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14e Arrondissement

Munching through a bowl of chili with Dominic last night, we put on a DVD that’s been hanging around on our shelves for months. A friend of D’s lend it to him but it never really appealled: 21 short films about Paris.

It had a pretty star-studded roll call. Tom Tykwer. The Cohen Brothers. Gerard Depardieu. Walter Salles. Juliette Binoche. Bob Hoskins. Fanny Arendt. The whole nine yards of arty Hollywood/France.

It was pretty aimless for the first 20 sections. We thought about turning it off several times. But as Dominic was washing up – having abandoned the whole thing – the screen went blank and a voice asked in French: “Ok, who’s reading next…?” and a dreadfully mangled French accent started speaking.

By the end of “14e Arrondissement” I was in floods of tears.

I can count the number of times I’ve cried like that on one hand. Once driving down the M40 when they suddenly played ‘Jerusalem’ on the Radio and for no apparent reason I could not stop sobbing. Again at the end of “Billy Elliot”, the film, when eventually my mum told me that I’d cried enough.

I still can’t quite understand what moved me so much about this middle-aged, overweight American postal worker on her 6 day trip to Paris. But I think it is her balance of sadness and joy.

It’s a rare bit of emotional alchemy perhaps – more to do with me than the film. But it’s beautifully sweet. Margo Martindale – so moving.

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