When male dancer at the Moulin Rouge, Pierre (Romain Duris), is diagnosed with a serious heart condition that, even with a transplant, could end his life, he takes stock of his surroundings. He calls his not-so-close sister (Juliette Binoche), and tries to find a way of coping with the possibility of life ending. Meanwhile, all around him, Parisians are getting on with their lives, working and loving, and sometimes dying, too. And as Pierre waits for a suitable donor, many of these lives intersect around him, each with its own triumphs and failures, pain and joy. It's only when he finally makes his way by taxi across Paris to the hospital for the operation that he really sees the city as a thriving, vibrant, life affirming entity.
Review by Louise Keller:
From the first moment of that spectacular aerial shot of Paris from the heights of the Eiffel Tower, we become totally immersed. Immersed in Paris and its stories of life, love, dreams and death. Cédric Klapisch's film is an Ode to the City Of Love, as it reveals the stories of those who live there. Central to the story is Romain Duris' pensive protagonist Pierre, whose mortality is threatened; his raison d'être is to watch people from his top floor window wondering about their lives. The emotional landscape is as vast as the 360 degree vista; we are involved, intrigued and curious. Melancholy is the overall sensation that swept over me as the credits rolled.
Cédric Klapisch's device using Pierre as the film's core works effortlessly in part because the filmmaker uses him solely as a springboard from which we can delve into others' lives. Closest at hand is Pierre's caring sister Élise (Juliette Binoche) who admits to have had no luck with men and precipitates the film's best line. It is at a party she throws for her brother, when an admirer suggests she try homeopathy - men in small doses. I like it. Binoche makes Élise so real we can almost hear her heartbeat, and Binoche defies vanity, allowing the camera to capture her any which way - at times the shots are unflattering. But there's also a playful striptease to Rosemary Clooney's Sway in an encounter that is a long time in the coming.
Fabrice Luchini is memorable as the historian Roland who can't resist sending anonymous text message poetry to his student (Mélanie Laurent) and we get a sense of life at the markets for fruit stall owner Jean (Albert Dupontel) who works with his ex-wife (Julie Ferrier). There are other characters that interest us no less, but they get less screen time - the insufferable boulangerie owner (Karin Viard), her North African employee Khadija (Sabrina Ouazani) and another African in the Isle of Moyotte (Marco Prince) who dreams of a new life in France.
Klapisch weaves a fascinating web with this diverse collection of characters, some of whom discover what they want only after being exposed to what they do not want. Like the circular nature of the environs of Paris, the story always comes back to Pierre; Duris is intense, enigmatic and charismatic. I wanted to jump on the next plane to Paris; but if travel is not an option, Klapisch's film is a rich and satisfying indulgence.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
To approach this film with any chance of understanding what it's all about (and being satisfied by the experience), you have to understand that Cédric Klapisch set out to make a film about the character most of us know as the city of Paris. He could only do that through a collection of portraits about its people, of course, as they live their lives, lives shaped by their surroundings. To highlight the city's exceptional life force, he created the story of a dancer from the Moulin Rouge - but a male - who is faced with death. These are creative concepts of lasting value, but is he up to executing it as a movie. Yes, with reservations.
Assembling a solid gold cast was a prerequisite, and not only because it's an ensemble piece; it requires a great deal from each actor to make maximum impact in minimum time. Story layers criss-cross each other as relationships form and break, but the coincidental ones are just as important as the central ones, like Pierre (Romain Duris) and his sister Élise (Juliette Binoche). Every actor is superb, wholly committed to their small piece of the jigsaw. They are combustible elements in the stew of Paris; a slice of lives, each with a spicy taste.
The structure of the film is jagged, episodic ... yet Klapisch keeps a dynamic rhythm with the regular returns to his central character, Pierre, to anchor us in time and place and emotional intensity. Klapisch wraps up the film with a brief visual run down of some of the characters we have met, showing us where - sometime surprisingly - they are at the end of the film's 24 hour time frame. (This is not strictly true, but holds for the central characters.)
The bravura writing and direction are remarkable, but the hook character of Pierre is too manufactured and distant to make us care enough to be totally swept away. It is nevertheless a fresh and engaging journey through the city of love (and history), with characters that are innately interesting and unique, all set to a great soundtrack and original music.
Email this article
CAST: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, Francois Cluzet, Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche, Melanie Laurent, Zinedine Soualem, Julie Ferrier
PRODUCER: Bruno Levy
DIRECTOR: Cédric Klapisch
SCRIPT: Cédric Klapisch
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christophe Beaucarne
EDITOR: Francine Sandberg
MUSIC: Loic Dury
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marie Cheminal
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 17, 2008