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ORCHESTRA SEATS

Director: DANIÈLE THOMPSON

FRANCE • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY STEREO SR • 105 MIN


IT’S NOT JUST RICK AND ILSA FROM CASABLANCA WHO’LL ‘ALWAYS HAVE PARIS’, FOR CINEASTES AND DIEHARD ROMANTICS THE FRENCH CAPITAL CONTINUES TO CAST AN UNDIMMED SPELL.
This is certainly evident in the latest directorial credit for esteemed screenwriter Daniele Thompson (La Reine Margot), which weaves a charmingly upbeat ensemble comedy-drama in and around the city’s classiest arondissement. Just in from the provinces, Cecile de France’s perky protagonist lands a waitressing job at the Bar du Theâtre on the swish Avenue Montaigne, whose (real-life) proximity to a theatre, a concert hall and a major auction house soon sees her mixing with actors (Valerie Lemercier’s TV soap star seeking credibility in Feydeau), musicians (Albert Dupontel’s disenchanted concert pianist) and art-collectors (cabbie-made-good Claude Brasseur about to sell the modern collection which has defined his success). Grudgingly, one would have to admit that the catalogue of complications which ensue is stuffed with old chestnuts about being true to yourself and living for the moment, yet there’s no heavy-duty aspirations to profundity here, just a neatly-turned upscale entertainment in the old-school manner. Thompson never overdoes the syrup, nor does she indulge in Amelie’s confected visual cuteness. Instead, she lays out an assured, multi-stranded storyline with plenty of opportunities for her super cast to run through their paces. Brasseur, once part of the trio in Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), exudes a scuffed charisma, while Lemercier’s howlingly awful lunch/audition with passing Hollywood luminary Sydney Pollack is a standout comic setpiece. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.—Trevor Johnston.

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