Escargot and Châteauneuf-du-Pape are just two of the specialties served up in Eleanor Coppola’s “Paris Can Wait,” playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. Coppola is best known for her documentary about the making of her husband Francis Ford Coppola’s film, “The Heart of Darkness.”
“Paris Can Wait” is a perfect confection for summer viewing, a culinary and monument tour of France. Diane Lane plays Anne, wife of movie producer Michael (Alec Baldwin), staying with him at Cannes. Work takes him to Budapest, and Anne, suffering from ear problems, opts to skip that excursion and return to the Paris apartment where they’re staying. Michael’s colleague Jacques (Arnaud Viard) volunteers to drive Anne back.
On the way to drop Michael off at the airport, Jacques produces sausage, mustard, and strawberries, a hint of what’s to come. Once underway, Anne discovers that Jacques’ aging Peugeot is trouble-prone, and Jacques is not the best of drivers. For lunch they stop at a restaurant for melon with prosciutto and that elegant Provence wine already mentioned.
As the title suggests, Jacques is not in a hurry to return Anne to Paris. Like Anne’s personal tour guide, he takes her to see an ancient Roman wall, then a Roman bridge. Provence, he tells her, acquired its name because it was a Roman province. In a stop for ice cream cones, Jacques insists Anne try three different flavors. In Arles, they stop to see the famous Roman obelisk. Throughout the excursion, Anne takes photos, often of the luscious food Jacques introduces her to. The flirtatious Frenchman, who has never married, queries Anne about her marriage to Michael, asking impertinent questions like, “Is he faithful?” He also wants to know why Anne has never shown her photos to her husband.
Jacques comes across as a freeloader, asking Anne to pay for their meals and the hotel where they stop, because he left all his cash with his assistant and his credit cards have been hacked. At one stop, Jacques disappears in the infamous Peugeot, returning with a giant bouquet of roses. Eventually the car breaks down, but not to worry. Jacques just happens to have packed a classic French picnic — cheese, grapes, bread, and wine, of course. Anne checks the engine, discovers a broken fan belt, and fixes it with her pantyhose. At a Lyon museum featuring the Lumière Brothers, Jacques disappears with the attractive museum director for a petite liaison.
“The best food comes straight from the garden,” Jacques says. Meanwhile, Michael calls frequently, eager to know where Jacques has taken his wife, warning her about the romantic intentions of Frenchmen. Anne and Jacques’ conversations grow more intimate. Anne comes up with her own detour, a stop at Vézelay Abbey. Once the two arrive in Paris, the movie concludes with an ending that’s not surprising but entirely satisfying.
For information and tickets to “Paris Can Wait” and other films playing at the Film Center, see mvfilmsociety.com.