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Paris 36

Released: 2008

Genre: Music

Runtime: 2 hr 0 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Christophe Barratier

Starring: Gerard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad, Nora Arnezeder, Pierre Richard, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Maxence Perrin, Francois Morel, Elisabeth Vitali

The rise and fall of a music hall.

Beautiful but rarely compelling.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

Always beautiful but rarely compelling, PARIS 36 (FAUBOURG 36) is the second feature film by director Christophe Barratier. His first picture, THE CHORUS (LES CHORISTES), which was basically a subtitled MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS, was a huge hit in its native France and was nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song.) Although his latest movie has a different story line, his approach is very similar, but I found THE CHORUS to be much more appealing.

Set in 1936, PARIS 36 follows the fall and rise and fall and rise of a music hall. The film can't really be considered a musical, since, until the end, we only hear songs in small snippets. The narrative is much more concerned with the backstage machinations of the music hall than the music itself.

Gerard Jugnot plays Pigoil, the manager of the music hall. One of the story's main subplots concerns the fight between the French communists and fascists, with the communists being shown as the heroes of the average workers and the fascists as mindless idiots. Pigoil, on the other hand, eschews politics, only wanting a chance for a "steady job."

Maxence Perrin plays Jojo, Pigoil's accordion playing son. Forced to leave the father he loves, Jojo has to live with his mother, Viviane (Elisabeth Vitali), who left Pigoil for another man. The film is overstuffed with way too many characters and subplots.

Tom Stern's cinematography is consistently stunning. It's hard to pick a favorite visual, but the Parisian streets at night in the snow would be a definite contender for the movie's most magical moment.

The story's key character turns out to be Douce (Nora Arnezeder), a lovely young lass who auditions to be the music hall's announcer. Since she possesses a voice of bird-like beauty, she is soon promoted from announcer to star and becomes a singing sensation.

Way too frantic, the movie plays like a bunch of vaudevillian actors trying to play to the cheap seats by exaggerating every gesture. I love looking at it, but found everything else about the movie, from the overstuffed story to the truncated songs, to be disappointing. I could also have done without the pro-communist nostalgia.

PARIS 36 runs too long at 2:00. The film is in French with English subtitles. It is rated PG-13 for "some sexuality and nudity, violence and brief language" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.