DIR/WRI: Cédric Klapisch • PRO: Bruno Levy • DOP: Christophe Beaucarne • ED: Francine Sandberg • DES: Marie Cheminal • CAST: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Albert Dupontel, François Cluzet
‘You’re all alone here? What do you do all day?’
‘Watch other people live. Wonder who they are, where they go. They become heroes in my little stories.’
Paris (directed by Cédric Klapisch, L’auberge espagnole) is a collection of stories all radiating out from and swirling around the tentatively central character of Pierre (Romain Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped). A professional dancer, when he is diagnosed with a serious heart condition it forces him to re-examine life. He has to look both inside himself, and outside at all the lives going on around him, and finds great possibilities in both.
So far, so trite. But although this film is emotional and unashamedly positive it manages to avoid triteness. It is a delicately multi-layered work that mixes great humour with more serious emotions. And although there is ample opportunity, the film rarely gives into sentimentality, instead allowing the characters to shine in all their awkwardness, unexpectedness and complexity.
And the characters are great. The impressive cast, who has the courage to throw itself into sometimes unflattering roles, includes Juliette Binoche as Pierre’s sister, and Fabrice Luchini,whose delightfully ridiculous ’60s dancing scene is alone worth the price of a ticket! They drive the film. The stories touch upon the same themes. Basic activities that everyone engages in – kissing, wooing, going to bed with someone, shopping, dancing, mourning – seem even more important than the big events. How the population of the films deals with them becomes the primary focus. Some do them well, some ineptly, some with humour, some tragically. And suddenly these simple, everyday tasks are transformed into something significant – the key to a person’s psyche.
Paris may not appeal to those who want a film to have the traditional components of a beginning, middle and end. It is, instead, fragmentary, composed of pieces of stories, some observed with great detail, some lightly touched upon. Themes and characters, instead of a cohesive plot, dominate. The point is not always what happens next but what is learned, what is changed, what epiphany happened, what possibilities are opened. Which is, in fact, the point of the whole film – possibilities.
This may not be the most consequential of films and the theme of carpe diem is hardly a new one. But it is still a highly intelligent, beautifully shot and extremely enjoyable film that could bear repeated viewings.