Sunday, May 22, 2016

Silent Sundays: A Woman of Paris (1923)

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“In the magic city of Paris, where fortune is fickle and a woman gambles with life...”

            What is it about love that makes people do crazy things? Especially in films people seem to do insane things when they are in love. Like, I get it there needs to be drama so relationships and love are heightened beyond measure. I always understood that concept that everything needs to be heightened for film stories to get people invested and interested but I never really pondered the idea of why characters in films, such as god awful chick flicks and more classic sophisticated dramas, do outrageous things for love until I watched Charlie Chaplin’s 1923 film A Woman of Paris.
            Marie St. Claire (Edna Purviance) has been locked in her room by her stepfather. She wants to leave to be with Jean Millet. The two plan on leaving the following morning for Paris where they will be married. He has come to talk to Marie so they can prepare for the following day. The stepfather sees that Claire has left her room by climbing out the window and locks her out. After their walk Claire realizes she has been locked out and Jean knocks on the door. The stepfather tells Jean that he sure Jean can give her a place to stay for the night. Jean does not think it will be a problem with his mother to make up a bed for Marie to stay in for the night. Unfortunately, his parents, for some unknown reason, do not like Marie and do not want her to be in the house. Jean gives Marie money to get their tickets for the next train out of the village to Paris while he goes back to his home to get his things. Jean’s father tells him that he does not want to see him again. All Jean wants to do is say goodbye to his parents. He says goodbye to his mother and when he walks over to his father who is seated in a chair he finds his father has suddenly died. Marie calls the house from the station and Jean tells her what has just happened and that he wants to postpone the trip.
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            A year later Marie St. Claire is living the good life in Paris. She is always seen on the arm of a wealthy man named Pierre Revel (Adolphe Menjou). Pierre is the wealthiest bachelor in all of Paris. He always takes Marie out to a nightclub and has her put up in a grand apartment with the best clothes. One day Marie’s friends see an engagement announcement that Pierre is getting married to a woman who is not Marie. When Marie finds out on her own about her love she is upset and does not feel like seeing him that night. She is invited to a party and given an address. The friend does not know which side of the road the house is located so Marie takes a chance and goes to what is the wrong one at first. But the wrong house brings her face to face with Jean after a year. He has become a painter and lives with his mother. Marie has changed a great deal in a year she is not at all like the girl Jean had fallen in love with. Marie puts on some airs and tells Jean she wants him to paint her portrait.
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            After several weeks of working together, Jean has fallen in love with Marie again and wants to marry her. Marie is unsure of what she wants most in life, marriage or luxury. She wants a real home but she has become so accustomed to living in luxury she is not sure if she wants to give that up. When Marie tells Pierre she is unhappy he just laughs at her. She tells him that they cannot go on seeing each other because she loves Jean.
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            Jean’s mother does not want her sun marrying Marie especially after seeing what she has become. He promises his mother that he will not marry Marie that he only proposed to her out of weakness. Just as Jean said those words to his mother Marie had walked in and heard everything. That night Marie calls up Pierre that she will still go out to dinner with him. Jean is greatly upset by Marie overhearing his conversation with his mother. He loads his gun and finds Marie with Pierre at the nightclub. He has a note brought over to Marie that he wants to see her one last time but Pierre is the one who gets it. Pierre invites Jean over. Soon the two men are in a scuffle. Jean runs away and fatally shoots himself. His body is brought up to the apartment he shares with his mother. The mother is beyond upset that her son is dead. She takes his gun and goes to Marie’s place wanting to kill her. When the mother gets the apartment she learns that Marie has gone to see Jean’s body. Seeing Marie crying over her dead son softens the old lady’s heart because she sees that Marie really did love her son.
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            Sometime later in a small village Marie and Jean’s mother live in a small farmhouse with kids Marie has taken in to care for. While on the road heading into town a car drives passed her. In the car is Pierre Revel and his friend. The friend asks whatever happened to Marie and Pierre responds that he does not know.

            A Woman of Paris is very good. Charlie Chaplin was not the star of this film. He has a very small cameo where he almost unrecognizable. Chaplin just wrote and directed A Woman of Paris. I think he did an excellent job. Chaplin was just an all-around brilliant filmmaker from his acting, to his writing, to his direction, and even to writing the music for the film. A Woman of
Paris
does not have the greatest of stories but it is not boring or hard to sit through. I think what makes the story not boring or hard to sit through is because of Chaplin’s direction and the excellent acting by Edna Purviance and Adolphe Menjou. I would have become bored with the film very easily because of its dull plot with a kind of love triangle had it not been because of the kind of humility and sadness of it and also as I said because of the acting.  I definitely suggest watching A Woman of Paris especially if you like silent films and if you really like Charlie Chaplin. It is currently available to view in full on YouTube. 
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