PARIS CAN WAIT
Director: Eleanor Coppola
Screenwriter: Eleanor Coppola
Runtime: 92 mins.
Australian release date: 20 July 2017
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 7 July 2107.
In this semi-autobiographical work, Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia, takes us on a joyous ride through France and reveals an amorous passion that occurred during the two day journey. How much of this unrequited love affair is true? That’s Eleanor’s business and she’s been very generous to share as much of it as she has. Or has she? Perhaps the romance is merely a flight of fancy? Une folie. The decision rests with the viewer - there are those who’ll go with this yarn and those who’ll find it merely indulgent.
Anne (the exquisite Diane Lane) is a beautiful woman ‘of a certain age’ married to Michael (Alec Baldwin), a successful movie producer absorbed by his career and neglectful of his wife. The couple is about to depart Cannes in their private jet after attending the film festival when Anne decides to bail out because of an ear infection and accepts a lift to Paris with Michael’s French business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard). Jacques drives an old Peugeot and he’s in no hurry to get to the capital; he manages to find plenty of distractions en route, which involve a bit of sight-seeing but much more wining and dining. It appears he’s travelled this way before and Anne starts to wonder if this is his regular post-Cannes excursion. He certainly seems familiar with the restaurateurs and sommeliers and especially a particular female acquaintance. His behaviour is at times overly clichéd - he’s so Gallic he even suggests that a road-side picnic he sets up is reminiscent of Manet’s famous painting Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass). Ooh la la! Still, his obvious infatuation with Anne has her intrigued so she puts up with the seven-hour trip turning into a 40-hour one.
Coppola is no stranger to filmmaking but this was her foray into drama. She first revealed her talent in the 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse that went behind the scenes of possibly the most arduous film shoot of the period, Apocalypse Now. She’s on record as saying, “The process of making a fiction film is exactly the opposite of a documentary. For a documentary, you have to be very quiet and observant, look for moments when something interesting might happen, and hope you have your camera turned on and in focus when it does. A fiction film is just the opposite. You have to decide how everything will happen and this was difficult, being by nature an observer of what is ‘already there.’” Difficult it may be but she’s made a success of it.
Paris Can Wait makes for an enjoyable gourmet experience (don’t go hungry) through the French countryside, taking in the picturesque towns of Aix-en-Provence, Lauris and Cadenet. It’s interesting that after all these years (she turned 81 in May) Eleanor Coppola has written a story that is both curious and honest and examines the difference between European and American cultures. It may be a light confection but Paris Can Wait is a debut feature to be enjoyed and savoured.