Brick Mansions: A French Phenomenon Hits the Big Screen in the US
For most, thoughts of traveling around France bring to mind leisurely afternoons in the countryside or quaint villages, sipping rosé in the sunshine or admiring the stained glass in one of the many cathedrals. Imagine instead a heart-pumping race, vaulting over barriers, leaping through windows and clambering up multi-story walls: this is “parkour,” a decidedly different way of traveling through urban landscapes. It is about speed and efficiency, using your body and the structures around you to move from place to place.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to go climbing all over some of the architectural treasures in France, but there are plenty of other great locations in France’s many cities and their parks. Parkour’s co-founder, David Belle, honed his art in the streets of Lisses, one of the suburbs of Paris in the Ile-de-France region.The spectacularly athletic sport quickly spread beyond the small town and the popularity of the French “art du déplacement” has since reached international levels. Belle himself has worked on movies like Prince of Persia, The Transporter 2, and Columbiana. In the recently opened Brick Mansions, David Belle plays a starring role and, alongside RZA and the late Paul Walker, brings all the action and excitement from Paris to Detroit.
Brick Mansions is the English-language remake of one of Belle’s first films, Banlieu 13, and centers around the unlikely partnership between an undercover cop and an athletic ex-convict as they both fight to save the city and the people they love.We had a chance to sit down and ask the star himself a few questions on the new film, parkour, and his advice for aspiring “traceurs” (parkour practitioners).
As parkour's popularity and your own fame have grown internationally, do you think parkour has helped you access other cultures more easily?
Belle: Parkour has opened many doors and created many opportunities for me. I always try to be respectful of this great gift, the technique of parkour, that my father has given me.
Banlieu 13 took place in the suburbs of Paris, and Brick Mansions takes place in inner-city Detroit. How do you think the story translates between these two cities?
Belle: I would say that [setting the story in] Detroit hits closer to home. It gives another dimension to the film. In this version we are closer to the way things are in reality.
You worked with some pretty big names for the making of this movie. How did you hold your own?
Belle: I held my own by staying true to myself: respect with regards to the propositions I was made, serious when it came to the work I was doing. Giving the best of oneself in your work is what allows you to stay authentic, and that authenticity is what comes out in the end.
What are you suggestions for some of the best places to practice for the aspiring traceur?
Belle: In Paris, near La Defense, there are many structures that could be good for practicing. In Chinatown as well, there are structures that are not too far apart. Of course, I’m only giving the basics; it’s up to each person to choose his place, in function of the architecture and how he is feeling.
And we would add that there is a famous climbing structure in Lisses, the "Dame du Lac". It is great for inspiration, but it is currently closed to the public.
Check out the trailer, and maybe the next time you're in a French city, you'll have some inspiration for getting from Point A to Point B!