The Bottom Line
- Clear, easy-to follow tours organized by neighborhood
- Book provides well-researched facts and anecdotes-- on cinema and beyond
- Good balance between classic and contempoary, Hollywood blockbuster and "auteur" cinema
- Includes searchable index of featured movies by title and Metro map
- Lively, humorous narration
- Lack of actual stills from featured movies can make scenes difficult to visualize for the unfamiliar
- Full Title: Paris Movie Walks/Ten Guided Tours Through the City of Lights! Camera! Action!
- Author: Michael Schürmann
- Publisher: The Intrepid Traveler
- Suggested Price: $15.95 (US)
Guide Review - Paris Movie Walks by Michael Schürmann
As part of preparations for reviewing Paris Movie Walks, I accepted an invitation from author Michael Schürmann to take a stroll around his own highly photogenic neighborhood, Montmartre. At nearly every corner we cross, Schürmann seems to have a new sliver of cinematic trivia up his sleeve. "See that cafe at the bottom of the stairwell? That's where one of the last scenes from the remake of Sabrina was shot," he explains. Later, we pass by a neighborhood corner market with an unusually ornate sign-- but I have trouble situating when the facade was likely constructed. I learn that it was in fact augmented especially for scenes in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's successful 2001 export Amelie. This was just an ordinary market made to fit in perfectly with Jeunet's anti-naturalist, ambiguously timeless version of Paris, the author notes.
The book, just shy of 300 pages and easy to tote around, is filled with similarly subtle observations about the spots where movie directors chose to set up shop in Paris. Comprising 10 easy-to-follow walks corresponding to distinct areas of Paris, Schürmann's book includes facts and anecdotes about films as diverse in genre and era as Marcel Carné's Hôtel du Nord, Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce, Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim or Hollywood blockbusters (and flops) such as Sabrina and French Kiss. It's accessible enough for readers who are less than devout cinephiles, but the author is clearly well-versed in celluloid history and techniques, so readers with some expertise certainly won't be bored. Chapters 9 and 10 are devoted to Paris cinema classics such as The Red Balloon and Zazie dans le Metro, particularly suited to "auteur" fans.
What I especially like about the book is how easy it is to follow the tours and have your imagination piqued not only by cinematic moments in the places you're ambling through, but also by intriguing glimmers of social history, architecture, art, or the megalomaniac foibles of Parisian leaders. Schürmann manages to pack the book with celluloid facts, but also gives us a larger picture. There's also attention paid to cross-referencing between contemporary and classic films: strolling along the Canal St. Martin, for example, we learn that the boat that sinks to the bottom of the canal in Last Tango in Paris is called the Atlante-- a clear homage to the eponymous 1934 film by revered French director Jean Vigo.
I did find the book to have one small flaw: a lack of actual stills corresponding to the scenes being described may make it difficult to visualize scenes if you haven't seen the films in question. This is an understandable lack, given how costly and complicated the process of securing permission to use such stills can be. Overall, this takes away only slightly from the usability of the book, which remains an entertaining and informative read. I recommend it whether you're a hardcore cinephile or you simply want to experience Paris through a different lens.