DIRECTOR: Christophe Honoré | WRITER: Christophe Honoré | CAST: Romain Duris, Louis Garrel, Guy Marchand, Joana Preiss, Marie-France Pisier, Alice Butaud | France
Unless I’m missing the joke, Christophe Honoré set out to make a film in the style of the high Nouvelle Vague — Baisers volés, say, or Pierrot le Fou — when he made Dans Paris, but he meant it straight and not as a parody and with no acknowledgment that 40 years separate Dans Paris and its characters from their originals in the films of Truffaut and Godard. Why, I have no idea, but Dans Paris comes across not as an homage but as a witless pastiche.
The plot is fairly simple: Paul is dumped by his girlfriend Anna and, listless and depressed, he moves back to Paris to live with his divorced father and younger brother Jonathan. Onto these bare bones of the plot Honoré has arbitrarily stuck elements from the Nouvelle Vague. The story of a 12 year long relationship is presented to us in a jumbled, non-chronological, repetitive series of scenes and fragments of scenes. A character steps out of the character he’s playing to face the camera and talk to us as the “real” him for a few minutes only to step back into playing his character and never be heard from again. Paul calls up his hostile ex and starts singing a crummy pop love song to her, with instrumental accompaniment, only to have her join in and duet with him as though they’d rehearsed it. For no reason whatever characters run around on public streets doing silly things and the film is oh-so-hilariously sped up so we know it’s supposed to be adorably k0okY. The narrative becomes confusing, if it’s not just confused, but by the time you start to wonder who really jumped off a bridge and when, you realize it just doesn’t matter and you don’t even wonder why someone jumped whenever he did. It’s just as arbitrary as anything else in the film. Why is Paul a photographer? Does it matter? Does it matter that Paul has returned to Paris from the countryside where he lived for over a decade? If so, how? and if not, why is that detail insisted on over and over?
I’d comment on the acting but there’s nothing really to say since the characters by and large are cardboard cutouts. Only the divorced parents come across as plausibly human, and Guy Marchand and Marie-France Pisier in the roles are fine. The only reason I can think of for watching Dans Paris is to see the two leads. Louis Garrel is as attractively pouty and brooding as ever, but he was unaccountably cast in the Jean-Pierre Léaud/Jean-Paul Belmondo horndog goofball part of Jonathan with predictable results. Romain Duris is lushly hairy as the depressed older brother Paul; I predict Duris has no future as a recording artist. If it weren’t for the eye candy those two provided I’d have stopped watching the movie at the 20 minute mark, but then I’d have missed the news — implicit from the first frame but still surprising — that incest can be a cure for what ails you. There’s enough nudity or near-nudity and Duris’ forest of chest hair to make the film tolerable if still pretty bad.