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  • Writer's pictureS.K. Chishty

Film Review: Paris (French, 2008)

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

A love letter to the iconic city goes nowhere.

If interlocking multiple story lines a la Amores Perros or Love, Actually is not your thing, Paris is not exactly going to change that.

Films with city's names as titles end up melodramatically insisting that there is nothing like the spirit of their subject. But because this is a French film, this assertion, if at all here, comes with a pinch of salt.

While the film's opening includes Eiffel Tower, the director (promisingly) has no intention to take you on a tour of the city or asserting its mythical romanticism. Instead, within the first ten minutes, he introduces death.

Parisian history expert Ronald Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini, excellent) remains calm and casual as his successful architect brother Phillipe (Francois Cluzet, wasted) weeps at their recently deceased father's funeral and elsewhere a former dancer Pierre (Romain Duris in a moving portrait) has found out that even if he gets his heart replaced, his chances of survival are only 50%.

Ronald, maybe to escape accepting his grief, starts sending poetry to a beautiful student Laetitia (Melanie Laurent). She lives across Pierre's apartment and he pines for her.

Pierre's sister Elise (Juliette Binoche, sadly only relegated to reacting), reeling from a divorce, decides to devote her time caring for her brother and moves in with him with her three little children.

This forms the main portions of the tapestry of stories that make Paris.

Then there are also the stories of some fruit sellers in the local market where Elise does her shopping from and a tragic death that they have to deal with. There is also a nameless overbearing bakery owner (Karin Viard), and an African man trying to make his way to Paris.

As someone can tell from reading that, the film comes across as overstuffed. Which is sad because it starts really well. It has a poignancy which is well tempered with gentle humor. But halfway through I started to feel that director Cedric Klapisch does not really know what to do with these people. There are pointless extended scenes like that of the working class fruit sellers showing around some girls in a butchery and you ultimately start to wonder what the point of it all is.

The point, when it comes at the end via Pierre's voice-over as he rides in a cab to his surgery observing people, is of "be thankful for what you have" variety.

Only two things stand out: the cinematography and that stellar cast. They make this pointless journey somewhat worth it.

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