Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Movie Review: Paris 36

Paris 36 **
Directed by:
Christophe Barratier.
Written By: Christophe Barratier & Julien Rappeneau.
Starring: Gérard Jugnot (Pigoil), Clovis Cornillac (Milou), Kad Merad (Jacky), Nora Arnezeder (Douce), Pierre Richard (Monsieur TSF), Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu (Galapiat), Maxence Perrin (Jojo), François Morel (Célestin), Élisabeth Vitali (Viviane), Christophe Kourotchkine (Lebeaupin), Eric Naggar (Grevoul), Eric Prat (Commissaire Tortil), Julien Courbey (Mondain), Philippe du Janerand (Triquet).

Paris 36 is an erratic little musical comedy set in Paris in 1936. For the most part, Paris 36 is content to be a nostalgic look back at the cabaret clubs of yesteryear. All the different stereotypical characters you would expect in a movie like this are there. The father whose wife first left him and now has taken his son away. The communist agitator. The new girl who dazzles with her talent and beauty. The mean, lecherous landlord. The talentless impersonator. Etc, etc. If this sounds like your type of movie, then I’m sure you’ll love it. I enjoyed part of it, but got bored after about an hour, as I had to wait for the movie to catch up to me.

The film is about the employees of an old theater who are all put out on the street when the owner loses it to the mean money lender Galapait (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). They spend a few months looking for other work, but there is none. They then decide to overtake the theater and run it themselves. Galapait doesn’t really like the idea, but he goes along with it anyway for a short while. He thinks it will help his image. Also he has just met the beautiful Douce (Nora Arnezeder), and wants to be able to help her get a job on stage – which is her dream – so she will be grateful and do things for him.

The other major characters are Pigoil (Gerard Jugnot), the stage manager who discovers that his dancing girl wife is having an affair, and ends up running off with one of the other performers. He is mired in depression, and starts drinking too much, so his son Jojo (Maxence Perrin) earns money by playing his accordion in the street. When the mother returns, now married to a respected business, she takes Jojo away from Pigoil, and doesn’t allow him to see his son. Then there is Milou (Clovis Cornilliac), the young communist agitator who drones on about his principals, but is also in love with Douce. Despite the fact that Galapait has money, and can give Douce what she wants, she falls for Milou anyway.

The movie does address the changing political times in France during the time, but only in the most superficial of ways. The communists are rabble rousing, and Hitler has gotten the juices of the right wing flowing, and the conflict between these two forces are told between the conflict between the Milou and Galapait.

But the movies storytelling is creaky, and lacks any real surprise. Roger Ebert said in his review that if the movie had been made years ago, it might today be considered a classic. And to a certain extent, I think that’s true. Had this film been made in 1936, it would have seemed a little more original, a little more daring. But this is 2009, and to me Paris 36 plays everything too safe. Yes, the musical numbers are enjoyable (especially the Oscar nominated one Loin de Paname), and just like her character, Nora Arnezeder is a star in the making. But Paris 36 just felt like a movie I had seen before – and I enjoyed it more the first time.

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