Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paris, actually

Paris (2008) feels like another attempt to employ the Love Actually template to tell parallel stories which will converge, at least spiritually, if not in fact. In this case the hub is Paris rather than love, but both films are about battling loneliness.

The model might go back farther, to Grand Hotel, with its doomed petty clerk going to spend the time and money he has left in Berlin. In this case, a dying dancer feels himself withdrawing from the world, yet the world keeps rubbing up against him, and the people of it against each other. I suppose only a Parisian would anchor such a film to terminal illness; this is not Funny Face or Amelee, but finally there are some chance connections that make baby steps toward something more substantial.

The music is Satie, and that seems just right. Serious, reflective, but not heavy or dramatic. The professor who ambles into a foolish affair is given too much time to pontificate about French history--that point could be made much more quickly. There is that Parisian rarity--snow. Juliette Binoche is allowed to look a tired, lonely and bedraggled mother of two small children--a shocking misuse of a great natural resource. And one half-hour from the end there is an enchanting, if somewhat artificial, interlude that reminds one of a scene from Fellini, as fashionistas invade the wholesale meat market just before dawn to tease and flirt with the big strong men who haul and butcher meat. There seems to be some kind of liberation that comes with that early/late hour, and the film breaks free of its straightforward editing style and begins to skip and lark about a bit.

I appreciate that all the characters do not perfectly intersect in a marvelous complex culmination that is a glory of the screenwriters art, but has nothing to do with life as lived on this planet. Still, after all, our observing and observant central character draws no conclusions from all the dramas that pass by his windows, and we never learns if he lives or dies. C'est la vie.

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