Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2010

Paris, Je T'Aime and Playtime


Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. The answer length will vary for grad and undergrad. The questions are all graded individually so extra effort in preparing your answer is rewarded.

Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. Please only send to my sympatico address as I use this for the film course so that I run less of a risk of misplacing your answers.

Feel free to include internet reference links in your answers.

The answers are due in my Inbox on the day that they are presented in class.


updated Monday, December 27, 2010 9:59 PM


1. Question: Of the films viewed to date, only Paris Je T'Aime uses actors with which you might be familiar. How does this affect your interpretation of the city? Would the film and the reading of the city of Paris be the same if they had used nameless actors. How does the generic nature of the actors in Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera support the intended interpretation of those city films?

Elaine Chau: Answer:

Familiar actors are often associated with a particular image. The presence of ‘stars’ tend to entice larger audiences and naturally bring attention to the subject matter at hand. The way in which this affects the interpretation of a city is that these actors start to bring greater awareness to certain locations just by utilizing their ‘star quality’. Viewers may become unconsciously influenced by the way they see the city based on recognizable faces. An example of this is the story that takes place in Père-Lachaise where a couple argues while attempting to find the grave of Oscar Wilde. The established actors within this scene are Emily Mortimer (Match Point) and Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale). The Père-Lachaise Cemetery immediately becomes a place worth visiting with the city of Paris. Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men) direct a short that highlights the stereotypes of Paris, which stars Steve Buscemi (Fargo). The film takes place in the Tuileries station and enforces the idea that Paris is a place of love and proper etiquette should be followed when one is waiting at a metro station. The involvement of ‘stars’ within this film coupled with its comical nature make a memorable impression on the viewer.

I feel that nameless actors tend to communicate stories at a more personal level. The viewer is not distracted by the faces, but can focus on the subject matter at hand. Despite this fact, I believe that Paris Je T'Aime benefits from having a collection of actors of various nationalities and backgrounds. The ensemble cast are primarily American, British or French. The mix of well-known faces and less recognizable actors within the film strengthens both the techniques used in filming and the overall style that the collective film exudes. Every film explores a different district within Paris. The individual stories vary in length and subject matter. The stories are loosely connected through shared relationships between characters in different shorts – this is only discovered at the very end of the film. The beauty of Paris is understood through the details.

Paris Je T'Aime expresses the city of Paris in the form of a collage. It is about the daily encounters between strangers, between locals and those who are foreign to the city. The city is understood through the people because the people are what make the city. The use of different actors reflects the diversity of the people, which in turn identifies Paris as a collective. The films Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera attempt to express the city as a machine. Both films show the city transition from day to night, illustrating the happenings within one cycle. It is not as important to understand the fragments as individual elements, but rather the way they fit together as a whole. Therefore the use of generic actors supports the idea of the people as a united force that bring the city to life. These cities are understood through the use of a general idea.  





2. Question: Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin make pervasive use of the best in special effects of their time in the creation of the sequences in the film. Paris Je T'Aime seems to attempt to present the city as normally as possible (ie. without f/x). Why do you think this is? What do the f/x in the older films tell us about their cities and the culture of film of the time?

Anne Cheung: Answer:

Man with a movie camera and Berlin are shot at the industrial period where the invention of machines have just begun. The technology of video cameras is new to everyone at that time. Many constrains applied while shooting a movie, for example limited length of shooting time, only black and white films are available and audio has to be recorded separately from video. The use of special effects is used in older films to stitch shorter footages together to produce a coherent and more interesting documentary. Paris Je T’Aime, on the other hand, is produced in the 21st century, where video camera can basically capture record video and audio without any difficulty. The acting, the dynamic and the richness of the footages themselves are attractive enough.  Special effects are no longer required as a method to “fudge” and fix footages together but has become the tool to convey the mood and the narrative of a movie. On top of that, Paris Je T’Aime is a movie that attempts to stitch 18 stories together to represent the theme of “love” in the city. These stories may or may not be real. However, the idea of the movie is to resemble moments that represent the city as normal and believable as possible.  The content of the movies become more important as the tool to represent the city.

The extensive use of f/x in the older films tells us that the culture of movies at that time concentrates a lot on the application of new technology and techniques in movie making.  These older films meant to show the audience the actual daily activities in the city; there is no plot and no character, it documents the reality.  The culture of film has a lot to do with the experiment with new technologies and equipments.  People seem to be fascinated by the ability to “capture“ reality and the applying new techniques to reconstruct recorded moments into a visual product. 



3. Question: Compare the techniques that are used to illustrate the passage of time in Paris Je T'Aime as compared to Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin. Do you find one method more effective or fitting to the films?

Andrew Dadds: Answer:

The films Berlin/Man with a Movie Camera used a relatively short period of time, roughly the course of a day, as a framework to create the film. The interesting aspect of this was the fact that within the course of a day, the city took on a morphology of time that spoke well beyond the course of a single day. The film Berlin used a relatively smooth gradient of time to illustrate the formation of the modern city, beginning as desolate and with relatively old-fashioned street life. The course of the film saw an increase in the amount of automobiles and street congestion, and a decrease in more traditional means of transportation (carriages). Overall the effect was using a smooth gradient of time within a short period that simultaneously spoke to a much larger development of time and the city.

In Paris Je T’aime, the passage of time incorporated a collage approach to illustrating time. This was seen on a level of the totality of the film, being the jumps between stories, and also in each film. Some films spanned the course of a day, an hour, a year, etc. The nature of the film as a collage of different stories forced the films to take on a collage attitude towards time. Often it became rapidly sped up, or, almost happened in a time period closer to that of the time allocated for the short film. The resulting effect via the collage gives an impact on the viewer of multiplicities. The film becomes a sort of documentary encompassing the scale of the city through the many individuals within it. Through the shifts in temporal portrayal, the film resonates an affect of Paris, the city of many loves, or love for everyone, rather than a more traditional love story which focuses on one or two loves. The constant shifts between varying intensities of plot, time, and emotion leaves the viewer with an impression of the city as a totality of individuals, or the city is known through its individuals and their many milieus. The technique used to illustrate time is closely related to the overall affect of the film.

