out of Five
Running time: 130
Watchable multi-character drama with several decent performances, though some of the plot strands are frustratingly under-developed and the film never quite delivers the emotional punch you're expecting.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Cedric Klapisch, Paris presents a cross-section of Parisian life, as seen through the eyes of several different characters. These include: Pierre (Romain Duris), an ex-dancer in need of a heart transplant; his sister, social worker Elise (Juliette Binoche), who drops everything when she discovers his illness and moves in to help out; a college professor (Fabrice Luchini) who pursues an affair with one of his students (Melanie Laurent) by sending her anonymous texts; a market-seller (Albert
Dupontel) whose feelings for his ex-wife (Julie Ferrier) are sorely tested when she begins a relationship with one of his colleagues; and Cameroonian hotel employee Benoit (Kingsley Kum Abang), who makes his way to Paris to begin a new life, based on a throwaway invitation by a Parisian supermodel (Audrey Marnay) staying at his hotel.
The film works best as a portrait of the city, courtesy of Christophe Beaucarne's gorgeous cinematography and strong location work that emphasises bustling market life, busy streets and cafes.
The performances are excellent, but the stand-outs are Luchini (who gives a performance that is almost pure Woody Allen); Binoche (always wonderful, but particularly good here, especially in her interactions with Dupontel); and the stunningly beautiful Laurent, whose character also becomes an object of Rear Window-like obsession for Pierre.
The main problem is that some of the plot strands are less engaging than others, while other stories with potentially interesting characters - such as Sabrina Ouazani's North African bakery assistant and her vaguely racist boss (Karin Viard) - are frustratingly under-developed. Similarly, the film is overly long and drags in places, while Klapisch opts to downplay his most dramatic scenes, which lessens their emotional impact.
Paris is a watchable drama enlivened by a strong cast and some superb location work, but it's not as emotionally satisfying as it could have been.