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Pierre, a professional dancer, suffers from a serious heart disease. While he is waiting for a transplant which may (or may not) save his life, he has nothing better to do than look at the people around him, from the balcony of his Paris apartment. When Elise, his sister with three kids and no husband, moves in to his place to care for him, Pierre does not change his new habits. And instead of dancing himself, it is Paris and the Parisians who dance before his eyes. Written by
Paris is a kaleidoscopic view of that great City of Light inhabited with a variety of individuals each of whom is consumed with life and love and living and dying. Cédric Klapisch has written and directed this richly populated canvas as a background of a tender story of a Moulin Rouge male dancer Pierre (Romain Duris) who is diagnosed with a terminal heart disease requiring transplantation if he is to survive. But in the end the many characters introduced in 'incidental stories' have become so interesting that, instead of providing simply a background for Pierre's portrait, they become an integral part of the drama as well as indelibly stamped on the viewer's mind.
Pierre has kept his illness secret, yet when faced with the dire concept of a transplant he confides in his sister Élise (Juliette Binoche), a single mother of three, who takes him in to fill his boring days of self confinement. There is a palpable magic between the two as Élise attempts to bring Pierre out into the world of hope and of living. Incidental to her life are trips to the market where she observes the lives of the grocers and discovers their private lifestyles, information shared freely with the viewer. A Parisian North African communicates with his brother at home with a postcard of Paris, seducing the brother to brave all odds to come to the city. We also meet a jaded art historian Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) whose father has just died, an event that devastates his emotional brother Philippe (François Cluzet): Roland proceeds to have an affair with a student but his physical awakening is abruptly altered by the realities of Parisian life while Philippe progresses through his seemingly mundane existence toward a surprise ending. The grocers seek adventures with a group of girls among whom is the ex-wife of one of the men and in the process we observe the varying reactions of interpersonal relationships tested away from the eyes of group participation. All of these stories are white noise to Pierre's situation, and though Élise is able to make Pierre 'dance again' at a party of his fellow dancers she organizes, in the end Pierre is left to care for Élise's children while Élise finally opens her frozen heart to a new romance. At this point Pierre receives the inevitable telephone call that a transplant is ready, and as he proceeds to the hospital he opens his mind to the beauties of Paris. Some of the vignettes we have observed are completed while most simply continue - just like life in the glorious city so often considered the city of love.
All of the many roles are enacted by gifted actors, the cinematography offers us a different view of Paris than that of postcards and travel brochures, and the musical score ranges from popular music to the haunting 'Gnossiemme No. 1' of Erik Satie which is Pierre's theme music. At times the viewer feels lost in the complex overlay of the many stories being told, but settling back in a chair and just absorbing the film results in an evening of Parisian intoxication.
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