Berlin used a slow gradient of shifts, all with a focus on the city. As a result of this slow focusing of the city, individuals became anonymous, and the city itself stood out as the major character. Paris Je T’Aime used the technique of collage incorporating varying intensities to give a widespread but focused window into the lives of its people, where Berlin chose to use a focused slow passage of time to cut out individuals, and retain a focus on the city itself. Each of the film’s techniques regarding time were effective in resonating the overall ideas of the film.


4. Question: Both Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera might be considered potentially as positive advertisements and even propoganda about their respective cities, in the way that the aspects of their respective cities are presented in a positive light. The title of Paris Je T'Aime might lead you to think the same. How do you feel that the presentation of Paris in the film relates to the title's perception as a positive film? Could this film also be considered as an advertisement for Paris in the same way? Why? Why not?

David Domanski: Answer:

Paris is presented throughout twenty shorts as a figure in the background, ignored by conscious thought with the unfolding drama of each of the characters and their lives. Clearly, the point of each film was to portray these dramas, yet in certain interstitial moments the narrative calls on an outside voice, a witness, a companion; a steady figure. This is in classic narratives often manifest in nature, or in the environment elements such as the sun and the tide. The moment of loss in “Tuileries” shows a tourist waiting for a Paris subway train, and invoking a couple on the other side of the tracks. Rather than condemning the city or developing a fear for its urban inhabitants after being attacked, he scorns himself for acting in such naivety. The moment of deprivation in “Luin du 16o” conveys the love in the sad disconnection of mother and child for economic circumstance, reinforcing a strong commitment to living in Paris. The moment of magic in “Place des Victoires” proclaims Paris as a city in which the phenomenal can be experienced, relived. The moment of closure in “Quartier Latin” when the barkeeper takes the new divorcees on the house, reassuring that Paris is supportive in all times, thick and thin. This is how we delineate the love in Paris from the terribly dramatic events that unfold in its discourse. The delineation is more compelling with each short shown successively, all twenty, creating a continuous presentation in pluralistic fashion. In this we can more easily forgive, to a certain extent, the crimes inherent in a dense urban setting. Paris is promoted in these accounts, in the subtlety of its nuance and gravitational influence. Paris is however in these same terms abashed, should the audience of this film not be convinced with subtle cues of deeper meaning. There are sad stories narrated in Paris Je T’Aime that do not end-on-a-happy-note, so to speak. But to ignore the continuity, and relation of these valence existences through the common environment of Paris, is to ignore the artistry of the film.



5. Question: Considering the previous question, how would you view Playtime with respect to a "lure" to visit Paris?

Mark Kim: Answer:

Paris Je T’Aime displays the textural and sensual quality of Parisian lifestyle. The film, through numerous individual short clips, shows how different culture, age, and race interweave together and form a quilt. The stories not just about love and romance, but also explores all type of human emotions from love to hate, happy to sad. Thus, Paris Je T’Aime aims to depict the human aspect of the city, how the city comes to alive through all the different types of people interacting with one another.

On the contrast, Playtime sends an opposite message than Paris Je T’Aime. While Paris Je T’Aime is used as a promotional video to lure visitors around the world, Playtime is more of a warning to the Parisians of the danger of modern architecture and disappearance of culture. In Playtime, all the diverse and characteristic architecture of Paris is replaced is with modernistic and industrial style, with heavy emphasis on metal and glass. We see group of American tourists who visit Paris only to be taken to shopping centers and generic restaurants. Thus, Playtime shows how Paris would look like once you take away the culture and architecture away; that it is no longer Paris. Playtime and Paris Je T’Aime both demonstrates the importance of the role of the culture in a city. However, while Paris Je T’Aime explores this cultural diversity, Playtime chooses to portray an alternative Paris where modern architecture and culture has washed away the very essence of this historic and sensual city.





6. Question: Both Paris and Playtime feature key actors who are visitors to the city. Describe the way that seeing through the eyes of the visitor, rather than the native, manipulates the way that the city is presented to the viewer. In Paris, please select a particular short to support your answer.

Peter Kitchen: Answer:

By seeing the film through the eyes of the visitor, and not the native, not only does it manipulate the way the city is presented, but also the way the character is presented. In Paris Je T’aime one of the final short films depicts a middle-aged woman visiting Paris alone, and she experiences a new discovery. She feels alive for the first time. Even though she is alone, she feels connected to the city. She feels like a part of it. Like nothing she would have experienced back in America.

This depiction shows us that when viewing the city through the eyes of the visitor we see the connection between the visitor and the city immediately. We see the first impression. We experience it ourselves. Within the short film of the middle-aged woman, if we had seen a short film of her everyday American life, we would have a completely different impression of her and a different impression of the American city that she was in. But by seeing her in Paris, alone, interpreting it for herself, we understand what she is feeling because we have felt it before. We have all been to a city on our own, explored it, gotten to know its secrets, what is has to offer and reflect on. Whereas the city that we consider home, we already know what it has to offer, so we stay inside and gradually stop exploring.

However, on the other hand, by using the visitor to depict the city, we loose the true inner feeling and culture of it. We do not readily see the minor imperfections in everyday life that occur daily. We only see the first impression of the middle-aged woman and the new discovery she experiences. This depiction gives us an impression of the city, and tells us that if we visit, we may experience that same feeling ourselves. 



7. Question: Paris Je T'Aime is a set of shorts that eventually feed into the whole to make a complete script. How does this type of collage compare to the methods used in Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin? ie. narrative vs. non-narrative style.

Renee Liu: Answer:

Dziga Vertov, The director of the Man with a Movie Camera is said to be the first being able to find a mid-ground between a narrative media and a database form of media. [] When he shot the movie, he had no intension to give it any narrative contents. What he did is shooting all the scenes separately and put them randomly in a database. It is his wife who later edited the random clips and tried to rearrange them with a kind of narrative style.

