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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Book Review — Paris Movie Walks: Ten Guided Tours Through The City of Lights! Camera! Action!

Having visited France, but never Paris, the new book Paris Movie Walks: Ten Guided Tours Through The City of Lights! Camera! Action! has me salivating for a plane ticket.

In the first page of the Prequel, author Michael Schümann confesses that readers have "come to the wrong place" if they're looking for a city guide that covers historical figures and facts. But that doesn't mean the pages aren't rich with stories from the past—they're just fictional ones that have been brought to life by cinema.

And what a wealth of them there are!

From 1954's SABRINA to the recent sequel THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, Schümann covers it all, with step-by-step walks down to the street corner (and detailed maps to help). The narrative is structured so specifically, I almost feel as if I'd have to carry the book with me on all ten separate self-guided tours to be sure not to miss anything. But I guess that's the idea, eh?

What I like about the book (and what faithful Cinebanter listeners will find refreshing) is that the author spares no reserve about spoiling film plots. If you haven't seen the movies he's discussing, you'll probably want to catch up via Netflix before you depart (plus, what's the fun of walking by something you have no frame of reference for anyway?). That said, just reading his different descriptions of places and characters (specifically Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's lovers from BEFORE SUNSET) had me longing to literally follow in their footsteps and re-live some of the greatest moments I've experienced as a viewer.

Also to note is the author's balanced treatment of independent films (THE THREE COLORS TRILOGY, TELL NO ONE) and mainstream fare (THE DA VINCI CODE, A VIEW TO A KILL). If the films both happened on the same block, he appropriately offers equal narrative for each.

I've taken themed walks in European cities before (i.e. "Magical Mystery Tour" in London, focusing on The Beatles), but never have I contemplated such a comprehensive tour, which covers so much ground both of the city and of the art.

The only minor drawbacks of the book are the sloppy edits (Reese Witherspoon doesn't spell her name "Reece") and the somewhat jumbled "What to Watch" section at the end that isn't based on more than the author's enjoyment of the films. Instead, I'd have preferred a list of which flicks contain the most minutes of Paris or a few more sections like the one titled The French-American Friendship, which offered more context into the landmarks along the walk.

Overall though, it's a definite gem for any film buff thinking of a trip to The City of Lights. I can't imagine wanting to see it for the first time any other way.

Paris Movie Walks by Michael Schürmann includes 280 pages of text, photos and maps. It is available now in trade paperback from The Intrepid Traveler, $15.95.


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Blogger Unknown said...

Great review! I will be bringing this book with me. I would have not know about this resource without you, thanks!

9:52 AM  

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