2 Days in Paris

I love going to Paris. By now, I've been there so often that I don't feel the need to do any of the touristy things any more, and especially since this time I was there all by myself, I could just wander around at my own pace, at each intersection going into the street that looked nicest, with only the vaguest of goals in mind.

I was in the same hostel I also went to with my sister two years ago. It's not that great a hostel, but the location is perfect: it's on the Rue Mouffetard, a road with many small eateries, bars and shops and people walking around at all times of the day.

I'd never really been on holiday by myself. I'd traveled alone, yes, and I'd been by myself for a day, but never two whole days. It was a bit lonely, but in the end I liked it a lot: there's a freedom to it that really allows you to relax. Nobody gets bothered if you decide to take twenty pictures of one statue, if you spend half an hour browsing in a DVD shop (bought a wonderful version of The Science of Sleep, filled with extras, and Orson Welles' The Stranger), if you just sit in a park or next to the Seine for an hour, reading or making notes. The first evening, was, however, a bit strange, I had no idea what to do with myself, but the second night I had dinner with a big group from the hostel and had a lot of fun.

You have experiences by yourself you otherwise probably wouldn't have. I had myself a "free" massage, for example (I gave a 3 euro tip), and I had a really nice conversation in a park with two clochards who were lying in the park there, one with a half a liter can of beer, the other with a bottle of wine standing next to him in the grass. When the can was finished, the guy dutifully stood up to throw it in the garbage bag, and when they left, the other even offered me a piece of flan as they left. I checked: up was still up, down was still down.

I think what made me fully accept the being alone part was seeing 2 Days in Paris on Sunday. In this Julie Delpy directed film, she and her American boyfriend (played by ex Adam Goldberg) spend, well, 2 days in Paris. Before Sunset, however, this is not. Before Sunrise and also Before Sunset are about the start of a relationship, when you discover each other and are amazed by the connection you find. Two days in Paris, on the other hand, is about what happens two years later when all the character traits and habits you used to find adorable are now highly irritating, you wonder whether it's worth all the effort and bickering, and you discover you don't really know each other at all. This sounds pretty depressing, I know. But while it is true that it made me realize that spending two days alone in Paris is definitely better than spending two days fighting with a boy or girlfriend in Paris, that wasn't why I left the theatre with a grin on my face: this is probably the funniest movie I've seen all year, funnier than Clerks 2, for instance. How funny? Well, one noise it incited in me got its own laugh from a fellow moviegoer.

The criticism the film will get is, of course, that the characters are caricatures. And yes, the are. But at the same time, let's not forget what a caricature is: a depiction that takes the flaws and funny things that are there, and magnifies them. For instance, I don't know if all French families are as open about their sex lives and sex in general as Delpy's family (her parents plaid by her real-life parents) is here, but they are definitely much more open than American families. And Adam Goldberg? His character is not a hick, he's one of those Americans who is critical of his country, who is a democrat and who images he has a European sensibility: he knows French authors, even speaks a few words, and when he encounters a group of American "code-breakers" (i.e. Dan Brown aficionados) looking for the Louvre...well, I won't spoil what he does, but you can smell his contempt. He is, nonetheless, American, in his food preferences, his paranoid sense of hygiene, and the way he thinks about relationships, and that's where the conflict stems from.

Ok, ok, admittedly, it also stems from the many exes of Delpy's Marion they run into, and their -unfortunately very French- behavior. It also comes from the fact that French people will just go on talking in French even if there's someone who doesn't speak the language in their midst. But who cares, really, where it stems from, when the result is so funny: each taxi driver they run into is worse than the previous one, a "fairy" shows up to give Goldman advice, and there's a scene with Goldman holding a phone in one hand and a dictionary in the other getting progressively angrier that had me doubled over. Its maybe a little exaggerated, ok, a lot, but the comedy stems from human behavior and emotion, not from convoluted misunderstandings and toilet humor, and that's incredibly refreshing.

The best film this year? Not by a long shot. But the funniest? I definitely think so.

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