The film starts with a touching scene, which shows two people, they are little Fiona and her aunt Martha, talking about Paris. Martha said: "I'm going away to live in Paris" and Fiona answered: "I'm going away to live in Paris too". Back then, they had no idea, that their dream would come true in the future. It is the exposition of the story. After this dialog the filmmakers add new buildings, houses, lights and another symbols of civilization into the image of snowing Canada village to show that the time has passed. The start like that prepares us to the extraordinary, a little absurd, but very sincere story.
Two unusual comics Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, as if they came from the pages of the cinema history books, have made this film, using whole their experience from their last pictures. "Iceberg", "Rumba" and "Fair" are films where two actors have showed themselves as the followers of classical comic tradition of silent films, like Buster Keaton, Max Linder or Charlie Chaplin, or even Jacques Tati. Gags which they usually do not only amuse the audience, but they are also meaningful and thought-provoking. This makes them the most similar to Chaplin's gags. For example, in "Lost in Paris" there is a direct allusion to famous "dance of buns" by Carlie Chaplin in the scene where Pierre Richard and Emmanuelle Riva dance with the help of their feet. There are also various similarities.
What is the advantage of the "Lost in Paris" over the other pictures by the comics? It is more adapted for a modern screen. At the last films numerous of their stunts and gags look a bit strange and their meaning is not always clear, but in this picture they are reasonable at all. In particular, the scene at the restaurant, where each character jumps up when the music is played. The music makes the rhythm and without it the actions of the characters would look strange. The music also helps to make comic situations even more absurd. When Fiona suddenly falls into the river this incident is accompanied by the "Swimming song". In their last pictures, Dominique and Fiona preferred not to use many sound effects. The main sound for them was the noise of the sea waves, but in this film the sound of the sea is replaced by the sound of a swiftly running river as well as the peaceful provincial life is replaced by the noise of the city streets. There are also other differences like close-ups and medium shots, before this film comics usually used cover shots and frontal picture compositions. And the technical quality of the image is better, thanks to Claire Childeric as the director of photography.
The plot is clear. Fiona gets the letter from Martha. The comic situation is that Martha throws the letter into the trash can instead of sending it by mail - we can see that this eighty-eight-year-old aunt, which "can take care of herself", calmly passes by the mailbox and throws a letter into the trash bin. The comedy begins! After that Fiona goes to Paris to find poor Martha, who is not so poor in fact - she perfectly succeeds in hiding from the guardianship authorities who want to take her to a nursing home. As for Fiona, in Paris she gets into different troubles, she falls into the river, loses all her things, goes to the funeral and, finally, finds her love. There is also parallel storyline of Martha and the conflict is that two characters cannot meet each other in a big city.
The typical story becomes not so typical because of the characters, their behavior and reactions to unexpected situations. It is a well-done screwball comedy, which brings to modern screen gags and stunts from silent black-and-white films and combines them with modern tricks. It's not accidental that Pierre Richard takes part in this film. As he has made lots of things for the French comic school development, he is significant figure in film history. So, in this picture Pierre Richard personalizes the link the old generation of comedians with the new. In the scene, which shows the meeting of Norman (Pierre Richard) and Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) we can realize something about their past and we can analogize with our younger characters.
But not all past inventions may be accepted by modern viewers. Therefore, the fans of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon can be disappointed cause in this film there are not so many meaningful acts and sincerity of feelings, last gags of comics became adapted to the mass audience. Events of the story are moving faster, heartiness is replaced by entertainment. We can only feel nostalgic looking at our favorite gags like Dom's legs protruding out of the tends and the passionate dance in a restaurant, which remind us "Rumba".
In any case, if the audience laughs - the comedy is success. There are lots of various methods to make story crazier and funnier. For example, the ice storm, which comes when door is opened, or any costume details like Canadian flag, which is attached to Fiona's backpack or her yellow sweater, which Dom puts on himself.
There are also well-thought-out phrases and dialogs. "So, miss you've lost your passport, and your luggage, money, and your aunt Martha...", - said the man from the Canadian embassy, making a list. It sounds like absurd and because of that it is very funny. Or another example, when Norman is asked a question: "have you seen Martha?", his answer is: "Yes, twenty-seven years ago...". So, there are lots of illogical dialogs, they are like absurd comedies by Ionesco.
The sound, which outstrips the action, also makes situations more comedy, as in the scene, where Dom talks with Martha voice, thinking that he talks with the Statue of Liberty. There are many other scenes, where Fiona and Dominique as directors use the device "one instead of the other". Dom confuses Martha with Fiona when they sleep in a tent or Fiona thinks that the woman, which has died, is her aunt Martha. All that details make the simple story with uncomplicated plot more unpredictable.
The composition of the plot is circular. The picture of the modern big city at the end of the film is opposite to the picture of the distant Canadian village. The idea is clear. All that Martha needs in her eighty-eighth is the peace like at home after the busy life in a modern, civilized society, and with the help of Fiona Martha's dream to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower is carried out.
To sum up, the film by Dominique and Fiona is unique as their last pictures. This comedy combines burlesque, absurd, grotesque and simple funny situations, characters and jokes. And it is rather a plus than a minus that it is more adapted to the mass viewer. Thanks to this film everybody can get acquainted with these astonishing modern comics.
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