What do Parisians dream of? Are they happy? At the beginning of May 1963, a black and white film was released on screens, nearly two and a half hours long. Directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, Le Joli Mai was filmed in May 1962 in the streets of the capital and its inner suburbs. In a city more populated than today (600,000 inhabitants lost between 1962 and 2016), where automobile traffic gives the capital the appearance of smoky chaos, the authors make Parisians talk: young, old, poor and rich.

The voice of Yves Montand poetically envelops the passages from one district to another: “Paris is that city where we would like to arrive without memory. Where we would like to come back after a very long time to know if the locks still open with the same keys. If there is always the same dosage here between light and mist, between aridity and tenderness. »

The numerous witnesses, interviewed on camera, come from everywhere: bourgeois buildings, Aubervilliers slums, recently built towers in the Glacière district, businesses on rue Mouffetard, Rungis market, crowded metro… To everyone, these questions: what is dreaming of? -YOU ? What makes you happy? Housing problems, money problems, modest dreams of a television, of a less stressful elsewhere, the Parisians of 1962 give themselves up.

Sixty years later, Paris has changed profoundly. But the Parisians, complainers, mockers, depressed or in love, are there. They always dream of less crazy rents, more efficient transport, believe in love (or not).

Different social situations

Vanya Chokrollahi and Romain Rampillon, co-directors of this documentary, had the good idea, like Marker and Lhomme at the time, to meet Parisians in very different social situations: worker, student, designer, poet, retiree, rentier, homeless, refugee, site manager, shopkeeper. And, again, this same dizzying question: are you happy?

The aesthetic choice of filming in black and white proves to be as effective as it is elegant with, as a bonus, some airy musical notes by Jean-Sébastien Bach. From one neighborhood to another, words flow, smiles appear, fatigue can sometimes be felt. As in 1962, the same complaints about housing problems, “indecent” rents, fear of the future. “We lack kindness towards each other,” says a witness, as if to sum up the atmosphere of a complex world city.

Buttes-Chaumont, Rungis, République, Parc Montsouris, Notre-Dame, Montparnasse, Aubervilliers, the witnesses parade, the words are freed. Has the society of consumption and comfort, emerging in 1962, met the expectations of today’s young Parisians and those of their parents and grandparents? The affluence can be guessed, the poverty can be seen, the slums of 1962 have been replaced by makeshift tents under the ring road.

The camera wanders, Greater Paris takes shape, but the hopes remain the same as sixty years ago. A young girl says: “Paris is romantic! » Response from his friend: “It depends on the neighborhood. ” Welcome to Paris.