May 06, 2009

Paris 36

We wear short shorts...

Grade: C +

Director: Christophe Barratier

Starring: Gerard Jugnot, Nora Arnezeder, Clovis Cornillac, and Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours

The social, political, and financial upheaval of 1930s France forms the unlikely and misbegotten backdrop for Paris 36, a schmaltzy slog through the travails of a moribund Parisian music hall. Director Christophe Barratier (The Chorus) attempts to prepare a puff pastry of historical recall and mythical nostalgia. However, his simple-minded pastiche of the rise of socialism and anti-Semitism is Benigni-esque, while the Hallmark rendering of French theater is overly sentimental and, during one keynote production number, oddly anachronistic.

Archetypes pile atop clichés: There’s a kindly old stagehand, a goofy comic, a hunky ladies’ man, a child accordion prodigy, and a villain in the form of a fascist landlord. The lone saving grace is an ingénue-turned-chanteuse named Douce, played by newcomer Nora Arnezeder, who lights up the screen with her voice and comely visage. The film lives and dies by her presence.

Neil Morris

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