Comparing to the Man with a Movie Camera, Berlin seems to have a stronger sense of narrative. The shooting of Berlin is similar to the way Vertov did his movie. Berlin’s director Walter Ruttmann randomly captured Berlin’s daily life in the period of a year, and compressed the clips into a movie which depicts the city in the passage of a single day. Walter had a clearer intension when he was shooting the movie. He is basically a passenger on the street recording down what he had seen in the city.  What he was shooting is daily life, which is different from Vertov who was trying to shoot certain moments in life. The movie Berlin is arranged clearly into five Acts by following the sequence of a day, and the repeated scene of the train and streetcar successfully connects the five parts together. Although there is no obvious storyline in each part of the Acts, the movie as a whole tells us the story about Berlin.

paris je t'aime

Paris Je T'Aime is composed of 18 short films. Each film is shot in a different arrondissement and tells us a story about love. The movie owns the irrelevant narratives from the Man with a Movie Camera, but has a central theme about love and the city which similar to the movie Berlin. And it’s different from the other two movies because the subject is no longer the city but the attachment between the people. From the non- narrative in the other two movies to 18 condensed narratives in one movie, they serve the same purpose – to represent the city with the most of it. Vertov and Walter chose to represent Russia and Berlin with the machinery of modern life, and Paris Je T'Aime chooses Love to represent Paris. Having 22 directors in one movie intends the variety of the 18 narratives. No another person in the world is the same, no another love story should be identical. All the 18 films are about love but seems totally irrelevant to each other. However, at the end of the movie, all these stories are connected together to weave the whole atmosphere of love in Paris. And we are getting to know Paris with this atmosphere indirectly from the attachment, the people, the room, and the street. The excessive narrative in this movie results in a mode of non-narrative. All the audience sense and remember at last is the loving atmosphere of Paris.


  8. Question: Paris Je T'Aime builds its picture of the city from a series of shorts, each filmed in or representing a section of the city. Is there one of the shorts that you feel could best represent the city by itself. Explain why you chose the short. Or if you do not feel that this is possible, explain.

Andrew Ng: Answer:

Paris Je T’aime used in total 18 different films shot in 18 different arrondissements in Paris. These arrondissements are municipal districts which divide Paris into 20 regions. Each short was directed by a different director and a different cast before being collaged together into Paris Je T’aime. Each story, while filmed in a distinctly different area, had a completely different narrative to tell.

Circumstances, scenarios, settings, contexts; all of these were different in each of the shorts. While they all attempt to convey the city of Paris in a narrative, it would not be possible to represent the entirety of the city with just one of the shorts. While I may be able to choose one that best represents what I think the city of Paris is like, it is almost impossible to describe the entire city of Paris with a film shot in just one part of the city.

Paris is stereotypically known as the “city of love” and attracts the most tourists around the world. It is the most expensive city in the world to live in, according to an Economist survey in 2010, and is also one of the most influential cities of the world. With so much culture, there would be so much to describe about the city of Paris. Even the city of Cambridge would be hard to express as a short film of a few minutes, as there are so many aspects to the city even though it is much smaller than Paris.

What the film Paris Je T’aime achieves by combining the 18 short films together is very different from a single narrative. While literal and geographical in the nature of its fragmentation, the short films are able to capture the interactions of people in certain places of the city. These, all formed together, show us merely a glimpse of life in the city, but a diverse, varied and open view which delivers much more insight to life in Paris. While each film showed Paris to be a city of life, love, tragedy and happiness, it still required all of the other short films in order to reinforce this notion about Paris.

In addition, the different shorts touch on different aspects of Paris. Some showed tourists visiting Paris, often revealing to them the nature of the city while they are there. Others showed people reuniting after a long time, their sorrows and their joys. Others yet showed tragedy, sadness, and reconciliation as a part of the city as well. However, together, they form a collective idea that Paris is indeed a human city, a place where things happen. Together, they reinforce the idea that Paris, just like any other city, is a place where people belong, co-exist, and nurture as a city.


  9. Question: Is the collage like filming method of Paris Je T'Aime a universally appropriate technique for representing any city? Are there some cities for which this method is absolutely not appropriate? Why?

Connor O'Grady: Answer:

The collage like filming method used in Paris Je T’aime is not necessarily an appropriate technique for representing any city, but it is an effective filming technique in order to intimately represent the dynamic relationship between a city and its’ people. It is a method that shows much of a city, but focuses mainly on the glimpses into the lives of many different types of people in their diverse surroundings.

I believe this sort of method is appropriate in a large urban type city, with slightly less homogenous characters and city districts. Places such as Paris, or like in Los Angeles (similar to Crash) or Love, Actually (London) create many different instances of this diversity in planning and culture.

I am unsure how effective a collage type movie could be in a lesser known city, with less historical presence. I do not think that even Toronto could even work that well, because even though it is one of the most diverse places in the world it lacks notable landmarks, cultural icons and distinct architectural time periods in the way European cities such as Paris, or even London.

New York, I Love You fails where Paris, Je T’aime succeeds due to its lack of both diversity in Architecture as well as the people depicted in culture. The character type is diluted, the environmental context varies less and the diversity of their types of experiences and adversities is minimal further weakening this connection to both the city and the characters. A collage type film always runs the risk of a cluster of random film, particularly if there is no theme within character and site differentiation. If a group of filmmakers were to make a collage with only the element of a city, there will likely be an overlap in certain environments, and also have an abrupt disconnect between each story. A city like Paris makes it easy for the filmmaker whereas many cities will make it incredibly hard to have an impact through collage. As in, too much of the same thing flattens and dilutes a places’ character and removes the wonder of new experience.

The use of landmark is also key in this movie. What makes Paris such a pregnant site for a collage type film is due to the high number of monuments and landmarks that are recognizable. When the viewer can synthesize the environment the story takes place, particularly a short, it will enhance each small view one has into that particular characters’ “life”. Intertwined into the urban context, the stories become site specific, which, like architecture becomes pertinent to its surroundings. By recognizing the surrounds and shooting the film in a way that involves them, it tells a story not only of love that people have for one another, but their love for the city.


  10. Question: Both Man with a Movie Camera and Berlin Symphony of a Great City take a spectator's position when viewing the city. Paris Je T'Aime and Playtime get more personal. How does this difference in the approach of filming affect the viewer's interpretation of the respective cities?

