An Empty Puff Pastry
Friday, September 25, 2009
“Paris” (opening September 25 at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinema) is not to be confused with “Paris, Je T’aime.” Although both look to the city of lights and love through a similar multi-character, multi-plot kaleidascope.
We have recently been hit by a number of anthology films treating cities as characters with multiple directors delivering their particular valentines to the city of their choice. There was “Paris, Je T’aime,” “Tokyo,” and now there’s the upcoming “New York, I Love You.” “Paris,” despite a single director, is not much different from these films. Writer-director Cedric Klapisch assembles a stellar French cast to pay tribute to a city that he loves and that sometimes drives him crazy.
The story, which is less multi-cultural than “Paris, Je T’aime,” involves a number of diverse but oddly interconnected characters. There’s a brother and sister coping with his possibly fatal heart condition; an older man infatuated with a young woman to whom he texts poetry; a couple trying to figure out what divorce means when you still work in close proximity; and a handful of other characters.
I have to confess that this format is beginning to grow a bit stale and Klapisch does little to reinvigorate it. There are the characters who make us laugh, the ones who make us cry, the ones who predictably but “unexpectedly” hook up, and all of them are mere foreground elements to the bigger “character” of the city of Paris. The actors are all good and the city is beautiful but it all plays out in fairly routine manner so it’s hard to get excited about the film.
Juliette Binoche is lovely and hard to accept as a kind of wallflower who deems her romantic life is over. Fabrice Luchini is suitably amusing and touchingas an older man in love with a young woman. And Roman Duris tugs at heart strings as the ailing brother who just doesn’t want to be a burden. Francois Cluzet, though, is wasted as Luchini’s brother.
Klapisch gets some genuine emotions at times and makes his film easy to watch, but he has nothing fresh to say about Paris or love. Duris gets the last word about the city in the film as he is driven to the hospital and looks out at all the people on the streets of Paris. The people may be grumbling about traffic or being late but he says they should all be happy to be alive in this great city. But the city doesn’t even develop much of a personality. “Paris, Je T’aime” conveyed in at least some of its stories a much better feel for contemporary Paris and its increasing multi-culturalism. There’s a moment when you think Klapisch will go counter to expectations and not neatly tie up love stories and relationships but that is just a tease. In the end, Klapisch simply reaffirms that you can indeed find love in Paris. Wow, what a surpise.
“Paris” (rated R for language and some sexual references, and in French with English subtitles) is an airy puff pastry that promises a delicious filling but turns out to be empty.
Companion viewing: “Paris, Je T’aime,” “Paris Vu Par…,” “Two Days in Paris”