On reflection, the film Dans Paris could have been titled Dans Anywhere. Other than the opportunity to plant familiar Paris landmarks in the background of many scenes (there was an Amélie feel to some shots with the Eiffel Tower over the shoulder of the actor) the story could have been set in any European city.
There’s a family. Estranged parents, two brothers (Jonathan and Paul) and a sister Claire (who committed suicide aged 17) some years ago. It’s a French film, so don’t expect too much laughter and too many happy endings!
Paul moved to the country with his partner Anna. But their relationship ran out of steam, and he’s returned, depressed, to the family’s flat in Paris, reluctant to leave his brother’s bed, never mind the flat. So that leaves a bright and breezy Jonathan to sleep on the sofa. Not that he needs to sleep in his own bed, given the rate that he picks up girls on the streets of Paris. (About three a day if the film’s narrative is anything to go by.)
The film starts unusually, with an introductory piece to camera by Jonathan. Narration is often seen as a sign of weakness in cinema, a failure of the screenwriter to get the story started, or to tell the whole story on-screen. In the case of Dans Paris, we should be grateful that they used this device to jump start the story, otherwise the film might never have got out of bed and gone beyond the first reel!
There’s plenty of messing with the timeline, with frequent cuts in the film’s opening twenty minutes to scenes a couple of weeks before the main action, with few clues or cues.
The two sing-alongs ... I kid you not ... are woeful. Two characters, on the phone to each other, singing a duet. The performances would sit happily at the bottom of the Eurovision Song Contest result table. Also watch out for the ministry of silly walks demonstrated by Jonathan.
Dans Paris deals with depression, and a family facing up to the truth about their lives and their circumstances. They don’t talk a lot about their feelings and problems. Paul’s darkness of spirit is contrasted to brother Jonathan’s lightness and joie de vivre. The father can be both loving and disapproving. Yet over the course of the day we spend with the family unit, they start to open up.
It’s not a poor film, but it’s hard to recommend. (Though it is an excuse to post a picture I took back in March 2003 from the top of the Eiffel Tower!) If you find yourself loitering on University Square between Saturday 9 and Thursday 14 June and it starts to rain, pop into the Queen’s Film Theatre and you’ll catch Dans Paris rather than a cold!