The biggest break-up in my life happened in Paris. My (then) girlfriend of five years and I were living in the great city while she attended school and I spent my days in galleries and parks, living off the previous year’s work. We paid for a year’s rent in advance for a furnished apartment with an amazing view, and I got a few part-time jobs cleaning apartments to get by. The pre-paid apartment meant that when the break-up occurred, I didn’t have the money to switch the date of my plane ticket, so I spent five months sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room. City of love and romance, indeed.
But if you ask me what I recall from that year, I won’t say the fights or the stiff back, I’ll tell you about the day a new friend and I bought cheap (but still delicious) wine and drank it on the Ile de la Cite, waving to the sightseeing boats. I’ll tell you about photographing the grave of Samuel Beckett using an antique camera I bought on a whim in a market, and waiting two months for the film to be developed. I’ll tell you about the time a street performer, dressed all in white as a statue came to life when I dropped a coin in his hat, squeezed my hand in thanks before sticking his tongue out at a boy standing nearby. I’ve run through the halls of the Louvre to spend five uninterrupted minutes with the Mona Lisa, introduced my dog to a woman on Rue Blondel who turned out to be a prostitute and ridden a rented bicycle along the deserted Champs Elysees at 4am. And I broke up with a girl. C’est la vie.
Magic runs through the streets of Paris like blood runs to the heart. It heals, it inspires, it brings people together when they’re torn apart. Deciding you love someone and deciding you don’t are equally exhilarating in Paris. In this month’s issue, we are thrilled to bring together essays that touch on themes of love, loss, self-discovery, intrigue, films, food and finding where you’re supposed to be. Whether Paris serves as a fond memory of a time gone by (Kara VanderBijl on Casablanca), a harsh reminder of a recent trauma (Brad Nelson on Three Colors: Blue), or the glamorous backdrop that adds that extra dash of spice to adventures (Karina Wolf on Charade), our writers delve into the lives of dreamers (Brianna Ashby onAmelie), the wanderers (Taylor Hine on The Razor’s Edge), and the hopelessly, tragically in love (Anya Jaremko-Greenwold on Before Sunset). We have a reflection on visiting the cinema in Paris, written by Alissa Wilkinson while she was actually in Paris, and, because La Ville Lumière isn’t just for humans, we also have the perspectives of a rat (Fran Hoepfner’s piece on Ratatouille) and a cat (Brooke Sonnenrich on Une vie de chat [A Cat in Paris]). Rounding out the issue is a poem on Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless from BW/DR’s poet in residence, Arielle Greenberg.
You can etch your initials into a padlock and fasten it to a bridge in any city in the world, can’t you? But Paris…There’s something special about Paris. Something in the air, the buildings, the streets that lets you forget the ones who broke your heart, forgive the ones who left, find the passion that lies dormant in your heart. Paris, so beautiful it’s practically of a bygone era. Paris, so charming that no one minds getting lost. Paris, the city that will hold the hearts and minds of great filmmakers forever and ever, amen. Paris, je t’aime.
—Andrew Root, Senior Editor