Paris (IFC Films, NR)

film_paris_sm.gifThis Paris is too obviously populated by attractive stereotypes performing their designated roles.







Cédric Klapisch’s latest film, Paris, is a love letter to the City of Lights and the beautiful and sophisticated people who live there. Of course, this Paris is a fantasy unlikely to be encountered by either tourist or resident, but considered as a travelogue for intellectuals, it’s an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. Klapisch is so in love with the city and so insistent on presenting it attractively that by the end of the film you may find yourself smitten, as well.

The framing story involves the former cabaret dancer Pierre (Romain Duris), who is waiting for a heart transplant and spends much of his time observing the life of the city from the balcony of his apartment. His unmarried sister Elise (Juliette Binoche) moves in with her three kids to help take care of him, giving them a chance to sort out old issues and contemplate the meaning of life.

Meanwhile, history professor Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) is having a midlife crisis. He sends mash notes to a pretty student (sexual harassment is a given in this film and the women mostly like it) and takes part in a cheesy television series. This leads to an anxiety attack and a session with a psychoanalyst during which Roland explicates all the reasons he doesn’t believe in psychoanalysis.

The characters must buy their baguettes so everyone passes through the bakery shop, run by Karin Viard, who freely shares her prejudices about French people born anywhere other than Paris ("A Breton will never work like a Norman or an Alsatian") while hiring a clerk of North African descent. For their produce needs, they visit a greenmarket stall run by Caroline (Julie Ferrier) and her ex-husband (Albert Dupontel).

Modern films about cities must have a multi-culti aspect, so Klapisch shoehorns in the story of Benoit (Kingsley Kum Abang), who sets out on a perilous journey from Cameroon to join the crowded household of his garbage-collector brother (Zinedine Soualem) and look up a girl he once flirted with at a resort. The entirely peripheral nature of Benoit’s story only emphasizes that as far as Klapisch is concerned, real Parisians are white and middle class. And just as in Woody Allen’s New York, there’s not a gay person to be seen.

The fatal flaw of Paris is that nothing in it feels real. This Paris is too obviously populated by attractive stereotypes performing their designated roles, while the connections among them are so predictable that the script could just as well have been generated by a computer. Or more likely Klapisch, who also wrote the screenplay, was cleaning out his files and decided to throw all his leftover story ideas into one film. Besides, most of the characters are so self-centered, I doubt you’d want to get too close to them, and when the film tries to delve beneath the surface it loses its charm while failing to generate any real feeling.

On the plus side, Paris features an excellent ensemble cast, outstanding cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne, and the inevitable Erik Satie on the soundtrack. The film has lots of great individual moments even if overall it doesn’t add up to much, and Paris has seldom looked better than in Beaucarne’s glamour shots. If Klapisch doesn’t have much to say in his latest film, at least he manages to say it pleasantly. | Sarah Boslaugh

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