Eric Rohmer – Nadja à Paris (1964)

“Occasionally, unintentionally, triggered by a smell or an old tune, my mind drifts to that time when Paris didn’t resemble the USA at all, when life on the street and screen was similar and our days appeared like the films of the nouvelle vague. There was something breezy about reasons then, why you did this or that, no clear motivation or Hollywood endings. Of course there were American films around but many were quite good, nothing like the bang-bang violence we now dump all over the globe. Those films didn’t crush or overwhelm others in quantity (a reason why they were so admired) and you could also see French, Italian, Polish, Czech, or Russian films any time. There was a cinematheque, which for students was one franc. Most of us were poor and so we worried about three essentials—a room, the student restaurant, and a subway card. The cafés were livelier then, full of intrigue and gossip. You studied there, met friends, ate, drank—and whoever had more at the time paid. They were our living rooms in a way, convenient, warm places with a telephone, all for the price of a cup of coffee. I was in love with Paris, either what it was or what it suggested. It was still a nineteenth-century city, gray, slow-moving, with people at the center. We strolled, we looked at each other carefully, and nobody talked much about the future. When I attempt to describe my years in Paris, no one believes me, I can tell. It was too Hollywood-dream perfect. Here is Nadja coming out of the student restaurant, minding her own business, and who should appear next but Eric Rohmer who stops her (‘Why you of all people?’ they ask) and within minutes he wants to make a film about her life. ‘What were you wearing?’ is a standard question. My answer doesn’t make them happy: blue jeans, a shirt, white sneakers, no makeup, very short hair—so short that some sweet old people often referred to me as mon fils, my son. A sixteen-year-old boy is what I looked like, apparently. When I tell them next that I was not interested in his offer because I had plans to hitch to Greece the following week, they laugh, they snicker. A likely story. But why should I have been impressed? I had no idea who this tall blond man was, he wasn’t the Eric Rohmer yet, and maybe I wouldn’t have been impressed even if I knew. In my eyes, he belonged to a sad world of grown-ups, a married man with children. …”
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