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Jefferson in Paris (1995)

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »

Director:

James Ivory

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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Nolte ... Thomas Jefferson
Gwyneth Paltrow ... Patsy Jefferson
Estelle Eonnet Estelle Eonnet ... Polly Jefferson
Thandie Newton ... Sally Hemings
Seth Gilliam ... James Hemings
Todd Boyce ... William Short
Nigel Whitmey Nigel Whitmey ... John Trumbull
Nicolas Silberg Nicolas Silberg ... Monsieur Petit
Catherine Samie ... Cook
Lionel Robert Lionel Robert ... Cook's Helper
Stanislas Carré de Malberg ... Surgeon
Jean Rupert Jean Rupert ... Surgeon
Yvette Petit Yvette Petit ... Dressmaker
Paolo Mantini Paolo Mantini ... Hairdresser
Frédéric van den Driessche ... Mutilated Officer (as F. van den Driessche)
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Storyline

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old slave Sally Hemings. JEFFERSON IN PARIS follows Jefferson to France (as the U.S. ambassador to the court of Louis XVI), following the death of his wife his friendships and flirtations with the French, his relationship with his daughters and slaves from home (especially Sally), against the backdrop of the beginning of the French Revolution. Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature theme, some images of violence and a bawdy puppet show | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | France

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

31 March 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Jefferson em Paris See more »

Filming Locations:

France See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$61,349, 31 March 1995, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,474,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sally Hemmings' gown made from the patterned gray fabric selected by Thomas Jefferson and Mrs. Cosway is the same costume worn by Jessica Oyelowo (Sarah) in Sleepy Hollow (1999), and by Billie Piper (Fanny Price) during the play rehearsal scene in Mansfield Park (2007). See more »

Goofs

Jefferson was in Paris from 1785 to 1789, but is depicted as witnessing the Mongolfier balloon ascent (with sheep, duck, and rooster) which took place in 1783. See more »

Quotes

Thomas Jefferson: I kept having a debate between my head and my heart.
Maria Cosway: Which in your case, the head always wins.
Thomas Jefferson: Not this time. My poor head was simply whirled around by my unruly heart.
Maria Cosway: Oh-dear-God.
Thomas Jefferson: It kept telling me I love the lady and will continue to love her forever. If she were on one side of the globe and I on the other, I would pierce through the whole mass of the world to reach her.
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Soundtracks

VIOLIN SONATA La Follia, OPUS 5, No. 12
Music by Arcangelo Corelli
Performed by Hiro Kurosaki (violin), Emmanuel Balssa (cello) and William Christie (clavecin) (uncredited)
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User Reviews

Cerebral Affairs
10 June 2003 | by treagan-2See all my reviews

Although I have been interested in Jefferson for many years, I put off seeing this film for some reason, and only caught it recently on cable.

I give it mixed reviews, generally favorable. Ivory/Merchant have again fashioned a lavish tableau, and the sets, costumes, props, etc. are first rate.

The cast is solid. I was afraid Nolte would be a little too rough for my image of Jefferson, but that played out all right.

What made this film interesting to me was certainly not whether it was accurate in a historical sense. How could it be--not nearly enough is known of that situation. The question is whether or not the film is plausible and "honest within itself," i.e., whether we can accept the story as having something to tell us, if what is depicted is historically true or not.

To me, the movie is about freedom, and the contradictions of freedom. Jefferson, freedom's advocate, is ensnared within the institution of slavery, and that ends up torpedoing any mature romance with Maria Cosway. Jefferson is also in his own life quite rigid, pulling his own daughter back from possible conversion to Roman Catholicism. His granting of freedom to James and Sally Hemmings has limitations.

What bothered me some about the movie was its use of the backdrop of the coming French Revolution--by itself a commentary on the limitations of freedom. To the filmmakers it seems "the Terror," two or three years in the future, is the definitive statement and stage of the revolution. The movie even seems soft on the ancienne regime, which over time killed a lot more people than the Terror.

These muted investigations of freedom in the film move very slowly, but still hold interest--they are thoughtful, probing, and, to a degree, don't pass simplistic judgements on people.

Cerebral film, but then Jefferson was a cerebral guy!


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