After splitting up with his long-term girlfriend, Anna (Joana Preiss), Paul (Romain Duris) has moved back into the Paris flat his younger brother Jonathan (Louis Garrel) shares with their protective, divorced father, Mirko (Guy Marchand). Depressed and lethargic, he remains housebound whilst Jonathan - a devil-may-care womaniser and the film's narrator - walks the streets of Paris chatting up and seducing young women. The emotional intensity heightens with the arrival of the boys' mother (Marie-France Pisier).
Review by Louise Keller:
Lovers quarrel after making love; a depressed man jumps into the Seine in the middle of the night; a dysfunctional family is at odds with each other; brothers reminisce about their childhood in the wee small hours; a man looks at decorated Paris shop windows at night. The setting might be Paris, but the emotional heart is scattered in this highly pretentious muddle of relationships, timeframes and essay on sadness. Written and directed by Christophe Honoré, this is a film that is as nebulous as the water of the Seine, and as ill-defined as the afterlife. It's a puzzling experience that offers snatches of life, but fails to satisfy on any level, despite the alluring, liquid jazz score that accompanies many of the scenes.
The structure is curious. Louis Garrel's Jonathan appears at the beginning of the film as the narrator, telling the camera that he is not the central character of the story. He insists he can be 'everywhere at once,' as it becomes clear that it is his depressed brother Paul (Romain Duris), whose plight is at the heart of the film. Duris has great screen presence - whether it is in a war of words with his ex-lover Anna (Joana Preiss) as she berates him for showering after making love, in complete detachment with his father Mirko (Guy Marchand), or in ardent conversation with his ratbag brother (Garrel) late at night, in their underwear. Garrel makes an impression too, although neither character is especially likeable. It is the men that are at the centre of attention. There's a certain disdain for the (male) nudity and the women are treated as objects of desire, while Jonathan and Paul's estranged mother (Marie-France Pisier) is like an intruder.
Although we learn more about each character as the film progresses, the story is a jumble. The only thing that is consistent is the presence of the city of Paris itself. The Eiffel Tower stands tall and proud behind the apartment in which most of the action takes place, and the scenes along the Seine look extremely beautiful. But the film is as cold as the European Christmas weather, and whatever Honoré aspired to create, is kept at arm's length from us, the audience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are valid and interesting ideas and themes here, but Christoph Honoré has not been able to fashion them into a cohesive, interesting film. He assaults the relationships between the two grown up brothers and their father, separated from their mother, with whom they also have a bumpy relationship, as do the two parents. The two brothers, Paul (Romain Duris) and Jonathan (Louis Garrel) offer the most interesting possibilities as Honoré pits their personalities against each other, and eventually finds a way to unite them in a single, long scene that is perhaps the highlight of the film.
But this is far too slim a reward for the audience, even for a shortish, 90 minute film. There are idiosyncratic blips (like Paul jumping off a bridge into the Seine) which fail to have the desired effect. There is meaningless dialogue that borders on the narcissistic - and leaves us uninvolved with its pointlessness. And there is a hopelessly unsatisfactory absence of character development, story or even time passing in any relevant way. It's as if Honoré had a half way decent trip on a minor hallucigen and tried to capture it on camera.
I admire experimentation and ambiguity in film and I don't need linear storytelling: but I do like to latch onto at least one or two real characters and to have a sense that the filmmaker is trying to say something I recognise. Inside Paris does not satisfy me on these levels at all.
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INSIDE PARIS (M)
CAST: Romain Duris, Louis Garrel, Joana Preiss, Guy Marchand, Marie-France Pisier
PRODUCER: Paolo Branco
DIRECTOR: Christoph Honoré
SCRIPT: Christoph Honoré
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Louis Vialard
EDITOR: Chantal Hymans
MUSIC: Alex Beaupain
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Samuel Deshors
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney, Melbourne: August 9; Perth: August 16; other cities later