Set in post WWII Paris, it is the story of love within a world of a class struggle and separation. Juliet, a young and struggling American art student, in what would be today’s equivalent of a work-study job, is required to paint portraits of the wealthy to afford to stay in the art academy. Through this work she meets Deborah, a young, stylish, and very rich British woman whose family has commissioned her portrait. The story progresses through all of the drama that one would anticipate in stories of an artist and muse, have’s and have not’s and young Americans abroad.
The tension created by worlds of opposites usually work in favor of stories, but in Paris it feels to big for the medium that it has chosen, a very small graphic novel. I have never before read a book that had an opening title sequence. This sequence takes up 11 pages of a 128-page story. In addition, the construction of the story arc also feels very much like a contemporary Hollywood film, with missed love connections, a spectacular ball ala Cinderella and a highly dramatic ending that could be turned into a sequel through the ambiguous ending. The dark haired, indie artist Juliet feels like she is waiting to be played by Zooey Deschanel.
Unfortunately, what Paris yearns to be undermines what it is, a graphic novel. The characters feel empty and the plots too grandiose. Why would Juliet fall for Deborah? Their love of art? Deborah’s beauty? Readers are never given enough insight into either character to make this a believable love story. With scandalous family affairs, continental free love, and young anarchists friends, Paris should have allowed itself to fully delve into camp, allowing the ridiculous and absurd to become point of the message. Instead Paris feels like it is standing outside the house of camp, politely knocking on the door.
The most remarkable aspect of Paris is the art by Simon Gane. The extremely dense, busy, and highly stylized lines feel like they bring to life the city in this era. Interesting for those familiar with art, the book actually lists the fine art pieces that Gane illustrates in scenes such as when Juliet and Deborah visit the Louvre. Unfortunately, the dynamic art cannot elevate the book into something more. This pleasant, fluffy book in the end feels like the Hollywood film that it yearns to be, but unfortunately one that is on as Saturday afternoon television filler.
Written by Andi Watson
Illustrated by Simon Gane