The film opens with a hefty young couple sitting in a park, and the woman is so miserable she breaks into song, expressing her longing for a motorcycle that will "take her away from it all." After all the woe-is-me routine, she adds, "I might come along later" to her boyfriend, despite her earlier extravagant rejection of him.
-- Kevin Thomas "You, the Living." MPAA rating: Unrated. In Swedish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.
Seeing another side of Paris
In his bittersweet valentine to the City of Light, Cedric Klapisch crisscrosses an array of mostly working-class Parisians whose lives intersect. The setup is a common one for contemporary filmmakers; what lifts "Paris" from the subgenre pack is a fine ensemble, in particular the emotional chemistry between two of the screen's most magnetic actors, Juliette Binoche and Romain Duris.
Duris' dancer faces a life-threatening heart ailment. He remains eager for life, even if he must experience it from his balcony or at the corner boulangerie, run by a comically chirpy martinet (the superb Karin Viard). Taking care of him, his sister (Binoche) comes to a new understanding of the joking remark that opens the film: "The universe is everywhere."
There are fine moments throughout. A history professor (Fabrice Luchini) text-stalks a beautiful student (Mélanie Laurent) and, in a terrific scene, visits a psychotherapist (Maurice Benichou), all but begging for his defenses to be torn down. But as good as the cast is, the multiple stories dilute the film's effect, and authorial string-pulling is often evident.
If the idea of interconnectedness feels secondhand, what's fresh and affecting is the way Binoche's and Duris' characters navigate life and death. From the catacombs to the city's heights, "Paris" turns an unblinking gaze on the beauty of melancholy and the daring leap toward joy.
-- Sheri Linden "Paris." MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual references. Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes. In selected theaters.