Paris (15)

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The Independent Culture

A bittersweet Valentine to the French capital, this lively ensemble movie balances Parisian joie de vivre against the inescapable shadow of death.

As a former dancer (Romain Duris) re-evaluates his life under sentence of a possibly fatal heart condition, his sister (Juliette Binoche) and her kids move into his flat to keep him company. Meanwhile, a metropolitan fresco unfurls, encompassing market stallholders, social workers, patissiers, vagrants, a Cameroonian immigrant and, in one sad sequence of vignettes, a history professor (Fabrice Luchini) who loses his head and heart to a student young enough to be his daughter.

The writer-director Cédric Klapisch's watchful eye takes up the stories with casual ease, catching unexpected moments of romantic attraction, yet never losing sight of what lies beneath: humanity's impotence against the forces of fate. It's loose in form, but the cast lend a vigour and charm to the mood.

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