how impractical

September 24, 2006

The New York Times Magazine is running a light, marvelously concocted piece on director Sofia Coppola’s conception of Paris, as expressed in an afternoon spent shopping with her on the famous city’s boulevards and neighborhoods. The article is fascinating not for the ease with which it perpetuates an eternal fantasy, that the famous and well-off grapple only with cares no more troubling than deciding on which of twenty scarves they like best on a store shelf, but for being perhaps the most singular and definitive version of Paris ever constructed in such a spare frame.

Coppola mentions shops like Odorantes, a famous Parisian florist whose flowers are surely at least as beautiful as the one above (a slideshow is provided for the curious), as evocative of “what Paris is really like.” In fact, the entire article is like that. Telling us of Ms. Coppola’s enchantment with the French insistence on “a proper lunch break,” taking us to the houses of Charvet and Hermès, two makers of quintessentially French clothing and accessories known the world over, and blending these wonderful little anecdotes with reflections on Coppola’s upcoming film Marie Antoinette, writer Lynn Hirschberg reminds me of all the fanciful notions of Paris that have ever existed in my mind.

It’s a perfect afternoon in a perfect city, and though it involved the spending of thousands of dollars and the thoughts of a woman whose experiences–“interning at Chanel,” anyone?–and lifestyle are far, far removed from what most of us can understand, this vision of the city’s great charms is at least as real as the memory of my own visit there several years ago. Yes, Hirschberg’s account reminds me more of the sun-drenched afternoon glorified in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset than of any objective (or even subjective) depiction I’ve ever seen. How impractical such an afternoon would be, but then how thrilling.

Note: Just in case you decide to create your own version of the Parisian fantasy, I recommend a careful look at the “address book” provided at the conclusion.

–D. S. W.


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