Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dans Paris (French Film)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Paris at Christmastime Provides Backdrop for Dysfunctional Family Drama

Not every holiday movie has to be released in December or have a heartwarming theme revolving around an orphan or a Scrooge. Case in point: Dans Paris, a maudlin mood piece which, by design, is the opposite of uplifting.
‘Twas a night or so before Christmas, and we find Paul (Romain Duris) all depressed because he’s just been dumped by his lithe and limber, live-in girlfriend, Anna (Joana Preiss). So, he shows up unannounced and crashes at the home of his father, Mirko (Guy Marchand ) and younger brother, Jonathan (Louis Garrel), moping around the place in a self-indulgent funk.
Even though he’s divorced, Mirko enlists the assistance of his ex-wife (Marie-France Pisier), since they’re both still coming to grips with the suicide of their daughter, Claire, who killed herself at 17. But Paul’s predicament doesn’t prevent the still bickering couple from pointing out each other’s flaws, such as the fact that the “saint-whore of a mother ran off with a Canadian lumberjack.”
She also smokes like a chimney, curses like a sailor, and is generally inelegant. Unproductive papa, on the other hand, has retired prematurely and is living on a pension due to a neurological issue he’s been neglecting to face up to.
As his parents ponder putting him on tranquilizers, Paul sits there in a stupor, ostensibly considering using the balcony as a launching pad. Meanwhile, selfish womanizer Jonathan bolts from the apartment to fritter away the day ‘catting about town, and he proceeds to sleep with three different women by the time he returns in the evening.
This slice of life adventure transpires over the course of a frustrating 24 hours during which not much is resolved in terms of Paul’s mental state. Still, I sort of like the fact that writer/director Christophe Honore felt no need to end on an upbeat note, and even has the temerity to suggest that perhaps people are born with a sadness gene inside them, much the same as ones for skin, eye or hair color.
For, if his dysfunctional family flick doesn’t have to close with everybody dreaming of a White Christmas, that might free the protagonists of an alternately-themed seasonal saga to dream of a white Kwanzaa.
Christmas with the cracked.

Very good (3 stars)
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 94 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

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