Paris is the subject of a tale as hackneyed and legendary as Cinderella's slipper," reads the filmmakers' statement about the legendary 1963 documentary Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May). "No one can boast of having owned it; no one can boast of having worn it. Better to await Paris patiently, and observe it without seeking to surprise it." The attribution of those words is ambiguous, like so much else involving its co-director, the late Chris Marker, who died last year on his 91st birthday. (When asked to provide a photo, he frequently substituted a cat's for his own.) But the playful wit, boundless curiosity and spirit of intellectual adventure sound like Marker's own.
Shooting just after the spring 1962 accords that ended the Algerian War, Marker and co-director/cinematographer Pierre Lhomme offer a prismatic view of Paris during the first time since 1939 that the country had not been at war. Juxtaposing the city's private and public life — weddings and funerals, natives and immigrants, salesmen and schoolkids, the possibility of space travel and the lure of a long-awaited apartment — the directors record the moment's optimism even as they question and complicate it.
Now touring the country courtesy of Icarus Films, in a black-and-white digital restoration supervised by Lhomme, the movie screens two days only at The Belcourt: on Sunday, Oct. 27 (with Jonathan Rattner, filmmaker and assistant director of Vanderbilt's film studies program, discussing the film after the 4:40 p.m. screening), and Wednesday, Oct. 30. Click here for more information.