26 March 2008

DANS PARIS / INSIDE PARIS (Dir. Christophe Honore, 2006, France) - A bittersweet homage to the Nouvelle Vague

Much has been said and continues to be written about how both Godard and Truffaut were firm believers in using cinema as a means of authorial expression but watching Dans Paris, another film which immortalises the mystique and charm of Paris, I was reminded of how the romanticism that was so clearly evident in the films of the French New Wave is still with us today. Godard's reputation in particular seems to currently rest largely with his radical departure from the traditions of classical Hollywood cinema but most of his films exuded a hipness and beatnik cool that is very difficult to imitate today. Christophe Honore's swansong to Paris is a film which seems closer to the spirit of Truffaut's whimsical and care free characters who always seemed to searching for an answer to question which we knew would in no way be answered by the close of the film. Honore's disregard for plot and narrative seems to be harking back to the anti-narrative counter cinema embodied by the French new wave as the film is held together by a series of episodes which shift from comedy to pathos with incredible confidence and ease. Romain Duris plays Paul, a photographer who is going through the emotional effects of a break up with his wife/girlfriend? (many elements are left unexplained and the large degree of ambiguity surrounding a few of the character's past and motivations is once again another indirect homage to the new wave) is suffering from a suicidal bout of depression which has led him to come back and live with father and brother, Jonathan (played by Louis Garrel), a Godardian inspired character who wanders the streets of Paris like a bohemian 68' radical. Romain Duris is currently the poster boy of French cinema and though he has yet to embark upon extending his star status to an international profile like Vincent Cassel, he has produced a series of brilliant performances in films like Russian Dolls and The Beat My Heart Skipped; Duris is possibly the most challenging and interesting actor working within European cinema today. The Godardian self reflexive touches are present throughout and perhaps most visibly in the form of ellipsis with Honore jumping back and forth in a narrative which deliberately refuses to conform to any sort of audience expectation. Some critics have labelled the film as pretentious and sentimental to the point of inducing reactions of nauseau which is really unfair. The sequence which some critics made them hate the film is when Paul and his girlfriend break up by singing a song together over the telephone - surely if this had appeared an American romantic comedy it would have been very difficult to accept but Honore makes us understand that romanticism is merely a disease and that relationships are not made to last. On a final point when Louis Garrel addresses the audience as the narrator in the opening few minutes I was reminded how Woody Allen was so gifted at producing such charismatic and effortless self reflexive cinema which he just cannot do anymore.

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