James Strong: Answer:

Both ‘Man with the Movie Camera’ and ‘Berlin’ seem to be trying to present the viewer with a normative view of life in the city.  Throughout both of those movies we essentially get an objective view of a cities schedule, starting in the morning and ending in the evening, which follows a number of people through their morning rituals, work day and evening activities.  The viewer’s interpretation is therefore one of documentary – the audience sees the city portrayed as it is.  In the two current movies, Paris Je T’aime and Playtime, the use of a narrative structure – some aspect of storytelling – brings the viewer into the city and engages us directly.

Both films are intended to give us an impression of the city rather than to document it (as in Berlin and Man with the Movie Camera) – our interpretation of the city becomes less reliant on factual documentation and more reliant on a film-makers intended message.  In the case of ‘Paris’, the impression is one of diversity – the viewer interprets the city as a collage of random occurrences (some more real than others) which give the city the impression of being a place where anything in possible.  In Playtime the impression is one of scepticism – the viewer interprets the city through the confusion and mayhem that happens during Hulot’s adventure, which give the city the impression of being repetitive, maze-like and confusing.

The narrative structure of both films (Paris and Playtime) subverts the importance of the city.  Instead of being at the forefront of our minds the city becomes the backdrop for the dramatic elements at play – whether that be any of the short stories taking place during Paris Je T’aime or Hulot’s and Barbara’s experience of a modernist Paris.  This technique is very different from the movie making styles of the earlier films; which were driven by ideas about presenting the city at the forefront.



11. Question: Although both Paris Je T'Aime and Playtime are both "colour" films, their use of colour is quite different. Compare the use of colour in the films explaining the impact on the portrayal of the Metropolis (City) in each.

Eric Tai: Answer:

The combination of set and film colour rendition used in Playtime gives it a very mechanical and artificial feel, which reinforces Tati’s vision of dysfunctional modernity. The buildings, vehicles, attire, walls, floor tiles, souvenirs, and food are all portrayed with similar colours and textures that make them repetitively dull. This gives the overall impact that the metropolis is an artificial world, where the dullness of everything makes human life mimic that of a robotic conception. When colours are used, they are used as symbols, like the stop-and-go nature of the café and convention lights (Playtime discussion #15) and the misfitting red and green dresses of Barbara and her companion. (Playtime discussion #11)

On the other hand, Paris Je T’Aime captures the action with much more vibrant colours that show a great sense of detail and richness in the set. Where Playtime sought to render Paris as a sterile mechanical playground overtaken by the false promises of modernism, Paris Je T’Aime captures the dynamic contrast and gritty nature of a modern medieval town. The richness of colours also captures the less desirable aspects of Paris—vandalism on the subway walls, dripped blood from the knifing, and worn out historic buildings, for example. The colours served to portray both desirable and undesirable aspects of Paris, and the collage of shorts show how it is both the good and the bad that define a metropolis.

Paris: vibrant, dynamic, gritty, gruesome at times
Playtime: sterile, mechanical, repetitively dull—small bits of colour “stick out” from the norm.



12. Question: Compare the references to known monuments in Paris Je T'Aime and Playtime. How does this impact the reading of the city in the film?

Bei Wang: Answer:

Playtime is shot in Tatisville, where Tati is projecting his own disillusion and discontent with the progress of modern architecture onto a set specifically created for the film with the intention of providing a contrast between what he sees as the American influence on Paris and the built form of Paris, which we only see as glimpses through the haze or reflections in the glass.

The dystopian nature of the film focuses so intensely on the architecture and the interaction between the protagonist and the architectural elements themselves that even though we only get glimpses of so few recognizable monuments in Paris, we immediately grab hold of these few tangible things in a sea of cold repetition. I believe the accentuation of these recognizable landmark elements was framed by Tati intentionally to alert us to what could happen if Paris allowed North American influence and industrial revolution to take over and create a Paris that is no longer unique, leading to a sense of placelessness.

Paris Je T’aime is set in Paris, shot and directed by 21 different directors in 18 different locations of Paris. And although the architectural elements in the backdrop are sometimes so blaringly obvious to the point of being cliché (one instance that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower at the end of the scene with the Mimes). The stories themselves don’t draw attention to its setting. The connection between the stories and where they took place is often weak if at all, and many of the stories could easily have taken place anywhere in the world, and still been convincing (with the obvious exception of the tourist who ‘falls in love with Paris’, and ironic it should be, that it is Paris seen through the eyes of a tourist).

The film frames Paris, the city, as a backdrop to the narratives, a place that inspires encounters, stories and romance in all its picturesque glory, as is the Paris we well know and love. And although the stories in Paris Je T’aime individually are endearing and for the most part well filmed and directed, the city and all of its elements definitely had more of an impact in the film Playtime, as every moment the audience is alerted to a facet of the city, whether good or bad, through contrast and deliberate framing.

For me personally, it felt as if Playtime was a film of a narrative of a city, whereas Paris Je T’aime frames Paris as a city of narratives. Perhaps my view on these two films seems very counter intuitive, it is by no means meant to be a critique of either film, simply personal opinion.



13. Question: The Paris of Playtime can be architecturally related to the area around the Defense. Given that this part of the city was not fully constructed at the time of the making of Playtime, how do you read this choice of Tati in making his film? In contrast, Paris Je T'Aime did not focus on this part of the city. Comment.

Stephen Wenzel: Answer:

La Defense is the main business district in Paris, located at the city’s western edge. Currently it is the largest purpose-built business district in all of Europe.  Tati’s “Playtime” was filmed between 1964 and 1967, six years after the first Skyscraper of la Defense was constructed. At this point, The area hadn’t yet developed into a district, but the hints towards its future were clearly present. “Playtime” puts much of it energy towards mocking the modern trends which were taking over urban life at the time. In order to convey a sense of change and questionable progress, Tati looked to the beginnings of La Defense and to the trends in America to create a future vision of  transparent skyscrapers, each a clone of the one that came before. He managed to create an urban landscape that must have seemed quite bizarre to the parisians of the time. Like the fad of the deforming chair which appeared throughout the film, Tati could use the architecture to represent modern progress that can be mocked and who’s legitimacy could be brought into question. The chair looks modern and cutting edge, but in reality it is rather awkward to sit in compared to a normal chair of the past. In a similar way the Architecture is monotone in colour, simple in design and void off all emotion that Parisians would associate with their more historical Architecture. The idea of a whole city built like this with no history, no grit, no story to tell seems all wrong relative to what tradition tells us.

