A young woman arrives in Paris where she finds a job as a waitress in bar next on Avenue Montaigne that caters to the surrounding theaters and the wealthy inhabitants of the area. She will meet a pianist, a famous actress and a great art collector, and become acquainted with the "luxurious" world her grandmother has told her about since her childhood.
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Cécile De France,
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Jessica, raised by her grandmother, comes to Paris and gets a job at a bar across from a performance complex where a play, a concert, and an art auction will occur the same evening. It's a world in flux: the play's star wants off a popular TV soap that's made her rich, and she covets the lead in a film about de Beauvoir and Sartre; the pianist hates the concert circuit, but his wife who's his manager may leave him if he quits; a self-made widower with a girlfriend less than half his age is selling his collection of modern art - his son, a professor, objects to his father's love life. The stage manager at the complex is resigning after 30 years. Jessica sets the tone for how all plays out. Written by
When Dupontel (Jean-François Lefort) gives his concert and takes off his shirt and jacket they change places, first in front of the long end of the piano then in the next cut much closer to the keyboard end. See more »
Before end credits: "À Suzanne" (dedicated to Suzanne Flon who died at 87 shortly after filming was completed), as we hear an off-screen quote by her - taken from earlier in the film - where the elderly character she plays serenely states that she had a good life. See more »
Daniele and Christopher Thomspon's light melodrama "Avenue Montaigne" (AKA Fauteuils d'orchestre) paints a wandering portrait of life in Paris' theatre district, centered on a small bistro which brings together stars, writers, directors, musicians, celebrity worshipers, and waiters. Several story arcs involving a variety of somewhat neurotic main characters are woven together around the story of the single character who does not appear to indulge in any particular neuroses - Jessica (Cecile DeFrance), a young woman who has come to Paris in hopes of creating an independent life for herself. Tirelessly hopeful, homeless, and delightful, Jessica's willfulness and charming personality wins her a job as the first female employee of the bistro around which most of the stories evolve.
Here, our heroine meets a brilliant pianist who is sick of the constraints of his own success and is married to a beloved wife who has sacrificed her own career to support his (Lefort - Albert DuPontel); A father and son (the Grumbergs, played by Claude Brasseur and Christopher Thompson) whose strained relationship is complicated by the father's very successful habit of collecting great art; A very high-strung, experienced and intelligent aging actress, who is terrified that her greatest opportunities may lie behind her (Catherine
Valerie Lemercier), and others.
Jessica's elderly and somewhat senile grandmother, who raised her, plays a pivotal, but largely behind-the-scenes role in all of this. In a sense Jessica comes to Paris to allow her grandmother to vicariously live on through Jessica just as much as she does so in order to find her own path.
The stories implied above are very nicely juxtaposed and the overall structure of the film is reminiscent of other excellent French and Italian melodramas. Avenue Montaigne, as most mainstream melodramas do, pays off with resolution, but does not challenge believability (often a problem for modernistic melodrama) and is, like the complex characters it examines, not entirely predictable.
Uplifting, but honest and realistic, the film is very well acted all-around, excellently scripted and nicely directed and edited. I found Ms DeFrance, Valerie Lemercier and Albert Dupontel particularly outstanding. The soundtrack is also quite nicely integrated into the action of the film, sometimes giving the film a sometimes-needed touch of magical fantasy.
Highly recommended for the romance/melodrama crowd. Recommended for others.
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