Emily In Paris, or if you have truly become French-by-binge Amelie In Paree, opened the floodgates of cultural commentary- how Americans flatten foreign cultures, but how it’s delectable all the more, how it’s so pretty but hollow, irresistible yet forgettable.
If you loved the show, taking mental notes of spraying salut salutation with noisy cheek kisses once this pandemic is a long-gone memory, practicing your guttural syllables, screaming J’adore at things you love, then this list is for you- Paris based films that will guarantee you replace the cold-turkey “What’s up?” with “Ça Va”, dosas with crêpe, and finally get the gumption to tell your bosses you’ll be taking an hour long languorous lunch, cigarette break notwithstanding. They’re all streaming on Netflix.
Call My Agent
I got to this show right after New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum noted how it is far superior to Emily In Paris. I agree, and for those of you who were annoyed at the flattened French formulaic imagery of the film, come hither! Call My Agent is a patient, immersive look at the lives of the agents who manage the stars- bratty, obnoxious, and surprisingly human. It features some really cool guest stars from Isabelle Adjani and Monica Bellucci to Isabelle Huppert, playing fictional versions of themselves. It’s brilliant, funny, and most importantly, very French.
There is a Gabriel in this show too- he isn’t capital-h-hot, but is as loveable as they come.
Nothing To Hide
A group of friends, three couples, and a man whose girlfriend is at home sick, meet over dinner at a friend’s place during the Lunar eclipse. They play a horrible game where they place all their phones in the center of the table, deciding every phone, text, e-mail notification will be read or heard out loud. Affairs, conspiracies, secrets pour out and there is always lingering tension. It plays into the stereotype of Parisians being casually risque and adulterous. It’s like watching milk boil, one moment it’s calm, and the next, the whole thing spills!
There’s lots of food here too- Foie Gras in milk, and broccoli paste, squid ink, and lots of wine.
This film reminds me of that moment in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara when Natasha (Kalki Koechlin) mistakes her boyfriend Kabir (Abhay Deol) showing her the ring he bought his mother as a proposal and screams “Yes!” in front of everyone before Kabir realizes what happened.
But this is France, so there must be a mistress. Here, the girlfriend discovers a wedding planner’s card on her boyfriend and mistakes that for a proposal. What ensues is a horror-comedy, horror because of the sheer idea of having your mistress plan your wedding. What can go wrong?
Chef’s Table: France
The Emmy Nominated Docu-series now explores France- filled with “gastronomic wastelands”, 3 star restaurants struggling for perfection, chefs swerving to “pure-veg” meals. It follows some of the most renowned chefs in Culinary Mecca as they re-invent, and re-invigorate the tight gastronomic history of a country that takes its food very seriously.
This is an odd-one-out in this list because this series (the first two episodes are directed by Academy Award Winner Damien Chazelle) is dark, gritty, real, and messy, everything Emily In Paris isn’t.
But I think it adds dimension to an idea of Paris- of Jazz, of dreams mid-construction, of working class life, struggling with debt and death, but also not letting go of the idea of Paris as this beautiful city, with a troubled population. Starring André Holland (Moonlight), Joanna Kulig (Cold War), and Amandla Stenberg, the filters used here are unlike the peppy, peppermint kinds, but when the light streams in at dawn and the drums go, and the trumpets blare, you know, it’s Paree.