Glossy postcards and virtual collectibles: Consuming cinematic Paris
This article examines the touristic consumption of Paris in cinema, through a concept of the cinematic postcard as a commodification of history and place, arguing that film participates in and also illuminates touristic relations to the city. The article proposes two iterations of the cinematic postcard: a ‘glossy’ postcard that incorporates past and present into a cohesively framed urban space, and ‘virtual collectibles’ that encourage the serial accumulation of familiar signs of place. While connected through a nostalgic relation to the urban past, these iterations reflect different anxieties about the city and are emphasized in different aesthetic strategies, which the article pursues through close analysis of two films: Vincent Minnelli’s An American in Paris (1951) and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011). In the troubled Paris of the early post-war years, the tourist gaze of cinema provided a cohesive image constructed from a selective, cultural past, anticipating a postmodern aesthetic of nostalgia as identified by Fredric Jameson. In the age of what Boris Groys calls ‘total tourism’ and its proliferation of the collection and online display of images of place, the emphasis has shifted from transmission to the virtual collection of desirable, analogue images of Paris.