Thursday, May 22, 2008


Paris isn't for changing planes. It's for changing your outlook! For throwing open the windows and letting in... letting in la vie en rose.

This memorable line is from one of my favorite movies of all time, a movie whose transformed heroine made me believe in the transformative powers of Paris, very early on in my life. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. Of course it's a 1950's Hollywood fairy tale, but there are elements about Paris that director Billy Wilder nailed perfectly.

Sabrina, a chauffeur's daughter, has gone to Paris to learn to cook, and to forget about an impossible relationship -- her crush on the wealthy playboy son of her father's employers, played by the dashing William Holden.

The wise cooking instructor tells her he can tell she is in love.

"A woman happily in love, she burns ze souffle. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on ze oven."

After two years in Paris, Sabrina is indeed transformed. She has found a new recipe ... for life. In her letter home she writes,

"It is late at night and someone across the way is playing La Vie en rose. It is the French way of saying 'I am looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses.' It says everything I feel. I have learned so many things, Father. Not just how to make vichyssoise or calf's head with sauce vinaigrette, but a much more important recipe. I have learned how to live, how to be in the world and of the world, and not just to stand aside and watch. And I will never, never again run away from life, or from love, either."

Well, we'll all just have to run out and rent the DVD to watch the full Sabrina. I hardly need to, since I almost know it by heart.

My parting line, another favorite piece of advice (except the umbrella), is Audrey Hepburn saying to Humphrey Bogart, the stodgy businessman workaholic brother,

"We can't have you walking up the Champs Elysées looking like a tourist undertaker! And another thing, never a briefcase in Paris and never an umbrella. There's a law!"


La Belette Rouge said...

From 15-30 this was my absolute favorite Audrey Hepburn movie. I used to even know all the words. I still love how Paris gives her an extreme makeover and how it changes her point of view. But, as I got older I started to find her lacking in spunk---I moved on to starlets with a little more sass like Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell.

I think Givenchy's dresses are the real co-star to Audrey in this romantic film. I love the dress she wears to the party in the big house. It is dreamy!! Le sigh!

Irina said...

I love your blog! You are capturing the spirit of Paris like no one else. I am myself in love with Paris and your posts always make me feel like I am there again.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

To me, there is something classic and timeless about Sabrina (not just Audrey) that epitomizes the subtle yet deft sophistication one can acquire in a prolonged sojourn in Paris: it's about changing your outlook!

I loved Charade as well -- but she's a bit goofier in that film. And Cary Grant is definitely a goofball in trying to make it a "madcap" romantic comedy. But the views of Paris in Charade are worth every secind.

And yes, Givenchy is always the co-star in any of Audrey's films! Swoon, sigh.

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