Roman Duris, Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, François Cluzet, Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche / Fiction / French, English
A looming tragedy prompts a reevaluation of interlocked lives.
?“Paris, you have 1000 faces.” So gushes a presenter introducing the city for his programme in Cédric Klapisch’s film. The remark may be a cliché, but it’s still true. Some of the many aspects of the French capital are displayed in Klapisch’s latest feature, a luminous, richly-textured and immensely likeable ensemble drama that draws together a number of overlapping stories in a warm embrace.Interweaving multiple plot strands with great assurance, Klapisch’s film reveals glimpses of the lives of a handful of Parisians from a variety of backgrounds. An academic falls for a pretty young student. A market stall vendor struggles to get over his divorce. An architect grieves for his father whilst expecting his first child. And at its centre is the tender relationship between 40-year-old Élise (Juliette Binoche) and her younger brother Pierre (Romain Duris), recently diagnosed with a serious heart condition. As Pierre observes vignettes of other people’s everyday existence from the seclusion of his balcony flat, his sympathetic, watchful curiosity is a surrogate for the director’s own.Paris of course looks gorgeous, providing elegant backdrops for Klapisch’s characters: there’s a scope and precision about the way he films this cityscape of which his architect protagonist would approve. He brings a fluid intimacy to the drama, too, most strikingly in the poignant domestic scenes between Pierre and Élise. At one point making an impish reference to Baudelaire’s idea of the urban flâneur, Klapisch’s film flits from storyline to storyline with practiced elegance to reveal the individual dramas – moments of sadness, comedy and poignancy – behind the city’s anonymous crowds. Its view is far-reaching: a touching sequence devoted to Cameroon, where impoverished migrant workers plan to come to France for work, reveals Paris as a global city in the truest sense.The ensemble cast is faultless, and expansive enough to accommodate some star turns, notably from Fabrice Luchini – last seen in the UK as the cuckolded aristocrat in Molière – as a history professor hopelessly wriggling free from the clutches of mid-life crisis.
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