Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Paris Today": the FIAF CinemaTuesdays series examines the modern "city of light"

Can a single short series capture the essence of one of the world's most beautiful and distinctive cities (to many of us, it is the beautiful and distinctive city) as it appears today? Yes, we're speaking of contemporary Paris, and the answer is: of course not. But we can try. If the program that the French Institue Alliance Française (FIAF) has lined up for its April Cinema Tuesdays series is any example -- it's titled Paris Today -- we'll be very well enter-tained and provoked, even as we admit that we're tasting but a tiny piece of the whole pie.

Encompassing five full-length features and five shorts screened as six separate programs, here is diversity that ranges from a documentary about the Paris Ballet (Wiseman's La Danse) to a narrative involving immigration (Alain Gomis' Andalucia), and from rom-com (Julie Delpy's directorial debut 2 Days in Paris, shown at right) to rom-dram (Arnaud Viar's Clara et moi). For cinema-philes who delight in things French, there is even an earlier film from one of the country's foremost current practitioners of light romantic comedy with a philosophical bent, Emmanuel Mouret. Two years before his delightful Shall We Kiss became an international success (granted, of limited proportions), he made a little charmer called Change of Address (shown below) that is one of the modest highlights of the current FIAF program.

As usual with M. Mouret (above, right -- who seems to star in each of his films), he is once again essaying the role of a doufus who's unlucky in love. But then many -- almost all -- the characters in his films are unlucky in love. This occurs mostly because they lie to themselves (and each other) about who they are, what they want and what they are doing -- which, of course, makes for some highly amusing, and often quite pointed fun. In what is the film's most original scene, Mouret and his roommate, who both claim to be in love with other people, manage to snuggle, kiss, neck and finally consummate. In the morning they let themselves off the hook by claiming they were each, during the entire time, thinking about their "true" love.

In Change of Address, Mouret surrounds himself with some pretty women. One of these is Fanny Valette (from La petite Jérusalem, shown above, right, and further above, with French horn ); the other is the actress who appears to be something of a muse to Mouret: Frédérique Bel. Shown above, left, she has appeared in his last three films plus his new one, the as-yet-unreleased, The Art of Love. These three actors, together with Dany Brillant, who plays the only character who knows what he wants and goes after it, bring the movie to a pleasant simmer for its brief (85-minute) length. Change of Address plays at FIAF Florence Gould Hall on Tuesday, April 12 at 12:30pm and 7:30pm

Clara et moi, on the other hand is a rom-dram. The film has its light moments, including a lovely, Demy-like musical number midway. But its concerns are a good deal more serious -- and sad. A young man who has never been able to commit falls for a beautiful girl, and as their relationship takes off, she makes a surprising, dark discovery about her situation. These two would seem to be made for each other. Will they make it? The two stars, Julie Gayet (above) and Julien Boisselier (below), could hardly be better, and the movie leaves you feeling something akin to the residue pain from a kick in the chest you'd received the day before.

Clara et moi plays Tuesday, April 26, at 12:30, 4 and 7:30 pm.  All the films on view here show Paris from different angles and moods, as do the several short films on the program. With the exception of Wiseman's lengthy ballet film (below), each feature screens with an accompanying short, so you've two chances to be royally entertained.

Click here to see the entire series in detail, here to purchase tickets, and here to get directions to Florence Gould Hall.

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