Lost in Paris (2017)
Every now and then a film comes along that defies conventional genre labels. From its enticing title and zany opening scenes, the independent French-Belgium film Lost in Paris (2017)teases the senses with its mix of vaudeville/burlesque comedy and circus slapstick, all interleaved with a drama on ageing and, of course, a romance. Like all circus-style performance, any semblance of a story only serves to join the non-stop physical comedy into a narrative whole.
A timid librarian in Canada, Fiona (Fiona Gordon) has always dreamt of going to Paris. One day she learns that her 88-year old aunt Martha (Emmanuele Riva) has run away from her Paris home because the authorities want her in aged care. In Canadian Mountie style, she packs her knapsack and flies to France. Searching the streets of Paris, she meets Dom (Dominique Abel), a comic tramp keen to assist as well as help himself to whatever he can, The various adventure skits play out as if on a vaudeville stage but with Parisian scenery.
With a storyline as thin as this, you may wonder what holds the film together. Every scene contains a sight gag; some are downright corny, others whimsically cute. Like a door opens during a Canadian blizzard and everyone tilts forty-five degrees; Martha and her long-lost lover on a park bench dance only with their feet in a too-cute metaphor of synchronicity; and the top-heavy toppling into the Seine makes any cinema erupt in laughter. It’s wonderful that anyone still makes films like this.
The three principals are more caricatures than people, both in appearance and performance. While this risks emotional disengagement from the cast, it also means comedy entertainment takes precedence over all else, unless you want to dig deeper. After all, life is offering the gawky-spinster Fiona a bigger purpose and a chance at love; fate calls on the vagabond Dom to rise above his lot; and Martha’s mischief proves that age is just a number. But these are incidental messages to the film’s unequivocal pursuit of laughter.
Comedy plays a serious role in absurdism by making us ask “why not?”. Why shouldn’t these three gentle misfits have some fun and why shouldn’t a film resurrect the styles of Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, or Laurel and Hardy? In these troubled times, we take life far too seriously.
Directors: Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel
Stars: Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Emmanuele Riva