Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Faubourg 36 (Paris 36)

Lovely, very lovely film by Christophe Barratier that’s set against the historical backdrop of the French Front in a northern working class Parisian faubourg and follows a group of characters passion for a variety music-hall theater. The ride is not only emotional but also makes you remember the good old fashion movies of an era long gone.

Some have been calling this a musical comedy, but I do not agree. Any film that deals with variety theater has to have some moments where you have to have musical numbers on the stage and almost all the music/performances in this movie are exactly there, in the stage: there are no songs or music performed outside, except for the street beggars and a serenade that yes, made me shred a tear or two. So, as some are comparing this movie to Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (two very different films and stories), and if I have to give a reference for you to get an idea of what this movie looks and feels like, I have to say that the style, the music numbers, the charming characters, the drama, and the music-hall story are similar to Stephen Frears’ Mrs. Henderson Presents; but one is in London and the other in Paris and that makes a big difference, as in my opinion only French directors really know how to do nostalgia for the good old times in an outstanding, emotional and remarkable way.

The film tells the story of Pigoil (Gérard Jugnot) the Chansonia music hall stagehand that loses all when the theater falls in the hands of the local mob boss, as the weight of the Grand Depression is beginning to be felt and when the Chansonia’s owner commits suicide for unpaid debts. But the country situation allows Pigoil and friends to take over and re-open the music hall to total disaster as none has experience selecting -or money to hire good- performers. But everything changes when they discover that Douce (Nora Arnezeder) can really sing. There rest is for you to watch as Pigoli’s personal, family and music hall drama is very compelling.

As a movie is almost perfect; well, I say almost just because I do not really believe in perfection. Done in the style of earlier French cinema, with new songs and score that totally recreates the lovely 30’s chansons, the movie really takes you to when you first watched those movies that then had stars like young Jean Gavin, making it a true nostalgic voyage. But this cannot be so flawlessly done without a great director, excellent actors performances, good script, fantastic sets design, and this time I’m going to talk about a great cinematographer that with his camera slowly takes us into visual nostalgia and most of all, the emotional side of the film. The cinematographer was none other than Tom Stern, better known as Clint Eastwood cinematographer and responsible for the cinematography of Eastwood’s greatest movies like Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, etc. Bravo! Especially because seems that films have started to bend borders and productions are starting to combine the best of the world, against staying only with the best of a country.

The film collected some honors, but two are really well deserved for her extraordinary performance as Douce, a role that really sets newcomer Nora Arnezerder apart from the rest of the cast and when she’s in the screen you will not be able to take her eyes from her. She won the 2009 Lumiere Award for Most Promising Young Actress and the 2009 Etoiles d’Or for Best Female Newcomer. You can hardly believe that is her first time acting.

This is a very entertaining movie that I recommend to all adult audiences as is truly lovely, satisfying and highly nostalgic of films of another era. Please notice that when I speak about nostalgia I do not mention French cinema, as the movie also recalls the style of other countries films (USA, Italy, UK, Germany, etc.). Still, this is very French cinema and definitively those familiar with France ‘30’s/40’s music, songs and films have to enjoy it a lot more.


Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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