Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

He loved Paris. He idolised it all out of proportion...

Opening with a dizzying journey through the titular city, immediately giving us a fresh perspective on one of the most frequently filmed places in the world, Cedric Klapisch's portrait of Paris is right up there with Woody Allen's classic Manhattan. It's a love letter, a symphony, a passionate tribute to the history and architecture and people of a place like nowhere else on Earth. Klapisch may not have Gershwin to aid him, but he has Baudelaire, and his subdued imagery, taking in every corner of the place, celebrating fruit markets and warehouses as much as monuments and the Seine, helps to create a film you'll never forget.

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Nominally centered on the life of a former dancer who has just discovered that he has a potentially fatal heart condition, Paris is really an ensemble piece, bringing together tales of the loosely connected lives of citizens from all walks of life. There's also a brief visit to Cameroon, where a young man dreams of travelling to Paris to see the fashion model he met during her vacation. These people are learned and naive, confused and intensely focused, happy and sad, yet they are all a part of something greater, and as the film progresses we gradually come to understand how the city itself lives through them.

Isolated in his apartment on account of his illness, Pierre (Romain Duris) is the perfect point of focus, watching people from his window and speculating about their lives. His sister Élise (Juliette Binoche) makes herself his carer, but has problems of her own, wondering if she's too old now to have a hope of finding love. We also meet lecturer Roland (Fabrice Luchini), a history professor besotted with a yound student but unprepared, despite his borrowed observations, for what dealing with youth really means; and his brother Philippe (François Cluzet), a comfortable middle aged architect dismayed by the accusation that he's normal.

This is a film full of understated humour. Sometimes we are laughing at the characters as much as with them, but there is a sense in which their ridiculousness makes them all the more real and all the more worthy of affection. It is also a film which is truly grim in places and which pulls no punches in dealing with matters of life and death, but this is all a part of its beauty. Likewise it interweaves the legacy of the past with the technology and fashions of the present, showing a city which is changing all the time and yet remaining itself.

This film will leave you spellbound as only Paris can.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2008
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A medical diagnosis leaves a young dancer and his sister in care(e)r gridlock.
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Director: Cédric Klapisch

Writer: Cédric Klapisch

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, François Cluzet, Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche, Mélanie Laurent, Zinedine Soualem, Julie Ferrier, Olivia Bonamy

Year: 2008

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


EIFF 2008

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