Interestingly The actual Defense ended up quite different from Tati’s vision with more variety, an actual sense of culture and a connection with the historic city continuing along the axis of the Champs-Élysées. The Eiffel tower is almost never shown in “Playtime”,  Implying that the old Culture is Paris is no longer important in a world caught up in the wave of modernism. Despite all of today’s modern technical and structural capabilities, none of the “Defense” Towers have actually come close to the height of the Eiffel tower. In addition, the Grande Arche of la Defense connects to historical Paris being designed as a direct response to l’Arc de Triomphe.

In stark contrast to Tati’s modern, glossy Paris,  “Paris Je T’Aime” focuses on stories of the human experience and the human heart, be it a mother who has lost a child , a couples struggle though cancer, or a vampire love story. The setting avoids much of modern Paris and instead chooses to focus on the romantic city of Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the medieval city and the Sienne. People can relate to these parts of the city. They are not foreign entities invading their countries, but part of their own history and experience. These parts of the city have a lived in, human element. Unlike the pristine glass towers of “Playtime” which evoke a sense of disconnect from time and history, the old city seems to grow and age, displaying a sense of temporality one can relate to. The Defense on the other hand represents technological innovation, business, efficiency and economy, elements far removed from intimate human experience and as such are kept out of sight in the film.



14. Question: Which was your "favorite" short in Paris Je T'Aime as related to describing the nature of the CITY? Describe your reasons why?

Lisa Wong: Answer:

My “favorite” short in Paris je t’aime , as related to describing the nature of the city, is the segment on Parc Monceau by Alfonso Cuaron. Apart from the simple twist in the plot, the scene is also interesting because it is filmed in a single continuous shot.  The camera follows the characters as they meet and walk down a block to the nearest Metro station. The “panoramic” starts and ends with transit – the two characters meet at a bus stop and part at the Metro station. Along their walk we see a few parked cars (small, like most of the ones in Europe), passersby, and a rhythm of:

  • Apartments
  • façades plastered with posters,
  • a bakery, parked motorbikes (and a pizza delivery man entering an apartment complex)
  • a hair salon
  • a home appliance store
  • a condo sales shop
  • a movie store ­­
  • a cell phone store
  • ATM machines

By shooting the scene in a continuous shot, the director closely captures the street level of the city in a sort of uninterrupted “real” time in order to closely represent the small random happenings of the people who occupy a typical street in Paris. In short, this continuous method of filming paints a panoramic description of not only the two main characters of the story, but of the personality and energy of the street – and thus the city – they walk through.



15. Question: Which was your "favorite" short in Paris Je T'Aime as related to describing the nature of the CITY? Describe your reasons why?

Shuyin (Sophia) Wu: Answer:

Place des Victoires
At the center of the Place des Victoires is an equestrian monument in honor of King Louis XIV, celebrating the Treaties of Nijmegen concluded in 1678-79.  It is not only a historical site of illusion, but also a real place of suspended time of both life and death. The ending of the film signals a new metaphysic of life when death is no longer a finality but a transitional state, which reflects the dynamism of a new future for this historical city-Paris. The city faces the same catastrophe as all the other European cities when memories flow like a rushing endless river without self reflections. So like looking through a mirror, the "mother" in the story  was unable to go to the site where the catastrophe happened for a long time, to look at her own destruction after this disaster. The images of ruin  are capable of activating the unconscious memory in every individual, thus awakening a part of ourselves that is hidden, often times painful scars inside. These experiences  occur to everyone and heighten our consciousness, linking the fragmented past memories with new beginnings. Bringing by illusions, she was lead back to the site. Having to reflect past event, the mother thus gained the courage to face reality and start anew. The boy continues to live as long as the mother lives.



16. Question: Which was your "favorite" short in Paris Je T'Aime as related to describing the nature of the CITY? Describe your reasons why?

Ying Xu: Answer:

My favorite short in Paris Je T’Aime was the one about the Mimes because it was a created a very unusual experience for me as I’ve never seen a real Mime performance before. It was like watching a cartoon as the initial male mime woke up to a completely white and bland room and gave it color with his exaggerated actions. It was imaginative and surrealistic. It was “out there” but some how related to everyone.

The director did a great job in both the selection of the ideology of the short and the execution of production in using this art form as the paint that colors Paris as the template and canvas. When we think of Paris, we think of art, and then the break down of it – to Fashion, to music, to painting, to performance. The art of Mime gained most prominence in Europe from the rise of Marcel Marceau, Etienne Decroix, and Jacque Lecoq, all from France and hence it is a strong symbol of the French culture. It was a significant movement in the field of performance that in the modern ages has decreased in popularity. Sylvain Chomet has given it the chance to reborn in front of the movie screen and successfully rejuvenated much of its deserved attention in the hearts of younger viewers such as myself.

The mime lived without words and in only actions. He was an observer of the city and of what normal people would categorize as the norm but everything he interacted with lived in his bubble of the imaginative world. As a member of society, he is discriminated. He is considered alien to the practices of the city’s every day life. However, specific to a mime artist, but applicable to all artistry, the practice of the profession means to give up a large part of convention for the realm of the other world (virtual to other humans) which allows for innovation and creation, hence to be detached.

Under the downcast of this despairing umbrella, the mime remains a performer still and continuously gives color to his bubble, and puts up the most enthusiastic front. He is a comedian after all, and lives to make others happy. However, nevertheless alone and exhausted in this never-ending effort to please others, a part of him anguished to be normal, to be pampered by, so called, the City of Love, Paris. And finally, after many attempts at acceptance, he has found his other half – a female mime that had the same yearn and anguish for life and was just as lonely as he was until the moment their eyes met. That moment was beautiful and turned both their worlds inside out as they merged into one single bubble of love.

