Paris (15)

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The Independent Culture

Just as its title suggests, there is a fairly obvious quality to Paris, Cédric Klapisch's cinematic paean to his home town. It's there in the picture-postcard locations, the high-end French thesps and in the way in which apparently disparate stories and characters connect by the film's end.

As easy as it would be to dismiss so comforting an endeavour, however, the film's palpable warmth towards the city, and its good humour, are extremely winning. Klapisch's shrewdest decision is to have at the centre of his ensemble a young man who thinks he is about to die: thus offering a particularly precious prism on the city.

This is Pierre (Romain Duris), a dancer with a dodgy heart, confined mostly to watching the world from his balcony. Nevertheless, it is Pierre, along with his caring sister Elise (Juliette Binoche), who provides the fulcrum of our tour through the different strands of life in the capital: from academics and architects, to social workers and illegal immigrants, models and market stallholders.

The most amusing tale involves a historian (Fabrice Luchini) uncomfortable with his new career as a TV guide to Paris's past, while absurdly in love with a student; any yawns at this Gallic male fantasy being usurped by the sight of the hilarious Luchini dancing before his amour.

Elise's tentative flirtation with a fruit-and-veg man allows a rarer glance into the city's working class, while Karin Viard's ghastly patisserie madame reveals all we need to know about Parisian snobbery.

As with his earlier ensembles, L'Auberge espagnole and The Russian Dolls, Klapisch's control of his material is a little hit and miss. Yet, also as with those films, Duris affords a very appealing and solid emotional foundation, whether remembering his nimble performances in a wonderfully cheesy cabaret, or beholding his beloved city while prostrate in the back of a cab.

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