Hôtel La Louisiane is, at its core, a film about freedom and dignity. Freedom for those who wish to live in a place where they are able to feel inspired. Dignity for the hotel owner to stand by his promise to his father and keep their mission alive: to provide an affordable sanctuary for artists and students in search of fulfilling employment, which they certainly won’t find at other hotels. Freedom, too, to be in an environment of tolerance and rid of prejudice. This film is not just a story about a mythical setting in Paris; it portrays the microcosm of a lifestyle in which collective values reign supreme. A film where what’s real and true is placed above national borders or cultural barriers.
Michel La Veaux’s heartfelt sincerity is palpable throughout the film; a sincerity which both inspires and reflects the sincerity of those who make La Louisiane such an extraordinary place, a place where hope is born.
If Saint-Germain-des-Prés isn’t quite what he used to be in terms of intellectual and artistic influence worldwide, what was is able to become whole again when this place called La Louisiane can flourish and proves to be so much more than a hotel. Within its walls lies all that remains of the neighbourhood’s heart and spirit, in a post-war period when Saint-Germain-des-Prés had become the epicenter of the artists who lived for freedom and art.
MICHEL LA VEAUX
Filmmaker and Director of Photography
For over seventeen years, Michel La Veaux would stay at La Louisiane every time work brought him to Paris. It was upon his return there from a shoot abroad that he first discovered the remarkable historic site. Every stay there is for him a chance to take a moment and reflect on his work as a filmmaker. He feels a tangible, physical and spiritual connection to the space: its walls, its doors, its gloomy corridors and its fresh air which is swept in from the street. As a repeat visitor, he eventually manages to gain the trust of the hotel staff and owners.
From trip to trip, through reading and personal conversations, he learned as much as he could about the hotel’s history and characters. He slowly managed to integrate himself into its story…The mythical building seems to have a strange effect on all who spend time in it. Oftentimes, artists feel more at ease there than they do in their own home…There’s something carnal, instinctive and undeniably human that emanates from the space, a perfect match for Michel La Veaux’s filming style. His camera ignites passionate encounters and allows him to express his zest for life.
To him, the film feels like an intimate, personal affair, which resonates on a physical level, what an actor feels in front of a camera, the feel of a human touch or the feeling of dreamy oasis having a loved one asleep at your side in Room 10 of La Louisiane.
With this outsider’s view on the hotel – and on some of its regulars who lived there until very recently – Michel La Veaux shares one critical understanding of the meaning of “freedom”.
Having stayed in a few of its 80 rooms before making Room 10 home, he came to know the hotel like the back of his hand. This understanding of the layout was thanks to the manager Monica, who is now a friend and partner without whom the film would not have been possible. In rough shape after a shoot in Africa, it was she who set him up in the now famous Room 10, first informing him that he was in good company: prestigious former occupants included the likes of Sarte, Greco, Miles, Lepage, Carax and more. It was she who worked tirelessly to convince the rest of the staff of the film’s vital importance. She was the spirit of the place and he could count on her unconditional support as they shared a profound love for the hotel and a dread of the day it would be gone.