A happy ending, though told through the little boy that appears to be their son, another layer of surrealism is added. Children do not see through realistic eyes (especially one whom carries a backpack twice the size of his body) and are the richest with imagination. This me pondering after the short was over that the past 6 minutes was much like having lived in a child’s dream.



17. Question: Which was your "favorite" short in Paris Je T'Aime as related to describing the nature of the CITY? Describe your reasons why?

Yifei Yuan: Answer:

The shorts I like the most for portraying the nature of city is “14e arrondissement”, which describes a female traveler on her first time being in Paris. Paris is a complex city in terms of its urban fabrication. It has multi faces. This movie captures the most aspects of Paris, not only the particular snap shot of Paris, but also the overall full landscape. It presents the historical part and also the modern concrete forest.  It shows the normal street and place people live every day, and it also shows the spectacular unusual architecture. It shows how people live in the city—walking, eating, resting, driving, etc. And it shows the Paris in a traveler’s eye – a city for intense experience in a short period of time.

The most interesting point is that in this short, everything seems undirected, while other short gives me a strong feeling of directing and acting. This shorts convinces me of everything happened as what it ought to be without the camera; the stranger in the restaurant, the lady in the salon responding her question of where to find a restaurant, the people in the elevator. Everything is natural and without affected elegance and overdone. Not like some of the movie which enlarges the romantic and seductive aspects of Paris.

Another reason is that this short focuses on the relationship between a person and the city, the environment around it. It is how a person falls in love with an unfamiliar city. But most of the other shorts are talking about loves between people. The part of the women sitting in a park describes Paris as a living place, a place full of vivid atmosphere of life. It is a place constantly interacts with people, not just a setting for plot to continue.  In other movies, I feel that the city is blurred because of the event and character dominates the story. But in this short, the city and the person takes even importance.

And the biggest reason for me to choose this short is the light; the golden lights shines into the trees in the park, the glowing light passes through the leaves in the cemetery, the tender light fall into the walls and flowers in the residential boulevard. Everything is gloried in the light, and the entire city is full of energy for to be alive. Night of the city is beautiful and impressive, and sometimes reveals more truth than the light. But after all it is the light that propels growth and brings the entire city into your eyes.



18. Question: Which was your "favorite" short in Paris Je T'Aime as related to describing the nature of the CITY? Describe your reasons why?

Jian (Jay) Zhao: Answer:

For such a personally opinionated question, the answer has the ability to reveal a bit of the answerer. Each scene has the ability to illustrate a different component of Paris to the viewer. With 20 different stories, for anyone who has felt affection,  he/ she will most likely be able to connect or relate with one of the stories in Paris Je T’aime. A prominent story for me that describes the nature of the city will definitely be that of the lonely American tourist. While through her exploration, as someone who expected nothing, she was able to not only express love, but it receive it as well. Paris itself as a city was able to evoke memory and emotion to Carol, a person who had a completely different life to that of Paris and was a complete foreigner who knew very little of its culture. I think this definitely shows the power that successful architecture and urban planning can bring. By just moving through the city on her own, Carol was able to understand its history, its inspiration, its stories  and create experiences and passions that she herself could not explain with words but could emotionally understand.  Experience ranges in scales and function as long as the entity gives meaning to the viewer, and Carol definitely finds this.  This is why I find Carols story to be the most successful as it comments on multiple components of Paris, like eating alone in a Chinese restaurant or climbing on top of the Arch de Triomphe. Romance and love is a very prominent element of Paris, and I find this short very appropriate as a concluding story for the movie, as the lone traveler finds herself falling in love with the city itself.



19. Question: Have you ever visited Paris? Do you think that having or not having visited the city impacts your appreciation for and impression of the film and the CITY as it is presented in Paris Je T'Aime? (Bearing in mind the title of the film)

Carlo Pasini: Answer:

I have visited Paris. Many years ago, I went during a time that was a low-tourists season. I felt I saw a genuine view of the different parts of the city relating to its different demographics. I am under the impression that all movies of this genre are geared towards implying that the events that take place in the film are local to the city in title, which I believe is not the case. Having visited the city, I believe it makes me realize that Paris is much like any other place I've been in its capabilities.

The majority of the characters in the film are tourist or immigrants, and almost all the shorts are directed by foreign directors. This film can be seen then more as a display of the other side of people that tend to come when placed in a foreign environment. A lot of films that I have seen on Paris that show foreigners visiting the city have a similar affect for me. This is not to remove the credibility of the possibility of these events happening. I just think this is global phenomena. When people watch these movies, we connect with what we are seeing, because they are full of raw emotion, raw emotion that we too wish we had the time and space to regress into.

Culture, here, to me, is a supporting actor, so is the architecture; they are not notions that I believe are generating or attached to events themselves. I think the drug dealer who is there for the actress, is there because inside himself he is someone who care to be there for others, he wants to see people happy. The actress gets a crush on him, because she feels the need for someone to be there, who is comfortable with her less then reputable addictions. There is a trust there that is inherent. If they were childhood friends, the scene would be more dramatic with invested interests on both sides leading to more conflict and less ephemeral intimacy as we see in their cafe scene. 

It is possible that when the lady at the end of the movie, arrived in Paris, she already had a notion of the fact that she was going to be left with no found love in Paris. In fact, a French dating site would be more efficient, but the attempt at romance is what she is looking for – being able to just sit there and read this note that she learnt how to write in french, because it expresses something deep about her and her emotional needs. That is an extremely raw display of expression that we can all relate to, accept the place we do this actions for ourselves are in imaginary ones in our head, if we are so unlucky to not be able to travel.

People are usually enlightened for good or for worse, for mimesis or for diegesis by there traveling, because it removes them from their status quo. If this were a film about Venice, it would include a scene of someone buying something for someone whom they wished were there with them. Not because that is only possible in Venice, but because in todays' foreign culture, this is most accepted as something one would do in Venice. As such, one can see this film as well, as a reflection of how the world sees Paris. Globally, we've come to understand Paris as the accepted place for struggling artists to go and find themselves, that is not to say there are not struggling artists trying to find themselves all over the world. The city in the title then, becomes a place holder for a name of a person that you love within the setting of that city, as the setting of that city helped associate consciously for you.

