the groundwork for considering this relationship in general. The industrial context considers the possibilities for costuming la Parisienne in a given film. The textual context considers the intersection of the first two contexts in specific films. Reunion in France and Funny Face are both explicitly about the production, consumption and marketing of fashion. Transformation is one of the key concepts or motifs associated with la Parisienne, and points to a deeper ontological mystery about her identity or essence. Transformation also plays a part in both Frantic and 8 femmes; however, in the latter film it is somewhat emptied of its meaning and narrative function, reduced to transformation for its own sake, a pure aesthetic phenomenon.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

This chapter considers manifestations of la Parisienne as femme fatale in Jules Dassin's Du Rififi chez les hommes , Marcel Carne's Le Jour se leve and Le Quai des brumes, and Jean-Luc Godard's A bout de souffle. Du Rififi chez les hommes belongs to a particular strain of French film noir, the mid-1950s French gangster film. According to Vincendeau, Carne's Le Jour se leve and Le Quai des brumes are often cited, along with other films of Poetic Realism, as precursors to American film noir. In Le Quai des brumes, la Parisienne also appears as an unintentional femme fatale in the character of Nelly. A key difference between Mac Orlan's novel and Carne's film is the transposition of the setting from Montmartre in 1903 to Le Havre in 1938.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

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.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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Felicity Chaplin

This chapter focuses on the Parisienne iconographical profiles of Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Anna Karina and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Certain studies have treated the star personae of Bardot, Moreau and Karina in a more general sense. The chapter builds upon these by focusing specifically on how these star personae relate to the Parisienne type. In the trailer for the film, off-screen voices exclaim 'Viva Bardot! Viva Moreau!' before any reference to the film's title is made, foregrounding neither the film itself nor the director, but the two leading women. The respective Parisienne films of Bardot and Moreau, and the way in which the amalgamation of these film roles has contributed to a specific Parisienne iconographical profile, also define the difference between the two stars. While working as a fashion and television model, Karina caught the attention of Jean-Luc Godard, who at the time was a film critic for Cahiers du Cinema.

in La Parisienne in cinema
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‘Look, let’s start all over again. What’s she like?’
Felicity Chaplin

An American in Paris, according to Schwartz, makes 'explicit both the importance of visual culture in late-nineteenth-century Paris and its connection to contemporary film culture of the 1950s. Paris and Hollywood formed an axis of cultural circulation in which the former served as the cultural crucible for the latter'. The American in Paris ballet sequence establishes visually a connection between Lise and the nineteenth-century figure of la Parisienne. The further turn of the screw for the difficulty of defining la Parisienne as a type is that this difficulty is not inspite of her iconography but is in fact built into it. This apparent contradiction is accounted for within iconography itself as a methodology, the two aspects of which are stability and mutability. One of the ways iconography may respond to its dual imperatives of stability and mutability is by constructing a cycle of films featuring a certain type.

in La Parisienne in cinema