Whatever one decides to ultimately label Dans Paris (Inside Paris) -- art-house drama, farcical sex comedy, depressive chamber piece -- it is a resolutely, almost infuriatingly French film. Written and directed by Christophe Honore, Dans Paris is a diverting jumble of ideas that never quite finds its groove, electing instead to hopscotch around a fairly pedestrian narrative, spicing it up with touches of pretension (direct address to the audience) and visual flair.
As Christmas approaches, Paul (the always great Romain Duris) is brooding at his father Mirko's (Guy Marchand) Paris apartment. Paul's brother Jonathan (Louis Garrel, late of Bertolucci's erotic, entrancing The Dreamers) lives with Mirko, occasionally attends college classes but seems to prefer spending his days chasing any number of attractive women on the streets of Paris.
Paul's funereal mood owes to the absence of Anna (Joana Preiss), a young mother with whom he has weathered a number of break-ups and tentative reconciliations. In fragmented flashbacks, the audience gets a taste of Paul and Anna's relationship, but the bulk of the film is carried by Jonathan's exploits -- the film begins more or less at the end, only to rewind itself and follow all of the action that led to the beginning. It doesn't feel like a deft trick so much as it is Honore admitting this story really isn't anything new.
This being a tres French flick, there's plenty of nudity (male and female), copious smoking and gorgeous on-location photography (courtesy of Jean-Louis Vialard). Duris, while compelling, still seems wasted in the role of Paul, while Garrel excels as the hedonistic Jonathan, reluctant to stay home and wallow in self-pity with his divorced father and anguished brother. Although various females drift through the story, Dans Paris is, at its heart, a closely sketched character study of these three men.
Dans Paris doesn't grab you immediately, as Honore takes a while to find his rhythm, but even once you get into the film's flow, the few truly winning moments (Jonathan's numerous conquests, Paul's semi-harrowing tip-toes episode on a balcony) are lost amid Honore's quirky film school tics. For those willing to indulge the scattershot approach, the two leads make the experience enjoyable, if not entirely memorable. It's a bit like ogling exquisite pastries in a shop, only to purchase and discover the taste doesn't quite match the look.
Dans Paris does boast some truly breathtaking images -- Jonathan's late-night walk down a Christmas light-bedecked street, for instance -- that are goosed by a very specific, edgy, verite style. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer exhibits a hint of grain every now and then, but it's likely intentional on the part of the filmmakers. Overall, a very vivid, crisp image that doesn't suffer from massive defects.
The lone aural offering -- a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track -- gets the job done nicely, bursting to life whenever the handful of pop songs appear and otherwise conveying dialogue and ambient effects without a trace of defect. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included.
The supplements are slim: "Rendez-Vous With Louis," a six minute, 15 second short film directed by Honore (presented in fullscreen) is included. It plays like a rehearsal/offbeat behind the scenes featurette featuring Louis Garrel. Odd, but worth watching. A four minute, six second deleted scene (also presented in fullscreen) involves Jonathan and his father, after he's returned from his day of shagging French beauties. The film's theatrical trailer (presented in fullscreen) rounds out the disc.
Dans Paris doesn't grab you immediately, as writer/director Christophe Honore takes a while to find his rhythm, but even once you get into the film's flow, the few truly winning moments are lost amid quirky film school tics. For those willing to indulge the scattershot approach, the two leads make the experience enjoyable, if not entirely memorable. It's a bit like ogling exquisite pastries in a shop, only to purchase and discover the taste doesn't quite match the look. Rent it.