French film “Lost in Paris” is a whimsical comedy mainly driven by various amusing moments of slapstick comedy. It surely has its own offbeat charm and the audiences around me frequently giggled during the screening I attended, but the movie was not that funny for me as I constantly noticed its many artificial aspects, which were, to be frank with you, a little too much for me to ignore.
Right from the opening scene set in a remote town located somewhere in the arctic area of Canada, I knew I should not expect anything realistic from the movie. When the town is shown from the distance during this scene, you can clearly see that it is a model set, and it goes without saying that the two performers playing a young girl and her aunt are in front of a snowy CGI background.
Many years have passed, and that girl, named Fiona (Fiona Gordon), now becomes your typical spindly spinster. She works at a local library, and the place looks so modest with a small quantity of books that I did not know at all that it was a library before reading a review by Todd McCarthy later. The weather is cold, snowy, and windy in the town as before, and we accordingly get a silly moment when Fiona and others in the library barely hold themselves against the mighty wind coming into the library along with a mailwoman.
The mailwoman delivers a letter to Fiona, and it is from her aunt Marta (Emmanuelle Riva, who died two months before the movie was released in France), who left the town and then went to Paris many years ago. As being over 80, Aunt Marta may be sent to a facility for old people, but that is the last thing wanted by this plucky old lady still enjoying her joie de vivre, so she sent a letter to her niece for help, though its delivery was considerably delayed due to a hilarious reason I will not reveal here.
After reading her aunt’s letter, Fiona immediately flies to Paris, but she only finds herself stranded in Paris due to a series of bad lucks as well as her woefully unprepared status. While not changing her plain attire much, she just carries a red backpack with a Canadian flag on the top of it, and she gets herself into several slapstick situations thanks to her clumsiness. There is a sort of pratfall moment when she steps back a bit too far while trying to get a photograph of herself on one of those bridges on the Seine river, and, though this is not one of those outrageous selfie accidents, I think she should never be allowed to try a selfie for the rest of her life.
Because of that unfortunate accident, she loses her backpack containing her money and passport, and she is further frustrated when she finally comes to an apartment building where her aunt lives. She cannot enter her aunt’s apartment because her aunt is absent for some reason, so she has no place where she can stay and sleep, and we subsequently get a deadpan moment unfolded at a nearby laundromat.
Meanwhile, a vagrant guy name Dom (Dominique Abel) comes into the picture via sheer coincidence. As he spends another his ‘usual’ day around the Seine river, he happens to find Fiona’s lost backpack, and he does not hesitate to use the money and other things in the backpack. Thanks to Fiona’s money, he is allowed to have a dinner at a fancy restaurant on the river, and then we are served with a comic sequence reminiscent of the works of Jacques Tati.
And that is when Dom comes across Fiona. Right from when he sees her, Dom becomes attracted to Fiona, and he tries to charm her while dancing with her at the restaurant, but then she belatedly realizes that he is using her money and other things. Not long after they become separated via another slapstick moment, Dom approaches to Fiona again, and she reluctantly lets him accompany her when she goes to a certain place for seeing her aunt.
Of course, these two different characters are destined to get closer to each other as they bounce together from one comic situation to another, and the co-directors/co-writers Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon skillfully handle many of their physical comedy scenes with distinctive comic sensibility. Although I only saw a few scenes from their previous film “Rumba” (2008) via its trailer, I could instinctively sense their own whimsical touches during my viewing of “Lost in Paris”, and Abel and Gordon, who worked together for a long time even before their debut feature film “L’iceberg” (2005), click together well on the screen like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with a touch of silent comedy movie stars such as Buster Keaton.
And there is Emmanuelle Riva, who feels quite different from her heartbreaking Oscar-nominated performance in “Amour” (2012). Like Gordon and Abel, she is willing to go for fun and laugh, and she and Pierre Richard have a charming scene when their characters try to relive their good old time while sitting on a bench together. I wondered whether Gordon and Abel used stand-ins while shooting this scene, but it is presented with the quirky sense of fun to amuse and delight us, so I enjoyed it as feeling a little sad about Riva’s passing, which happened early in this year.
I liked “Lost in Paris” to some degrees, but it did not particularly hold my attention well due to its contrived plot and thin characterization, and I think it could be more hysterical or eccentric for more genuine laughs. The movie was not a waste of time, but I would rather recommend you the works of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton first.