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Paris When It Fizzles

Paris (2008)

23Mars Distribution

Cédric Klapisch offered the definitive view of the City of Lights in 1996 with “When the Cat’s Away.” Starring mostly unprofessional actors from a deteriorating but ethnically diverse neighborhood, the film charmingly depicted a spirit of community enduring amid the changing times. It was infinitely more authentic than the obviously touristy treatments of the city such as that in “Amélie,” which went as far as digitally erasing graffiti on walls in a desperate attempt to create a romantic ideal that in fact does not exist.

Mr. Klapisch returns to the city more than a decade later with “Paris.” The decidedly downer nature of the film signals the filmmaker’s desire to mature, having recently revisited the foreign-exchange-students-turned-friends-for-life from “L’auberge espagnole” with “Russian Dolls.” His big-screen alter ego and the aspiring novelist in the two aforementioned films, Romain Duris, resurfaces in “Paris” as a character battling terminal illness. Juliette Binoche seemingly reprises her performance of that mesmerizingly disheveled, self-centered career mom from “Flight of the Red Balloon.”

The kinetic editing, offbeat humor and wide-eyed wonder that made us love “L’auberge espagnole” and “When the Cat’s Away” are nowhere in sight, and instead we have yet more obligatory panoramic views of the Parisian skyline in CinemaScope. Several “When the Cat’s Away” alumni make appearances, including Mr. Duris and the cat lady Renée Le Calm, but it just ain’t the same. Even when Mr. Klapisch is pulling off the feat quite competently, one can’t help but think that he’s capable of so much more than this.


Opens on Sept. 18 in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch; director of photography, Christophe Beaucarne; edited by Francine Sandberg; music by Loïk Dury; set designer, Marie Cheminal; produced by Bruno Levy; released by IFC Films. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 4 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Juliette Binoche (Elise), Romain Duris (Pierre), Fabrice Luchini (Roland Verneuil), Albert Dupontel (Jean), Mélanie Laurent (Laetitia) and François Cluzet (Philippe Verneuil).


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