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Movie Review

Paris

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"Paris" is a classic example of a film with top-notch ensemble performances. Set in the City of Lights, it's the story of chorus dancer Pierre (Romain Duris), who is diagnosed with a potentially fatal cardiac ailment and, while awaiting a heart transplant, reassesses his life and the lives of those around him. For the first time, he sees poetry in the mundane.

With a mercifully light touch, writer-director Cédric Klapisch loosely weaves an array of stories, all embracing the film's lofty motifs: life, death, love, loss, age, youth, history, and modernity. Paris serves as backdrop and character. Pierre's sister Elise (Juliette Binoche) is a single mother of three who hasn't had much luck in the romance department. An aging professor (Fabrice Luchini) is obsessed by a beautiful student (Mélanie Laurent). His happily married architect brother (François Cluzet) sheds tears easily and is expecting the birth of his first child.

In his sixth collaboration with Klapisch, Duris is wholly convincing as a sad man in an existential moment. He doesn't have to say a word; his expressive eyes say it all as he stands on his apartment balcony at night, peering out at the Paris skyline. Binoche is excellent as a concerned sister who doesn't want to look too concerned. Her flirtation with a fishmonger (Albert Dupontel) is wonderfully tentative and touching.

But the film belongs to Luchini, playing a lonely, disaffected academic who, late in life, begins appearing on a TV program and pursuing a young woman who views him as little more than a diversion. In one of the most extraordinarily comical and sad scenes, he turns on 1960s music and dances around his apartment in front of the woman in an effort to entertain and seduce her. His fabulous energy and swift moves belie his advanced years. Despite his attempts at levity, however, in the end he reveals himself to be an old man indulging in nostalgia—which is nonetheless hilarious.

This is an easy-to-watch and enjoyable film, its big themes notwithstanding. My only quibble is with the datedness in its treatment of male-female relations and of women in particular. It feels rooted in a pre-feminist, pre-AIDS era when acquaintances hopped into bed at a moment's notice and a line like "Your place or mine?" was routine. Here it's said several times, becoming more jarring with each utterance.

Genre: Drama
Written and directed by: Cédric Klapisch
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, François Cluzet, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, Karin Viard, Mélanie Laurent

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