The films of Cédric Klapisch are easy to dismiss. They seem a bit too slick of surface and shallow of meaning. They’re comfortably tucked between entertainment and art, between slumming intelligence and vainglorious style. They go down easy. Klapisch hasn’t the formal genius of contemporary countrymen like Assayas or Denis, nor the auteurist maximalism of Desplechin, and thus it’s easier to begrudge the fact that his films — When the Cat’s Away, L’auberge espagnole, and Russian Dolls to name a few — are easier and more profitable art-house imports. But Klapisch is worthy of greater respect, both because his films are smarter and more challenging than they at first seem, and because engaging, deft storytellers are exceedingly rare in contemporary cinema. Now that auterism is an overt career plan rather than an inarticulate compulsion, a popular filmmaker like Klapisch may have to wait for retrospective (and appropriately old-fashioned) recognition.
Paris, Klapisch’s latest film, assumes the familiar form of an interconnected urban melodrama, with lives crossing and colliding on the scenic Parisian streets. His gambit is to spark new life from stale material, rubbing two archetypes together until unpredictable flames emerge. His approach was similar for L’auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls, but these were ensemble affairs polarized by a central protagonist (Romain Duris’s Xavier), its received notions emanating from individual experience. From the title on down, Paris takes a more direct tack: it’s an exploration — celebration even — of cliché. Klapisch doesn’t pursue the unseen Paris, he shoots Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, museums, cafes, avenues and markets. His Parisians are all rank stereotypes, from prim baguette purveyor, Moulin Rouge dancer, egotistical academic and beguiling gamine, to crude working stiffs and immigrant dreamers. Click here to read the rest of Eric Hynes’s review of Paris.