The colour filter! The fresh produce! The gamine hairstyle, gratuitous clips from Jules et Jim and the 19th century architecture! It made me want to gaze soulfully over a windowbox full of geraniums and wear clompy shoes. (As an aside – why is it that only someone French could get away with that clobber? An Aussie chick would be laughed back to Fitzroy where her kind are tolerated)
Indeed when Amélie first came out, the film copped a lot of flak for those very qualities. And for ‘not portraying enough racial diversity’ in the typical French landscape. Whatevs. Anyway, Amélie is not what I’m bitching about today, I enjoyed it. What gets my goat is how the word ‘Paris’ has become synonymous with the word ‘romance’. For the short on ideas, Paris has become an instant shortcut to elegance, class and “what we all want”.
Now why would that be d’ya think?
Could it be the centuries of history? There are thousands of cities that are chockers with fascinating tales. How about the classic architecture? What about Cairo, Bombay, Prague, Shanghai etc. The streets filled with cafés and slender aesthetes in black skivvies? Melbourne does a bit o’ that.
But whatever je ne sais quoi that Paris has, it seems that everyone wants a bit of it.
During a mercifully short-lived romance of a few years ago, the unfortunate
dickhead chap wanted us to fantasise not only about our kids’ names, but – drumroll – our holidays in Paris. This did not impress me, particularly as it was only the 3rd date. Did he really think I was that corny? Did he really think that my whole life I had been dreaming of being whisked away to France and proposed to atop what Madame L’Amour (My grade 5 French teacher Mrs Love – her real name) would call ‘La Tour Eiffel’? Blech, ptui. Nothing more romantic than having to elbow another 1,000 people aside, all of them wearing Crocs.
I felt the insult keenly.
I put the Paris fantasy in the same file as gondolas in Venice, the top of the Empire State Building, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and any other thoroughly unoriginal ‘must-see’ location, in short, places for PEOPLE WITH NO IMAGINATION. A quick Google shows consensus that Paris is ‘the most romantic, interesting place in the WORLD’! I’m sorry, but has everyone been everywhere in the world?
It’s a fantasy that seems to be (largely) the province of people who neither speak French, nor read French authors, nor enjoy French music or artwork of any kind. I’m thinking of the buffoons who present Getaway, work with me here. It’s not a culture that particularly resonates with everyone, yet for some reason, everyone wants to go to Paris! I like French things, but god I’m not going to spend every last dollar getting there before I die. And are there no other cities in la France? What’s so unromantic about Lyon or Nice?
By its very nature, romance should flourish spontaneously, and in any setting. Nouakchott. Tawau. John O’Groats. That scummy end of Elizabeth St with the Maccas and the backpackers (and boy have I witnessed a lot of romance there ZING). You shouldn’t have to put a label on it.
And the idea of romance is not confined solely to those of us who are ‘taken’, goddammit. Romance could be a chance conversation on a train after three days of no sleep. It could be getting up before everyone else and strolling through the empty streets. It could be going for a skinny dip under the moon in the tropics or being curled up in bed with a new book while the rain pelts down outside.
I’m open to ideas on this one – can anyone explain why there’s such a universal preoccupation with Gay Paree? And before anyone makes a stinging retort, I have been there. I can report that Paris is nice, but has not cornered the market on romance.