As the quirky charms of Amélie's Paris spiral across the giant screen beyond our toes, the cult movie's orchestral music drifts from the sound system, lulling us into a blissful reverie as we snuggle up and eye the popcorn on the bed-side table.
No - we're not at "chez nous", eagerly trying to transport ourselves to the French capital via our home cinema. We're actually in a hotel room - in Paris. You may wonder why on earth we're watching an old flick that's set in this very city, when we could be out there exploring it by ourselves?
Well, it's raining, for starters, but it's mainly because of where we're staying: in the world's first cinema-hotel, where all 36 rooms and suites are fitted out like mini-cinemas, projector included.
Hotel Paradiso nestles in Paris' 12th arrondissement, near Place de la Nation. It's the latest project of Nathanael and Elisha Karmitz, the directors of MK2, France's biggest art-house cinema network (founded in 1974 by their father, Marin). More than 125 years after another pair of French siblings - the Lumieres - unveiled an early motion-picture camera and projector called the Cinematographe, the Karmitz brothers have worked with top architects and artists to produce this endearing four-star affair, which pays homage to the world of film.
Checking in (masked up), we spy walls decorated with movie posters and photographs, shelves loaded with DVDs and film-themed coffee-table books and hear nostalgia-inducing tunes from composers like John Barry, Ennio Morricone and Giorgio Moroder (Scarface: Tony Montana's theme!) floating through corridors.
Our junior suite is cosy and cleverly designed, with a near three metre-wide wall screen, which you can watch from the bath-tub as well as the bed. Other rooms - including the smallest (23 square metres) - project onto screens that electronically slide down over the bed-facing windows (courtyard rooms look out onto a huge Charlie Chaplin mural, plastered onto an adjacent building by French artist JR).
The two splash-out 40 square metre cinema suites are directly linked to the six-screen MK2 Nation picturehouse attached to the hotel, so guests can watch the latest releases from the comfort of their suite. The first film is free, others incur an admission cost (it's also possible to hire La Loge, a private executive box, seating eight, overlooking a MK2 cinema screen).
Whichever room you stay in, you'll control virtually everything with a touch-screen tablet, tapping into, and projecting, from various online libraries and streaming services (this is how we watch Amélie and later, another Parisian-set classic, Midnight in Paris). The hotel's directory - which looks like a movie script, font and all - lists a 2000-plus DVD collection of classic French and Hollywood movies and the kind of world-cinema offerings that woo the film festival-goers of Cannes.
Choose one, dial 007 for reception (James Bond fans will particularly relish this), and the multilingual reception staff will connect your projector with a DVD/Blu-ray player. Not all films have English audio and subtitles - we're in France, after all - but they're a good way, I find, to practice the lingo.
Karaoke fans can belt out their favourite tunes at La La Land, a private bookable space with over 40,000 songs, among them iconic movie soundtrack scores. The hotel is impressively sound-proof, by the way. We barely hear a peep from neighbouring rooms nor the boulevard traffic outside.
Paradiso's piece de resistance is its seventh-floor rooftop lawn and terrace. Doubling up as a bar and open-air cinema, it also stars as an events space for film premieres and social gatherings. The panorama is suitably cinematic, a stunning, sweeping vista of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower making a welcoming cameo appearance in the distance.
All hotel guests must have France's Covid-19 health pass (fully vaccinated Australians are eligible and can get this either in paper form or in digital format via the TousAntiCovid app). Face coverings must be worn in the hotel's public areas. Rooms are priced from €100 ($161), with a good continental breakfast (think: mini baguettes and pastries, yoghurt and granola, juice, coffee) for €18 ($28). Interconnecting rooms, useful for families and groups, are available on request. See mk2hotelparadiso.com/en
Steve McKenna was a guest of Hotel Paradiso