The really frustrating thing about Paris 36 isn’t that it wasn’t an enjoyable film, but that it had the potential been really good.
This is the story of a group of Parisians in 1936. We open with a man named Pigoil (Gerard Jugnot) being interviewed by police and he begins to tell his story. At the onset of 1936, the theater that he manages is closed by its new owner, the ruthless businessman Galapiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Out of work he resorts to drinking. When his son, Jojo (Maxence Perrin), is caught panhandling he is sent off to live with Pigoil’s ex-wife who abandoned them after being unfaithful. Determined to get his son back he quits drinking and forcefully reopens the theater himself.
Pigoil brings back all of those who worked at the theater and the work to make a good show that will get them the money to buy the theater for themselves. Also in the troupe are Milou (Clovis Cornillac), the lighting operator, and Jacky (Kad Merad), one of the performers. A young woman named Douce (Nora Arnezeder) comes in see the old owner who has died. She meets Galapiat and he instantly falls for her, however these feels are far from mutual.
At Galapiat’s suggestion Douce auditions at the theater however Pigoil is untrusting of Galapiat and therefore hesitant to hire Douce. He gives her the job of announcer but upon opening night proves to be the greatest talent on stage and soon her singing career takes off leaving the theater behind.
The story continues on following these characters through their story leading up to the point where we finally learn why Pigoil is being interviewed by the police in the beginning.
It’s an interesting story with lots of potential, but sadly, it’s just poorly told. It takes a long time for Paris 36 to become engaging and by that point you really just don’t care. It meanders through its story weaving this way and that leaving you never quite sure what the point to all of it is. You’re never really drawn into the characters and you don’t really care what happens to them, whether good or bad. Galapiat is a poor excuse for a villain and it’s never really understood why everyone fears him so.
I think that’s the biggest problem with the film: not understanding any of the motivation. Beyond Pigoil’s desire to get his son back, little of what the characters do in this film makes sense. They do these things because it’s written in the script, it doesn’t feel very organic at all.
Okay, so I’ve said a lot of negative things thus far, but before that I said the film had potential, and I stand by that. With all the bad there is a lot of good in the film. The acting is pretty good from all parties involved and first timer Arnezeder is really fantastic as Douce. So good that it makes you wish the rest of Paris 36 was as good as she is. The film looks beautiful. It has a very artistic style to it that is very pleasant on the eyes. It’s extremely well shot as well. In fact from a technical standpoint, it’s a fantastic film. Too bad the story leaves so much to be desired.
The film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. If only one nice thing could be said about this film is that it’s stunningly beautiful and sounds great too. The colors in this film are deep and lush and a joy to see.
Commentary with director Christophe Barratier and actress Nora Arnezeder: What you’d expect from a typical commentary. The director and actress talk about the film, give you info about what happened behind-the-scenes and all the usual stuff. Not the worst ever, but not a good one.
Deleted Scenes: (23 min.) 14 scenes. Typical deleted scenes. Nothing really special or stand out.
Nora Arnezeder: The Young Revelation’s Beautiful Adventure: (10 min.) This focuses on the best aspect of the film: Nora Arnezeder. It talks about how Paris 36 is her first film and how amazing she is in the role in acting as well as singing. This extra couldn’t be more right.
The Film Locations: Thomas Lautner’s Making Of: (25 min.) A run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes doc about how the location designs were conceived and constructed and why they made the decisions they did. The construction of the locations was impressive, this doc is dull.
Paris 36: Interview With The Actors: (30 min.) This are interviews with six actors from the film. They talk about their characters, the other actors and the sets and such. This was actually kind of boring.
Previews: The Class, East Virtue, Every Little Step, Sugar, Whatever Works, I’ve Loved You So Long, It Might Get Loud.
This looked like it was going to be a pretty good movie. Sadly it bored the hell out of me. It’s very pretty to look at but never gets interesting enough to make you care. Rent if you’re interested but take heed my warning.
Sony Pictures Classics presents Paris 36. Directed by Christophe Barratier. Written by Christophe Barratier and Julien Rappeneau. Based on an Original Idea b Frank Thomas, Reinhardt Wagner and Jean-Michel Derenne. Starring Gerard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad, Nora Arnezeder and Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu. Running time: 120 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and nudity, violence and brief language. Released on DVD: August 11, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.