The success of a metropolis like Paris is that it allows for a greater number of chances of interaction to transpire within a given period of time then a city, or village, as well as an endless change of spaces and times to visit them because of the shear numbers involved. Having visited Paris, then, hasn't necessarily improved my ability to understand the message of the film, but to a certain degree, the mystery that exists with not having a tangible knowledge of the place is no longer there, which I believe does helps. That mystery can arouse or create fear, leaving a film like this one, perhaps as an unconscious question that will need to be understood.



20. Question: Have you ever visited Paris? Do you think that having or not having visited the city impacts your appreciation for and impression of the film and the CITY as it is presented in Paris Je T'Aime? Do you think the use of location sets that are not ABOUT the specific city have the same issues of use?

Nicholas Savage: Answer:

Paris as a city is a perfect backdrop for film making the spaces in paris have a sense of place, any moment can be paired with a nook or a plain any corner turned opens a new space with texture and history. Having visited the city on a few occasions you get a better sense of the continuity of these spaces. That they are not just sets but an entire world with its own life and emotion.

I think that all the locations benefit from Paris as a back drop especially when the ‘idea’ of paris isnt paramount. Cities with history enevitably make better film locations.


21. Question: Compare the use of "factual" set in Paris Je T'Aime to "fictional" set in Playtime. How is this used to manipulate the presentation of the city. Why would this be done? How does it impact the marketability of the film?

Nicole Bruun-Meyer: Answer:

The directors of Paris Je T’Aime and Jacques Tati have approached the representation of the city in very different ways.  While the ‘factual’ set of Paris Je T’Aime shows a realism and grittiness of the city of Paris, the ‘fictional’ sets of Playtime are focused rather on the banal generality of an urban centre.  By limiting the specific identifiers of Paris, Tati removes the distraction of Paris and all its signifiers. 

Instead of using Paris’ natural modernist architecture as his backdrop, Tati decided to build his own ‘Tativille’, which in the end caused his financial downfall and the eventual lose of his creative license.  Tati does this to have full control “over the modernist aspects of the environment which, in consequence, became a highly condensed reflection of the crucial new features of the city” (Hilliker, p. 320).  In this way, Paris, in Tati’s mind, becomes the primary character, even though it is seldom clear that this is still Paris.

Contrary to this, Paris Je T’Aime shows real places, where daily life happens.  It allows us to see the real character of each arrondisement and the viewer is left with no doubt that this is Paris.  In a way this causes Paris to become a real backdrop, and allows the audience to look past the city and focus on the people and the stories being told.  The history of the city is celebrated, while in Playtime, Tati simply drops out the older Paris in order to deal with a generic modernist city.  There are only glimpses of its identity as reflections in glass doors.  Filmed during the era of policy change towards a Modernist vision of Paris, grown from the theories of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus school, Tati’s Playtime is much more a critique about modernism and technology, and our obsession with progress and change.  By using these more ‘fictional’ sets, he creates a much more relevant argument, about the loss of identity of these places, as globalization and mass production become more important then individuality, which can be applied to many large cities at the time. 

On the other hand, in typical Parisian style, Paris Je T’Aime portrays a city that knows it will be loved no matter what.  Unlike Playtime, it does not try to hide its grit and realness, but rather sees these as a commodity, just as much as the brief glimpses of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame.  We see the passions of people and the city.  In a way, the tourist destinations of Paris are secondary characters to the local life.  Paris Je T’Aime is almost like the insiders look at Paris, as the final short says, it’s when you fall in love with Paris and you realise Paris loves you back. 

Since Playtime is Tati’s singular view of modernism and the city, it works for the film’s argument to have the city become a more generic urban environment.  In this way, it makes sense that Tati would use these ambiguous ‘fictional’ sets, rather then letting Paris speak for itself, as it does in Paris Je T’Aime.  Each of the 22 directors have their own views on Paris as a city, and have each chosen their own way to represent it in their shorts.

In terms of marketability, Playtime would market itself less as a film about Paris and more about modernism and its effect on our societies and culture.  Hilliker says, “Tati takes on the city by investigating the new physical spaces in which particular groups and individuals in urbanized postwar industrial Paris live, work, and seek recreation” (Hilliker p. 319).  On the other hand, Paris Je T’Aime, with its 22 short stories about love, has the ability to capture a wider audience, as it plays to all of Paris’ personas. 


Borden, Iain.  “Playtime: ‘Tativille’ and Paris”.  The Hieroglyphics of Space: Reading and Experiencing the Metropolis, ed. Neil Leach. Routledge, 2002

Chion, Michel.  The Films of Jacques Tati. Guernica Editions, 2003.

Hilliker, Lee.  “In The Modernist Mirror: Jacques Tati and the Parisian LandscapeThe French Review, Vol. 76, No. 2, Dec. 2002, pg. 318-329.



22. Question: In Paris Je T'Aime there are numerous directors, each producing a segment. Does this impact the overall coherence and continuity of the film? For the better or worse? Explain.

Andrea Nagy: Answer:

Although the various segments in Paris, je t’aime were directed independently of each other, there is an underlying humanistic narrative that pervades the film and all of its sequences. By virtue of this, as well as by way of smooth transitioning between segments, the coherence and continuity of the film is maintained throughout. The film’s ability to coherently link the sequences together through a consistent visual style, despite each one’s unique themes, also contributes to this overall consistency and enhances the fundamental theme rather than detracts from it.

