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Paris (DVD Review)

15 Mar, 2010 By: Mike Clark

$19.98 DVD; $29.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language and some sexual references. In French with English subtitles.
Stars Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini.

Maybe it’s time for at least a temporary moratorium on movies that tell a bunch of parallel stories — or even interlock them in the Crash/Short Cuts mode — especially when, as here, they involve someone who needs a heart transplant. Didn’t the movie director played by Donald Sutherland in 1970’s underrated and regrettably not-on-DVD Alex in Wonderland make a big deal of turning down a job offer specifically because the story involved a heart transplant?

This time, though, the story undeniably takes place in one of the world’s photographic cities, and the DVD had a richer sound mix than I expected (which can pull you into the action in subliminal ways). Oscar winner Juliette Binoche is merely the best-known name in a large cast, deglamorized to play a no-frills social worker and single mom whose dancer brother (Romain Duris) is the one who needs the operation.

Other familiar faces, at least to those who keep up with French movies, include Francois Cluzet of the knockout mystery thriller Tell No One. He’s the actor who recalls the younger Dustin Hoffman whenever Hoffman got that pained expression he showed a lot in The Graduate — the one where he probably feared that Elaine Robinson was sleeping with the Nordic crew team at the frat house.

Here, Cluzet is the brother of a history prof played by Fabrice Luchini, previously memorable in the always-reliable director Patrice Leconte’s 2004 standout Intimate Strangers. The funniest scenes in Paris involve Luchini’s discomfort at being asked to morph into a TV celebrity for his new gig and his wild-ass apartment frug (or something in that genre) to Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.” He’s doing this to impress a comely, eyes-wandering young student on whom he’s fixated. In this case, there’s no fool like a middle-aged fool.

Coming with minor making-of and backgrounder extras, the movie isn’t tough to take — though writer/director Cedric Klapisch had a much breezier time of it with 2002’s L’auberge espagnole (also with Duris), about a clashing mix of apartment roomies in Barcelona. Sometimes, at least in the movies, I wonder if Paris is overrated as the city of love. What with espagnole, Whit Stillman’s Barcelona and Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it’s gotten some pronounced amorous screen competition in recent years.

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