Ask most cinephiles the entity most influential in the shaping of cinema’s relatively short history, and the answer you’ll probably get is... Hollywood. Of course, what I actually mean is France: the Lumiere brothers, hailing from Lyon, were the inventors behind the cinematograph, the first in an early batch of filmmakers and the first to screen what we today call films.
However, some would probably disparage all those claims (and who really knows the facts?) and besides, when I talk about the influence France has had over the cinematic tradition, I’m talking about, yep, you’ve guessed it the French New Wave. For those of you don’t know, the FNW refers to a new breed of filmmakers in the late 1950s, who, after bashing the work of others, in their capacity of critics (gulp!) in film publication Cahiers Du Cinema, decided to have a go at it themselves.
Needless to say they (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol et al.) had quite an impact back then and continue to do so now, it would seem. Indeed, an offering from Christophe Honoré in the shape of Dans Paris is deeply indebted to the old-timers, an elegy if you will for forgotten heroes.
Having escaped Paris for a life in the country with his wife and child, Paul (Romain Duris) finds out that it’s not all frolicks in the cornfields; if you aren’t in love in the city, it ain’t going to change in the fresh air – despite all attempts. And so it’s back to the urban lifestyle, and back to living with an overbearing (but deeply caring) father (Guy Marchand) and a brother (Jonathan, played by Louis Garrel) who, in (somewhat, stereo-) typical European fashion, is a complete cad – girls fall at his feet with one flutter of his eyelashes.
Whilst his father’s out gathering ingredients for chicken soup (in the hope that it cures depression) and things for Christmas cheer, and his brother’s out racing to Bon Marché (amongst, ahem, other things) Paul is left to wallow – and listen to Kim Wilde’s 80s hit, Cambodia – in the comfort of his childhood bed, but not for long… Dear Papa is persistent in his desire for there to be discussion about his son's problems, and after a forced visit from his selfish mother (Marie-France Pisier), Paul has little choice but to spill the beans about what is really at the heart of his woes… but is it his problem alone?
But in this instance, it really is a case of a problem shared, is a problem halved. Especially when the person Paul shares his troubles with is his younger brother, a moment full with tenderness and the type of brotherly love that could only be conveyed in a cinema beyond straight-laced constraints. Dans Paris is an alluring film from just over the Channel, rich in subtlety but full of heart.
Its depiction of a family, loving yet broken at its core, makes a refreshing change from the fare normally on offer. It might not make Godard proud, but it sure would have warmed the heart of the late Truffaut. A worthy addition to the New New Wave.