Synopsis: Unable to release her deepest sexual fantasies through a dull marriage, Lucy finally meets a young and sexy man able to unlock the erotic place hidden inside herself. The uninhibited lust they release in each other climaxes in a scene as hilarious as it is kinky.
Paris, France 7.75
eyelights: Leslie Hope. its transgressive quality. its cinematography.
eyesores: Michael’s self-destruction.
“You have to trust your own cunt.”
Pretend you’re licking honey off the wings of a butterfly.
With these words, ‘Paris, France’ etched itself a permanent place in my memory. I saw it at a local art house cinema back in 1993, shortly after its release, when I first started exploring my cinematic boundaries. I still remember it leaving me feeling ill-at-ease, for some reason, but turned on.
Adapted from his own novel by Tom Walmsley, it explores the romantic and sexual entanglements of Lucy Quick, a writer with writer’s block, Michael, her husband and publisher, William, Michael’s business partner, and Sloan, an author and William’s lover, over the course of one Easter weekend.
Though it’s marketed as a dramedy, and some reviews suggest that it intentionally mocks its audience, I actually watched it with dead seriousness; I didn’t see the humour in it. In fact, nearly 25 years later, I saw the character dynamics as entirely credible contextually. This could easily happen.
Basically, Lucy has never cheated on Michael, but she falls for Sloan’s advances; they have a series of torrid trysts. Meanwhile, William is aching for a more serious relationship with Sloan, unaware of the affair. And Michael spins out into drunkenness when Lucy decides to reveal her infidelity.
The characters are flawed and none are especially likable (though William comes the closest, being a mere bystander), but what makes the movie watchable is the fact that their troubles feel real, irrespective of how they handle them. I couldn’t relate to any of them, but I could understand them.
Lucy has been struggling with her sophomore novel for years. She’s also embarrassed of her debut, which continues to claim her time through readings at local book stores – which assails her with performance anxiety. She longs for passion, but Michael has always been too tepid a lover.
When she decides to have her affair, it’s to walk close to the edge; it’s not just for the sex. She’d been grieving the loss of Minter, an author friend who was stricken with cancer years ago; he’d been her sex fantasy for years and was the subject of her stillborn novel. Sloan is his substitute.
Thanks to him, she can complete her book, “Paris, France”.
Michael is a devoted husband, but he’s even more focused on his small publishing business – to the degree that he’s completely oblivious to Sloan’s obvious advances towards Lucy. He’s much more focused on digging up Minter’s stash of poems, which he once refused to publish but is reconsidering.
When he finds out about the affair, he begins to wonder about Sloan’s appeal. This leads him to question his own sexuality, which, with the help of William, he begins to explore. But his emotional torment leads him to excessive drinking, crummy songwriting and unusual decision-making.
He’s a sad sight; it’s hard not to pity him.
Sloan is a troubled individual who had a spotty childhood. He suffers from anger issues, which he channels into boxing and an unhealthy fascination with Ed Gein. He also struggles with his sexuality, refusing to be labelled gay though he sleeps with men. Lucy’s demands pushes him to his limits.
And he can’t help himself; she’s his Helen of Troy.
William is a mature gay man who seeks love but picks the wrong candidates. In this case, it’s Sloan, whom he’s hoping to help publish; he’s let him into his home and his bed, not realizing that the younger man agreed out of convenience. He handles Lucy’s affair and Michael’s crisis quite adroitly.
He’s the rock of this little group’s story.
‘Paris, France’ brims with sex. Raw sex. From the onset, we watch a love scene that Lucy harshly narrates from her book – something she does many times over the course of the picture. Then she has her own love affair, which consists of animalistic, sweaty pounding and aggressive sex talk.
She’s letting loose.
The scene that had made such an impact on me at the time is when she refuses to continue having sex with Sloan until he puts his condom back on, so he goes down on her under her skirt – but too roughly, so she instructs him how to do it right. Then she takes matters into her own hands as he watches.
It’s damned sexy.
Part of it is because she’s so confident and in control of her sexuality. But it’s also the sight of a woman just taking her pleasure, legs spread before her partner. H-O-T. It blew my mind back in 1993, as I’d never seen this on the screen before – though admittedly it had less of an impact now.
Of course, none of it has the same impact now. The full frontal male nudity? Been there. The gay themes? Done that. The BDSM undercurrent? I’ve seen worse. The bisexual threesome? What else is new. So, while I wasn’t as turned on this time around, I was also not troubled by its kinkier side.
This time I couldn’t help but wonder what proponents of BDSM would think of this picture. Is it realistic? Is it mere fantasy? Is it naive? Personally, I enjoyed seeing how Lucy took charge and directed an all-too-willing Sloan, fascinated as he was with her. There’s something sexy about it.
For me, ‘Paris, France’ probably wouldn’t have the same allure if not for Leslie Hope as Lucy. Though the rest of the cast is decent, she owns the screen. Lucy is a potent mix of angst, repressed desire and fire; Hope lets Lucy out of her cage in ways we don’t often see from women in cinema.
The whole picture is, really. It makes an impression, whether good or bad; it doesn’t leave audiences indifferent. Based on reviews, and even the synopsis on the back of its home video release, it looks like it’s viewed in vastly different ways. This disparity alone makes it worth seeing.
For me, it’s a nice blend of reality and fantasy. Between the rawness of the character dynamics and Lucy’s sexy excerpts of “Paris France”, which were artfully shot in black and white, it allows its audience to navigate the darkest parts of Lucy, Michael, Sloan and William’s hearts.
I’m definitely a fan.
Too bad ‘Paris, France’ is so hard to find.
(It’s been out of print for years – I actually had to buy a laserdisc copy of it for this review)
Date of viewing: August 5, 2017