Moody, mannered and supremely irritating, Christophe Honoré's "Dans Paris" plays like a pastiche of French cinema clichés through the ages. Perhaps not surprisingly, if nonsensically, the movie quotes Salinger at every opportunity in telling the story of a pair of handsome young brothers experiencing love and loss in Paris. Well, at least we'll always have it.
At the start of the film, Jonathan (Louis Garrel) rises from his brother's bed, goes out to the terrace, turns to face the viewer, apologizes for the embarrassment his direct camera address might cause and proceeds to explain that his brother Paul (Romain Duris) has returned home following a suicide attempt. Paul used to live in the country with his girlfriend Anna (Joana Preiss) and her incidental son Loup (Lou Rambert Preiss), where she slowly drove him insane with her strategy of badly impersonating a Goddard heroine -- i.e., speaking as if reciting awful poetry, cheating and dancing topless in the living room in the style of a woodland sprite. (Just to be clear, this made Paul angry.)
Paul is now back at home with Jonathan and their divorced father, Mirko (Guy Marchand), where he has taken to his bed. Worried that Paul will attempt suicide again, Mirko entreats Jonathan to speak with him. Jonathan, however, is feckless in the extreme, and so his day with Paul (aside from flashbacks, the story takes place over the course of a single day) becomes his day of sleeping with as many women as possible in order to avoid Paul. Not that you blame him.
Jonathan wanders around the city like a Holden Caulfield-esque Casanova while, back in bed, Paul does his best to channel the spirit of Seymour Glass. Jonathan ignores a girl by putting a copy of "Franny et Zooey" between them while Paul pines whimsically for a dead sibling. When the Salinger references recede, the New Wave influence kicks in. Women lob loony but deadpan disquisitions on love in the boys' direction while their father tries (ad absurdum) to make them eat chicken soup. Briefly, we have an "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" interlude -- Paul and Anna converse on the phone in song. Some small realization is made. None of it adds up to much.
"Dans Paris." MPAA rating: Not rated. (Some nudity and sex.) Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. In French with English subtitles. In limited release.