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Review: ‘Paris Manhattan’ Is Worth a Short Visit

Love isn’t always easy, but sometimes the wisdom you need to navigate matters of the heart can be found in the movies. Cinema actually contains the answers to most of life’s questions provided you ask the right ones, know where to look and don’t have terrible taste in films. This is well-established fact. Alice (Alice Taglioni) is a believer in this theory I just made up, but she subscribes to a very specific application of it. Put simply, she loves Woody Allen and his films to the point that she has conversations with the life-size poster of him in her bedroom. She asks for advice, and he replies with dialogue from his movies. The results haven’t exactly been spectacular, but she’s convinced that he knows what he’s talking about. She meets and falls for a young man, but her sister swoops him up and makes him her own. Ten years later
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'Paris-Manhattan' review: Woody Allen wit and wisdom cues French romantic comedy

  • Pop2it
"Paris-Manhattan" is an amusing little nothing of a movie built around the wit and wisdom of Woody Allen. First-time writer-director Sophie Lellouche has taken bon mots from Allen's movies and used them to create nothing less than a philosophy of life for her heroine,"Why is life worth living? ... I would say ... Groucho Marx, to name one thing ... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony ... Swedish movies, naturally."

Alice (Alice Togliani), whose name was the title of a 1990 Woody film and who is a dead ringer for Julie Hagerty of "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," has been obsessed with the "handsome" director, "the one who makes me laugh," since college. She's never married, works as a pharmacist with her worrywart father in Paris, and hands out DVDs of Woody's films in lieu of medicine, on occasion.

"Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" is a particular favorite.
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Men and Women

Men and Women
City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival

Claude Lelouch is a populist filmmaker no longer popular with audiences either in his native France or among the large international following he created once upon a time with such hits as A Man and a Woman and And Now My Love.

Men and Women, which opened this week's annual French film festival in Los Angeles, finds Lelouch struggling to rediscover the formula of Gallic charm and star-crossed lovers that made him such a boxoffice favorite. The film has strong moments where he does reclaim the old magic. But the picture wears out its welcome long before the final reel and fails to make the necessary tonal changes to include episodes of depression, murder and suicide in an otherwise lighthearted ode to the glories of romantic love.

The film's theatrical outlook is problematic. It actually is a cannibalization of the first two films in an apparently now-abandoned trilogy called Genre humain, or Human Kind. The first film, Les Parisiens, disappeared within a month of release, so Lelouch scrambled to save the project by pulling together footage from the two films to create the version that debuted here. Without having seen Les Parisiens, it is hard to say whether he has helped or harmed his cause. But Men and Women definitely jumps around among too many characters and subplots to diminishing audience involvement.

What emerges as the central romance or romantic triangle of the piece belongs a pair of street singers and the barmaid who falls for the male. Shaa (Maiwenn) is a vagabond and petty thief who spots Massimo (Italian pop singer/actor Massimo Ranieri) singing on the street one day. She seduces him into turning his act into a duo. In the best tradition of old Hollywood musicals, the two swiftly find success in a nightclub, where Anne (Mathilde Seigner) can't take her eyes off Massimo between serving cocktails.

A music impresario soon takes Shaa aside and offers her -- but not them -- a contract. Without a moment's thought, she dumps Massimo for a chance at stardom. Massimo goes into an emotional tailspin (while at the same time writing a great song about lost love), threatens suicide or a return to Italy before Anne rescues him and -- voila! -- he becomes a star and Shaa turns into such a flop that she is able to pen a mea culpa memoir that becomes -- yes, it does -- a best seller.

And that's only one of the stories in "Men and Women!"

Anne's identical twin (also Seigner, of course) works for a pizza-parlor magnate (Michel Leeb), an uneducated, self-made man who on whim marries a beautiful stage actress and sophisticated aristocrat (Arielle Dombasle). His wife eventually takes up a clandestine affair with the chauffeur (Yannick Soulier), who is really a thief. There's a police detective who dies of cancer early in the movie, so his wife can marry her lover, who works as a singer at the same nightclub where Anne works. Later, a movie director (Lelouch himself) shows up to buy rights to Shaa's memoir to turn it into a film starring Shaa and Massimo, and the movie threatens to start all over again.

So a million things are going on with different levels of reality, but weary viewers can be excused for no longer caring. If the characters would simply sit down with a glass of wine and talk to each other, half their problems would get solved. The exuberant, new wave style of early Lelouch, where the camera pirouettes all over the set, is, thankfully, gone. In its place, though, is this mad hopping among subplots so that the focus never stays on anything for too long.

As a pop stylist, Lelouch must confront the fact that for French moviegoers he has been eclipsed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Jean-Paul Salome (whose exotic Arsene Lupin plays in the festival). At one point in this move, Anne tells Massimo that most of his songs are "too old." One wonders whether Lelouch, when he wrote that line, winced a little.

MEN AND WOMEN

Les Films 13 in association with Canal Plus

Credits:

Director: Claude Lelouch

Writers: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven

Producers: Jean-Paul De Vidas, Claude Lelouch

Director of photography: Gerard de Battista

Production designer: Francois Chauvaud

Music: Francis Lai

Costumes: Karine Serrano

Editor: Stephane Mazalaigue

Cast:

Massimo: Massimo Ranieri

Shaa: Maiwenn

Clementine/Anne: Mathilde Seigner

Sabine Duchemin: Arielle Dombasle

Michael Gorkini: Michel Leeb

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 128 minutes

See also

Credited With | External Sites