So as to maximise continuity between sequences, a number of stylistic devices were employed. Visually, the colour palette was generally consistent with the use of grey and blue tones, highlighted with rich dark yellows, while hints of yellow also appeared in various props and wardrobes. This can partially be explained by the fact that, despite being composed of a total of eighteen short films, all with different directors, cinematographers, and editors, Paris, je t’aime made use of a single production designer, set decorator, and costume designer. Besides colour, the production team clearly tried to ensure that the passage of time throughout the film would appear authentic. For instance, any given segment usually picks up at the time of day where the previous one leaves off. Unsurprisingly, since one of the purposes of the film was to pay homage to Paris, each arrondissement segment is followed by images from various parts of the city. This technique is useful in closing one segment and gradually transitioning into the next, as opposed to a dramatic shift with no preamble. Lastly, music also plays a role in linking the sequences together. There are no abrupt transitions in the film, neither visually nor musically. When one segment ends, the concluding music generally tends to continue a few seconds into the next segment, emphasising the notion that all of the stories are somehow intrinsically linked to one another.

The architecture and urban fabric of Paris, used as the backdrop in all of the segments, acts as a point of reference for the viewer and thus, although each sequence takes place in a different arrondissement, the Parisian streets and buildings add an extra element of visual continuity to the film. Despite the lack of chronology in depicting the various arrondissements, and the stories that take place within them, the understanding that all of the events and characters are integrally linked to the Parisian culture and landscape is enough to result in a cohesive overall package.

Ultimately, more so than any transition or even visual technique, it is the consistent narrative that renders the film coherent and continuous in its presentation. The themes of grief and love, which are represented, albeit differently, in each story, serve as the link between the radically different characters, places, and circumstances presented. The last segment, involving Carol the letter carrier, acts as a preface for the coming together of many of the characters and situations introduced to the audience up to that point. Film critic Paul Martin perhaps best captures the essence of the segment in writing, “As her narrative develops, her words combine with the visuals (including an aerial 360° view of the city... atop the Eiffel Tower) to produce a moving finale and fitting tribute to Paris.”



Paris, je t’aime



23. Question: Paris Je T'Aime presents a pseudo documentary look at the city in its present state. We are 80 years removed from the documentary styles of Berlin and Man with a Movie Camera. How do you think the viewers in 2190 will read Paris Je T'Aime? Do you think it will leave them with an accurate impression of the life and architecture of the City of Paris?

Ningxin (Sophia) Zhu: Answer:

The 2006 film Paris, Je T’aime describes a series of love stories that take place in various parts of Paris.  All of the stories are centered around different evolutions in a relationship; however, they all unravel with a sense of closure and comfort as the love in the relationship heals the situation.  Instead of recording the life of a city that is somewhat of an advertisement or even propaganda, for instance, in Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Man with a Movie Camera, Paris, Je T’aime uses a different strategy in focusing on individuals’ stories with the city of Paris as a backdrop.  In doing so, I believe it leaves the viewers with a positive impression of the city and fall in love with it despite the time period it is been viewed—now in 2010 or 184 years later in 2190.

Even though the architecture of Pairs is not the center of focus in the film, I think the viewers in 2190 will still get a sense of what the city is like—a place of love.  Because Paris, Je T’aime tells the stories of unusual encounters in a variety of different city’s neighbourhoods, the vignettes go beyond the “postcard” view of Paris to portray aspects of the city rarely seen on the big screen.  All deal with one overarching theme: love.  Rather than trying to objectively reveal the characteristics of the city, the film instead focuses on the activities of its inhabitants and visitors.  The city is used as a constant backdrop, a unifying element that brings together all the pieces.  Thus the viewer is simultaneously presented with a deeper understanding of the Parisian population and its various districts.  With the different settings, characters experience different forms of love.  Each reveals some challenge or difficulty, and in each case the relationship evolves to overcome it.  In the end, the audience is left with warm, optimistic feelings about their current relationships and those still to come, and those positive emotions extend beyond to their perception of the city as well.  Because of it, the film becomes timeless.  The warmness and the optimistic feelings presented in the city of love can be experienced and read by viewers of 2190 or even beyond.

The challenge in describing a metropolis is that often there is more than one single dimension to the story.  To truly capture the essence of living in such cities in a film, one has to portray the city in all the dimensions—physically, historically, culturally and metaphorically, etc.  The film Paris, Je T’aime nicely narrates the course of life in Paris by representing different aspects of life in a story and the film is a collage of these stories.  This method is an appropriate solution in introducing a city to the viewers.  Instead of troubling to write one comprehensive script for the whole city, each scene can be focused more into details of real life in the city and illustrate stories of different parts and neighbourhoods and cultures.  The collage method also gives an exposed image of the city, which allows the viewers to judge and imagine the real aspects of the city instead of closing the minds into a single story that is someone else’s perspective.

80 years ago, the documentary style of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and Man with a Movie Camera, operate on the basis that the narrative of the film is the life of the city.  Going through years of economical, social, political and technological changes, the cities described in these two films can no longer represent the true reality of present day, not even mentioning the distant future.  In Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, the city is the focus of the film, while the objects and people which occupy it are the smaller parts which help to make up a whole.  The people remain anonymous; their individual stories recede into the background as part of an overall tapestry of the city’s life.  Similarly, in Man with a Movie Camera, Vertov does not use actors or sets in order to relay his narrative.  Instead he uses specific filming techniques to illustrate his interpretation of man’s relationship with machines and the built form.  The viewer is not made to consider life in the city from the perspective of an individual’s experience; instead, city life is understood by examining the many parts and processes involved in its daily rhythm.  Both films can be seen as a kind of advertisement or propaganda of its perspective cities, where only a single story is told.

Because the form of a city and its architecture are changing constantly especially with the fast advancing technology and building techniques, a neighbourhood or an entire city can transform completely that people might not recognize just in a couple years.  For the viewers from 2190, which is 184 years after the film premiered, I am sure Paris will look completely different.  However, the genius locus or the spirit of the place will always remain in the city fabric.  The relationships between human will remain constant, no matter it is 10 years later, 100 years later, or even 500 years later.  Love is always a fundamental element in one’s life and the genius locus created through the emotions and relationships of its inhabitants will not change as drastic as the physical forms of the city.  Thus what love means to us now will be more or less similar to what love means 184 years later.  Therefore, I believe the film will leave the future viewers with an accurate impression pertain to the life in the city of Paris, and the genius locus of the neighbourhoods the actions were taken place.




updated 27-Dec-2010 9:59 PM

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