From Paris with love

From Paris with love

This week, French actor-director Attal, 44 (and son-in-law of the late, great French singer Serge Gainsbourg), launches his own tribute to Paris, its lovers and its street life. His three-minute YouTube film, Kisses from Paris, features two beautiful young actors making out all over the city; it’s as if Doisneau’s couple have returned — and updated their kiss for a new generation. They speak in English, while on the soundtrack Rufus Wainwright sings a melancholy tune.

Attal, speaking in an art deco cinema in a trendy Parisian neighbourhood, was commissioned by the Paris tourist board after they saw a five-minute film he made for the New York, I Love You project, a collection of shorts by various directors on the theme of love, set in different neighbourhoods of the Big Apple. (Attal’s offering featured Ethan Hawke trying to seduce a not-unamused young woman he meets outside a restaurant.)
Highly regarded in France, Attal, a short and stubbled figure, does not see working for the tourist board as selling out. He certainly doesn’t need the money: he acts, directs and is the voice of Tom Cruise when the actor’s movies are dubbed into French. His partner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, was last seen mutilating herself — and Willem Dafoe — in Lars von Triers’s Antichrist.

No, the simple reason for doing it, Attal says, is that he loves Paris and making films. “I was born in Tel Aviv,” he says. “But I came here when I was one, and grew up in the suburbs. I am really Parisian.” There is, however, another less prosaic reason for taking the job: “It took me a day,” he says, sipping an orange juice and chewing gum.
The Paris tourist board gave Attal free rein, but with a small brief: he had to advertise the city, of course, but more importantly, he had to use the less well-known parts of Paris, not the usual shots of the Eiffel tower and the Louvre. “I did get the Eiffel in,” Attal says; but he shot it in an unlikely way — at night, with a metro zooming in front. Instead, Kisses from Paris is a journey off the beaten track, taking in the sights tourists tend to miss: there’s a rock concert in the Château de Vincennes, as well as footage shot around the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Palais du Tokyo, and the flea market at Saint Ouen.
It’s an attempt to show the multi-cultural side of Paris, its art and music scenes, but it is also clearly designed to lure the young. The actors are young, beautiful and appealingly scruffy. They meet, fall for each other, and spend the day wandering around with their hormones raging. “I don’t want to leave Paris,” moans Zoé Schellenberg, who plays the young woman, in between passionate kisses.

Attal’s work is part of a burgeoning genre, the viral film, in which the lines between art and advert are blurred. The result, it is hoped, should take on a life of its own on the web. The fashion designer Vanessa Bruno recently dressed French it-girl Lou Doillon in her floaty clothes for a short film directed by Stéphanie di Giusto. Released instead of a catalogue, the film debuted on Bruno’s website and was shown in cinemas all over Paris. Marion Cotillard, who played Édith Piaf in the 2007 movie La Vie en Rose, starred in Lady Noire for Christian Dior, while the Swiss watchmakers IWC persuaded John Malkovich to make an appearance in a piece called Pilots. “That watch was made for pilots,” he tells two young airmen witheringly. “There are no real pilots any more.”
Mariann Wenckehim, a brand expert for the London firm 20/20, says: “A 30-second TV commercial or print ad can’t provoke the same intensity, the same edge as a short film. A film that has a sense of humour and engages youth is definitely more interesting. Brands want to inspire, rather than shout.”

Paris certainly needs to promote itself. Although still the most visited city in the world, it has fallen behind London and Berlin in terms of cool. With Kisses from Paris, Attal hopes to do for the French capital what Doisneau did when he took two young people and turned them into an iconic image, still instantly recognisable almost 60 years on.
The Guardian

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