Synopsis: A star is born in a time of both celebration and instability in this historical drama with music from director Christophe Barratier. In the spring of 1936, Paris is in a state of uncertainty; while the rise of the Third Reich in Germany worries many, a leftist union-oriented candidate, Léon Blum, has been voted into power, and organized labor is feeling its new power by standing up to management.
Round-up: “Staking its success on a vibrant reproduction of 1930s Paris and a surfeit of nostalgic charm, Paris 36’‘s homage to a milieu and cinema of the past aims for let’s-put-on-a-show razzmatazz but disappointingly settles on being not much more than a pretty, pleasant diversion” writes Michael Joshua Rowin in his review for indieWIRE of French director Christophe Barratier’s follow up to 2004’s “The Chorus." The main objection critics raise has to do with what they see as the cheaply sentimental and schmaltzy tone of the movie. The Village Voice’s Melissa Anderson writes: “Assault by relentless accordion-playing, ‘Paris 36’ proves that sometimes, imitation is the highest form of flatulence. Christophe Barratier follows up his equally pandering ‘The Chorus’ (2004) with an aggressively nostalgic, tinny homage to French musicals of the 1930s and ‘40s… Though Paris 36 looks pretty (it was lensed by frequent Eastwood cinematographer Tom Stern), Barratier’s version of ‘Frenchness’ is non-site-specific, Euro playground; 90 percent of the film was shot in the Czech Republic. Like ‘Amélie’s’ scrubbed-up City of Lights, ‘Paris 36’ is an antiseptic arthouse trifle, so eager to soothe that it only numbs.” The Times’ Edward Porter would seem to agree. In his opinion, “The phrase that comes to mind is cinéma de papa, the term used by the nouvelle vague to decry the bland, old-fashioned movies against which they rebelled.” Ultimately, however, it may not matter what the critics think since the film, it seems, has potential as crowd pleaser with a built in audience of musicals fans and Francophiles. The Hollywood Reporter’s Peter Brunette though not a fan of the film himself (he calls it a “formulaic feel-good movie set unconvincingly during the political upheavals of 1930’s France”) does concede that “Those who admired French director Barratier’s previous outing, ‘The Chorus’ (most ticket-buying viewers), which also headlined veteran comic actor Gerard Jugnot, will surely admire ‘Paris 36,’ another heartwarming tale of a determined man overcoming great odds to triumph in the end, though the admiration might be a bit more tepid this time around.”