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French cinema at its best...
on July 24, 2009
What is it about French films that makes the best of them so deeply reflective in a way that few American and British films achieve? Maybe it's that France itself is such a beautiful and evocative country, maybe it's that the French have a lifestyle that, for us non-French, appears so stylish and romantic... whatever... but when they get it right they really are in a different class, and "Paris" most definitely gets it right.
Beautifully filmed, brilliantly acted, and underpinned by a superb soundtrack, the film explores "real" peoples' lives slowly and above all subtly. Not a great deal happens, and there are no conclusions to the stories involved - a guy gets diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition, another chap falls in love with one of his students, a lonely single mother and a market stall trader are hesitantly drawn together, and an African dreams of getting to Paris to start a new life. That's about it really. But it's the way that this is all put together & explored that makes the film, and which achieves its objective of trying to capture what Paris is to people who live there or dream of living there - which of course means that its infused with their, often vague, hopes & fears and it has no clear & tidy "Hollywood style" endings... life's not like that.
At times funny, at times charming, and ultimately quite moving, Klapisch directs the film without reverting to heavy-handed sentimentality or high drama to make his points.... in fact, exactly the opposite: witness the fleeting, beautifully poignant shot at the end of the film as the African compares the view on the postcard of Paris that has driven him to make his journey there, and which underpins his hopes for the future, with the reality of it... nothing more needs to be said or filmed to capture what he must be feeling.
Perhaps the greatest credit to "Paris" is that, even though it's two hours long, subtitled (which is never the easiest way to watch a film), and devoid of any clever plot twists or unexpected surprises to hold your attention, by the end of it all... you really don't want it to end. It's that good.