‘Once I’m interested in someone, the story comes to me …’ says writer Kyoko (Eriko Takeda), who is looking for a woman to inspire the heroine in her next novel. Kyoko arrives at the airport, quietly and with determination, and over the next few days she meets various eccentric Parisians.
First of all, Kyoko talks to the opera-loving taxi driver who takes her to her hotel. While she enthuses about Madame Butterfly, Kyoko firmly dismisses the opera as a cliché. (Later on, however, the music plays a pivotal role in Kyoko’s emotional journey.) The film’s exposition rests in this short interaction: director Slony Sow is opening a film that persistently pushes against cliché, nudging aside any stereotype of an innocent Japanese woman in Paris.
Kyoko searches for her muse with an open, polite heart. She chats about writing and self-expression with the hotel’s chambermaid, who introduces her sister, a lesbian butcher. The butcher is a woman who can tolerate animal blood, but not blood belonging to humans.
The highly-strung stylist, another encounter, is the personification of a woodpecker. She verbally pecks at Kyoko, seeing the possibility of inspiring the heroine of her novel as an ideal PR opportunity. Kyoko makes a graceful retreat. At the Palais Garnier, Kyoko meets an opera singer who is intense and melancholy. She throws Kyoko into a small turmoil, experienced as a private and dramatic moment in her hotel room.
Sow shoots with magic and poetry, but never forcing the image into a place that is unbelievable. This is most evident when Kyoko meets the underground toilet attendant. The scene is lit like a boudoir of buried dreams, where death is coloured and revered as beautiful, and for a moment we are taken wholly into another ordinary, yet surreal world.
Takeda plays Kyoko as a woman who knows her own mind, but at the same time welcomes Paris and wills it to change her. At one point she has lunch with a homeless woman (an ex-night-club owner who claims to have slept with Prince). Kyoko’s gentleness leads to the two making a meaningful connection. The woman asks if Kyoko is looking for ‘the desire for freedom, or the desire to write?’
The spirit of Parisiennes is the spirit of a writer, and any writer watching this will be inspired to emulate Kyoko’s approach to travel and meeting people. Sow and Takeda have successfully captured the magic of Paris. It’s a fresh voice from a director who has a poetic vision of a brave and beautiful city.
Slony Sow (2014)
Interview with Slony Sow and Eriko Takeda coming soon.