Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:38 pm 
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"A likable wish-fulfilling comedy"

Writer-director Arnaud Viard stars, playing a variation of himself, with Irène Jacob, Louise Coldefy, and Nadine Alari in this semi-autobiographical, lightweight French romantic comedy. The ostensible focus is Arnaud's desire to make a second film. Is trying to make a film a topic for a film? Of course, in a Pirandellian, Felliniesque sort of way. But maybe this is more Seinfeldian or Woody Allenish.

It's been twelve years since the first film, so inspiration, or financial backing, probably both, have been lacking. Thing is, Arnaud - the real Arnaud - has been busy acting in a popular TV series, "Que du bonheur" ("Happy Times") that presumably pays the rent, even gets him recognized on the street or asked for autographs sometimes, but adds little to his sense of creativity or solid personal accomplishment. Viard packs a lot of events into his story: a big breakthrough (a producer decides to fund his film); struggling to get his ex-girlfriend Chloe (Irene Jacob) pregnant by IVF; teaching an acting class; coping with the illness and eventual death of his mother (Nadine Alari); acquiring a beautiful new girlfriend from the acting class, Gabrielle Ducorail (Louise Coldefy). Yet none of these things manage to give the film real heft, which partly is as it's meant to be. Viard is easy and charms in this partly flattering and indulgent, partly self-mocking version of himself. If any scenes sing, they are a few moments with the young drama students. Other moments seem indulgent. The self-mockery doesn't outbalance the element of self indulgence, even narcissism. Perhaps Viard hasn't quite the degree of charm he thinks.

One isn't as sure of what the point is. One definitely was in Viard's first film, Clara et moi, from twelve years ago. Clara et moi is delicate and restrained in its treatment, but turns on a solid central issue A beautifully matched couple, played by Julien Boisselier and Julie Gayet, get into a seemingly perfect love affair. And then it goes irredeemably wrong when it emerges that she is HIV-positive, and he doesn't handle this fact well. Viard does the drawn-out meet cute and the delicate unfolding affair with more grace and subtlety than any American rom-com. He evinces similar elegance in the somewhat less engaging second half of Clara et moi, but the point is there's a real issue here that holds the whole ting together. What is the issue in the new film other than Viard's fear of growing old without becoming famous? Is dealing with the final illness of the mother meant to give the film depth, or it it just thrown in because it was part of Viard's last decade? Or to offset the gags in other scenes? The scenes with Chloe have more nuance than those with Louise. Why did they split up just because she couldn't get pregnant? Why don't they get back together? Viard's screenplay fails to connect the dots that would give a point to it all.

Things do get sorted out, as is the way of comedy. The ex-girlfriend does become pregnant by him, and has a baby, in one of the least convincing birth scenes on film; the mother dies, off screen, but he has been the most attentive, and seems the least greedy over inheritance; he makes love to the young girlffiend; the drama class is fun; the producer comes around. He worried about his virility: that's the ostensible theme of the new scenario, a man who can't get it up, played by him - though he insists to the producer that it's fantasy.

The Hollywood Reporter reviewer, John DeFore, calls this "a likable wish-fulfilling comedy." It is wish-fulfilling, it does entertain, it is light, and above all, Viard is at ease and likable on screen. For him and most of the other characters, it would seem that "acting" mainly means smiling.

Arnaud fait son 2e film/Paris, Love, Cut, 80 mins., opened 1 Apr. 2015 in France (AlloCiné press rating a moderate 3.4). Some critics found it self-indulgent and thin. It is entertaining and French. Nov. 29 on iTunes, Dec. 6 on Amazon, Google Play and Vudu from Distrib Films US.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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