Oct 01, 2009 10:04 AM EST

Paris Is A Winner

Paris Is A Winner
Paris is a magical city. Being introduced to the ancient architecture and the thick, rich culture, especially for an American not used to it, can be overwhelming. I was fortunate enough to visit there twice. The first time was with a group of 3 other Americans. We were stationed in England and had to leave base for the weekend. Since we didn't need visas and because we figured we might not have another opportunity, we pooled our money together and had enough to get us on the ferry ride across the Channel and the train trip from Calais into Paris. We stayed three days two nights as vagrants wandering the streets of Paris, sleeping under the Eiffel Tower or in a subway station or in the nearest McDo, each of us taking shifts ordering a coffee so we wouldn't get kicked out while the others grabbed a few winks. Sleep was hard to come by. Though I had on an overcoat, a shirt, a T-Shirt and thermal underwear, the bitter April cold seeped in and any rest we all got was fitful at best. On the third day there, just before heading back to England, I went up on a high point that overlooked the entire city. It might have been the lack of sleep or the overwhelming beauty or a combination of both, but something hit me looking out over the vast cityscapes and brought a few tears to my eyes. The film Paris starts off with those cityscapes. All the emotions of that weekend came flooding back and I fell in love with the city all over again.
 
The film weaves the stories of many different people together in a Love Actually sort of way but without Christmas hanging over everything bringing happy resolutions to everyone involved. We first follow Pierre (Romain Duris) a dancer who has just found out he needs to get a heart transplant. He is the brother of Elise (Juliette Binoche) a single mother working in immigration trying to make ends-meet and so completely devastated by her divorce that she has stopped keeping up her appearance to repel all male advances. One of those advances comes from the possible suitor Jean (Albert Dupontel) a fishmonger at the local open-air market Elise often visits, but she also knows him because their children attend the same school in the same grade. Jean has recently gotten a divorce as well and is trying to find his footing again in the dating world. The open-air market is also visited by Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) a lonely man who teaches French history whose father has just died. We meet him and his brother Philippe (Francois Cluzet) at the funeral. Philippe, an architect, has recently gotten married and is trying to have a child. After the funeral Philippe invites Roland back for dinner where Roland informs them that he is falling for one of his students, Laetitia (Melanie Laurent, most recently of Inglorious Basterds). Laetitia however is unaware that Roland has feelings for her. Moreover she is unaware that Roland overheard her tell someone her cell phone number, which he memorized and started texting her messages of love. She lives in a small apartment across the street from Pierre - and the six degrees of separation between all our players slowly gels into a thriving, bustling world where all these and many more people are part of the tapestry that is Parisian culture.
 
With such an amazing cast, nearly all of them from great French films (Three colors Blue; Irreversible; A very long engagement; Tell no one; The girl from Monaco; ect.) the acting, it goes without saying, is superb all around. Almost all the characters have a deep sadness that informs who they are, but still, we are never bogged down or depressed by their lives. On the contrary, we are engaged, enthralled and very entertained. As with any ensemble cast movies, good editing becomes essential so we don't forget a character, lose track of what or who we are following and don't become confused in the massive bog a story like this can be. The editing here does shine, at times becoming a bit too showy, but keeping the story clear and concise all the way through. As I stated before, the city looks beautiful thanks to cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne who brings all the color and vibrance out of every frame. 
 
However, this film's greatest triumph is the way it allows the stories to just "be". There are many films that will take their characters and wring some semblance of a life lesson out of them. It maligns and distorts the story as it is forced to be confined and compromised in order to accommodate plots they were never meant to inhabit. Here, on the other hand, the people are just people - weird, wacky, messed up people living their lives. We watch them as we would watch our friends and our family live out their lives. The film is not trying to be anything; it just is. It is life. It is love. It is loneliness. In a city, where no one is ever happy, it is Paris.
 
Rating -- A
 
 
FlickDirect Movie Reviewer, Marco Duran
Marco Duran, Reviewer
Marco wrote, directed and produced the feature film Within. He has lived in the Los Angeles area his whole life.You can follow his 140 character movie reviews on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

Favorite Films: Fight Club, The Fountain, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Oldboy, Pulp Fiction, Children of Men, City of God, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Shawshank Redemption, Memento
Favorite Directors: Spike Jonze, Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese
Favorite Composers: Clint Mansell, James Newton Howard, John Willimas, Howard Shore
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