Paying homage to the Nouvelle Vague, Francois Truffaut and all that is an intellectual exercise, typically French and, frankly, a bore. What those directors did in the Sixties was break the mould. What Christophe Honore does is a pale imitation of the great innovators’ style of naturalistic cinema, adding dollops of languor and a good deal of sex.

Time is random. You don’t know whether now is now, or yesterday, or last year. Not that it matters. Let’s say, it begins at the end, followed by Jonathan (Louis Garrel) speaking directly to “the viewer” and calling himself, not the star of the film, but the narrator. “Is it really possible for a love story to make you jump off a bridge?” he asks. The answer is yes, but you don’t find that out until later.

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Jonathan’s elder brother Paul (Romain Duris) breaks up with his girlfriend (Joana Preiss) after a series of thrusty cutting contretemps. It’s a case of can’t-live-with-her-can’t-live-without-her until finally some insignificant slight, or ill judged response, tips the relationship into the garbage. After this the film becomes a study in depression.

Paul stays in Jonathan’s room at their dad’s place. He can’t be bothered to eat, get up or communicate. Dad (Guy Marchand) is concerned, especially since his daughter committed suicide, aged 17. It is two days before Christmas and he buys a tree and decorates it. Jonathan goes window shopping, during which time he meets three girls and has sex with them (separately).

After a desperate central period when Paul is indulging in self pity and lying around in his underpants and Jonathan is being irresponsibly studenty and Dad makes chicken soup, things liven up a little with the arrival of Mum (Marie-France Pisier), an absurdly attractive divorcee, who flirts outrageously with her son and then leaves in a strop.

Finally, if films of this sort have a purpose, other than being true to themselves, Dans Paris is about love – between brothers, father, girlfriends – and suicide. “Do you think sadness is put inside us at birth?” asks one of Jonathan’s exes.

Paul thinks so. But then he would, wouldn’t he?

Reviewed on: 04 May 2007
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Love, sex, suicide and depression filmed Truffaut style.
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