On A Rooftop In Paris: The Romance & The Danger

Luke Walwyn takes a dizzying look at the allure of the rooftop in storytelling.

An digital illustration of a row of Parisian rooftops against a sunset sky.
Paris rooftops in the sunset - digital illustration © Luke Walwyn

Let’s sit on a rooftop in Paris at sunset and talk about life. But what exactly shall we discuss? Who cares, we could just bask in the breathtaking view.

And what is so special about rooftops? Well, writers, artists and directors have been employing them as a form of inspiration and escapism in their storytelling for decades. As far back as 1962, songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin reflected that:

“On the roof it's peaceful as can be, and there the world below can't bother me” in their track Up on the Roof.

Rooftops in film

Film directors too have flirted with the romance and dangers of the rooftop. Wolfgang Reitherman featured perhaps the crème de la crème of rooftop scenes in the 1970 animated movie The AristoCats, where love took hold on top of Paris’s chimneypot laden buildings illuminated against a moonlit sky.

Views over the chimneypot laden buildings of Paris illuminated against a moonlit sky.
This Is Home. Stills from scenes across the rooftops of Paris in the 1970 animated movie The AristoCats

A silhouette of buildings across the Paris skyline
Parisian skyline - Illustration by Luke Walwyn ©2020

Images of Daniel Craig as James Bond looking over the rooftops of Istanbul in the film 'Skyfall'.
Let The Skyfall - Daniel Craig as James Bond looks over the rooftops of Istanbul in 'Skyfall'.

Daniel Craig as James Bond gives a death defying high chase on the rooftops of Istanbul in director Sam Mendes’ Skyfall to provide both exhilaration and nail biting tension for the viewer.

Rooftops in fashion

"Mine was a world of rooftops and love songs."

On the runways of high fashion, Chanel creative director Virginie Viard gave us a love letter to Paris, and the house codes in her Spring-Summer 2020 ready-to-wear show. Alluding to the quote from Coco Chanel, who said: “I’ve always lived in attics or palaces”, Viard illustrated both worlds amidst a breathtaking set of the rooftops of Paris constructed under the vaulted glass ceiling of the Grand Palais. She enthused that: “The roofs of Paris remind me of the atmosphere of the Nouvelle Vague,” and encapsulated the words of novelist Roman Payne: “Mine was a world of rooftops and love songs,” in his novel Rooftop Soliloquy.

Talking of rooftops and love songs, for me, nothing quite captures the two so stylishly and artistically as Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical film Moulin Rouge!

Inspired by the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Christian (Ewan McGregor) a young English poet/writer believes that love is everything as he falls for Satine (Nicole Kidman) the cabaret star of the Moulin Rouge. The two romance at dizzying heights overlooking the Parisian skyline as love takes hold. Or as Christian tells it in the lyrics of Elton John: “I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, That I put down in words, How wonderful life is while you're in the world”.

A compilation of images from scenes overlooking Paris rooftops in the movie 'Moulin Rouge' by Baz Luhrmann.
How Wonderful Life Is - Christian and Satine romance in views above Paris from the film 'Moulin Rouge!' by Baz Luhrmann
"Get away from the hustling crowds and all that rat race noise down in the street."

But for me, by far the most enchanting ‘may as well be a rooftop’ scene, is from the 1961 Blake Edwards’ film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The clip with Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, sees her escaping to her balcony to reflect on her melancholy or ‘mean reds’ with guitar in hand, strumming to a rendition of Henry Mancini’s Moon River. As poignant as it is, the scene somehow gives us license to overcome our fears in a bid to “Get away from the hustling crowds and all that rat race noise down in the street”.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) strums her guitar to the tune of 'Moon River' in the movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'
Wherever You're Going, I'm Going Your Way. Compilation of Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) stills from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'.

And whilst you are perched at dizzying heights, take this opportunity to allow the allure of art to further your travels in the mind. Be sure to click the image below to discover more, and SUBSCRIBE to receive more exclusive content and special offers on artwork.


Luke x

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