The Story of Amelia’s Second Dinner
Imagine the scene: A young girl walking the streets of Paris after dark, strolling through St Germain, past Café de Flore, she doesn’t enter. The rain gently taps her face and the glow of the streetlamps is reflected in the glistening pavements…
Sounds pretty romantic right?
Here’s what really happened: I get caught in the relentless Paris rain. For dinner, I decided on a sushi restaurant close to the cinema I am supposed to be going to, instead of the 300 close to me. A lengthy journey to the other side of the river and obviously the restaurant is closed. So I keep marching in the rain looking for somewhere to eat. I don’t go to Café de Flore because I barely have 10 euros to my name let alone 50 or however much it costs to get yourself an ‘amuse bouche’ (there is NOTHING amusing about tiny food. Bouche unamused)
I finally reach a restaurant that claims to be Japanese even though they serve ‘beef and cheese’ yaki-tori (lol France). By this point I am freezing, I look how I imagine a poodle looks after and bath and I am starving hungry. I spot what appears to be salmon inside so I winter. As you may have gauged, Paris is stupid expensive. So naturally I ordered as little as I could, ate in 30 seconds and left.
This is where the story really starts.
After buying my ticket for the film with an hour and a half to spare, I popped into Le Café Reflet opposite, just for un café. I’ve started frequenting this establishment for various reasons: It is right by the cinemas I have hounded with my CV (to no avail unfortunately); it’s pretty cheap and unabashedly cool. Oh also it is apparently one of Tarantino’s fave haunts, so naturally I hang around expecting to see him.
I ordered my coffee and took a seat. Now, those who know me well know that I am not supposed to drink strong coffee or coffee in general, something I frequently forget/ignore. I ordered a ‘noisette’ (basically an espresso with a bit of milk) because I watched something that said it was very french and I am trying desperately not to look like a foreigner. Well, strong coffee + smallest dinner ever + me = disaster. I really didn’t want to be hyperventilating through the film and so I decided to get more food. Le reflet’s menu, posted on a chalk board, is fairly small, but still with plenty to choose from and at really great prices. I chose a salad as I had already had dinner, “just something small” was my thoughts. It was big enough for two, with an entire baguette on the side. I ate it all.
If you too find yourself wandering around le rive gauche with just 10 euros in your pocket, definitely check out Le Café Reflet.
50 Grand Rôles De Femmes
Unfortunately I only heard about this event recently, which has been running since January and continues to December. It was truly great to see a film festival celebrating female roles in cinemas, especially when I recently spoke about the lack of female characters in mainstream cinema today. This film series looks at films of all nationalities emphasising the fact that foreign language films often examine deeper, darker themes, allowing for more complex and thorough female characters. Last week’s film was BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY which was painful enough the first time I watched it, so I decided to wait a week and go and see the Billy Wilder classic film noir, SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950). It is with great embarrassment that I say that before this screening I had never seen this film. It was always one on my list but I never got round to it. Tonight was the perfect time.
The film starts how I believe every great film noir should start; an unknown murder plot, fade to black, fade up to a man and a typewriter. The film is chilling, gripping, it’s haunting and witty. It’s everything you expect from Wilder, coupled with William Holden and the intensely fantastic Gloria Swanson, playing ageing silent movie star Norma Desmond. She is without a doubt the star in every shot of this film, commanding and mesmerising.
A crippling parody of the Hollywood system, this film is a classic for a reason. Swanson’s performance is legendary. She accurately portrays the struggles of actresses and the paralysing fear of loss of beauty. Wilder is explicitly showing that being young and beautiful and ‘fresh’ is what you need to succeed, Norma has become completely fixed in her moment of greatness and now must forever be stuck in the past, a relic, a reminder of how not to succeed. When seeing this film we think of another great black and white about an ageing star, ALL ABOUT EVE. Swanson’s performance is much more melodramatic and crass than Bette Davis, but the ideas are similar; age is something a woman must not do. Women must be beautiful and youthful and sweet and unassuming. Watching these films today, instead of looking back at them as dated time capsules from a past era, we see that little has changed. Only now women go to extreme and drastic lengths to manipulate their age using invasive surgeries. Wilder was posing big questions about the industry that still very much ring true today.
The Cinema – Le Reflet Médicis
Le Reflet Médicis is a fairly modern cinema, but tasteful and painted a cinematic red. The screening was in Salle 1 in the basement, which I feel was fairly poorly designed with seats in the front being higher than those in the middle. The oddness continued when everyone who entered chose to sit in the closet third to the screen whereas I naturally gravitated to the back three rows. Nevertheless, comfy seats. Good price.
One thing I learnt recently about french cinemas is that people rarely order popcorn, it is considered just for children (obviously this is ridiculous, popcorn is a main food group non?). What’s more, most independent cinemas don’t have any food whatsoever. Obviously I think this is a terrible system, sometimes the food is the best part of the viewing experience. It is one of the Everyman cinemas USP: having nachos smothered in cheese, guac and salsa can make even terrible films seem ok. In a city full of amazing food, known for its culinary prowess, I really believe it is something Parisians need to get on board with. I mean, who wouldn’t want a little brioche whilst watching some Godard?