It’s an iconic and unforgettable moment: Gene Kelly lifting the elegant Leslie Caron in his arms as they take a Romantic stroll through a Parisian flower market, the trees behind them bursting with green leaves and surreal pink blooms. Of course, what you’re seeing are painted sets of Paris, rather than the real thing– but the dream of Paris in the springtime remains palpable in the classic 1951 film by Vincente Minnelli, An American in Paris.
Like this award-winning musical, with music from George Gershwin, such a classic that it’s wonderfully and enduringly implanted in our cultural memory, many other films set in Paris during the promising and romantic spring months are also timeless and inspiring. Here are three of our favorites!
April in Paris (1952, Directed by David Butler)
Another mid-century musical about the city of lights, this technicolor masterpiece stars an ingenue Doris Day (pre-“Sound of Music”) as Ethel “Dynamite” Jackson, a fresh-faced American Broadway chorus girl who moves to Paris to find her fame. On the way, she falls in love with her compatriot bureaucrat Winthrop Putnam (played by Ray Bolger). Including numbers like the eponymous “Paris in April” (once a #1 hit in the US), this film is a treat every time, even if it rings a little corny in our postmodern world. Sometimes, as this celluloid gem proves, a little return to the anti-ironic can be refreshing and inspiring.
Before Sunset (2004, Directed by Richard Linklater)
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply, this charming sequel to “Before Sunrise” charts the Parisian reunion of two people who had shared a romantic all-nighter in Vienna a decade earlier. This time around, they walk around a green, springtime Paris to fuel their conversations, walking around areas including the lovely Promenade Plantée, a path teeming with gorgeous plants and flowers built atop a defunct railway in east Paris. You can’t help but feel a soft breeze lifting your own mind as you watch their fleeting romance rekindle amid the picturesque spring scenery of Paris.
Amelie (2001, Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
This quirky film set in a hyper color, imaginary Paris has some great scenes alluding to springtime in the city, including one in which the eponymous heroine, played by Audrey Tautou, skips rocks off a footbridge onto the waters of the Canal St-Martin; leafy green trees in the background frame the iconic shot. It’s not “about” the spring, particularly, but it’s one of the most feel-good films set in Paris, and it’s become a true modern classic.