In 1965, Barbet Schroeder was just getting started in film. He’d done a bit of acting and a bit of producing, and in the latter role had the idea of inviting six of his friends to make short films, shot in color with a 16mm camera he supplied, set in different neighborhoods in Paris. Each film was shot quickly and cheaply, using live sound and improvised takes, and each short film told a simple story that could be delivered effectively given those limitations. The resulting film, Six in Paris*, is a fascinating experiment that showcases some fine talent and offers a little time-traveling journey (particularly welcome at the moment considering all the travel restrictions currently in place) to some familiar and not-so-familiar locations in the city.
When undertaking an enterprise like Six in Paris, it helps if the friends you ask to take part—Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Jean Rouch, and Jean Douchet—include some of the most distinguished directors in the history of French cinema. The cinematographers are no mean crew either, and include Albert Maysles, Jean Rabier, and Néstor Almendros, while several of the directors (Chabrol, Rohmer, and Schroeder) appear as actors alongside the likes of Stéphane Audran, Micheline Dax, and Claude Melki. The resulting film is as much a celebration of the French New Wave as anything, and that helps to give Six in Paris some unity. As with any anthology film, you’ll probably prefer some of the shorts over others, but they’re all worth watching, and there’s enough variety on offer that you’re bound to connect with some of them.
My favorite segment is the second, “Gare du Nord,” directed by Jean Rouch. We hear sounds of a jackhammer before we meet the central characters, married couple Odile (Nadine Ballot) and Jean-Pierre (Barbet Schroeder), and the sound invades their small flat as well. Odile is worried the resulting construction will block the view from their window, while Jean-Pierre doesn’t see this as being a big deal, and this difference of opinion expands and escalates to the point where Odile threatens to leave him. But this fight is not really about the stated subject matter—the changing neighborhood, the value of the apartment, the doneness of the boiled eggs—it’s about disappointment in not having the life one feels entitled to. But are those feelings of entitlement reasonable, or even real? Odile has a chance to find out during a chance encounter with a handsome and well-heeled stranger (Gilles Quéant) who offers her the chance to live a completely different life from the one she has now.
*Six in Paris is not the most evocative title, but it gets the job done. The original French title, Paris vu par… (“Paris as seen by…”) is better, but I can’t see it working in a straight English translation. | Sarah Boslaugh
Six in Paris is distributed on DVD and VOD (available on several services) by Icarus Films in a new restoration that sounds and looks great. There are no extras on the disc.