Lost In Paris

(Paris pieds nus)

In Lost In Paris, a charming comedy about three accident-prone eccentrics running around the City of Light, it’s only a matter of time before someone falls into the Seine.

That someone turns out to be a Canadian tourist named Fiona (Fiona Gordon), who is walking across a bridge over the river when she makes the mistake of asking a runner to take her photo. She smiles for the camera and, echoing the runner’s movements, gently jogs in place. Gravity and bad luck do the rest.

The gag is beautifully staged, but what stays with you isn’t just the precision of the acrobatics; it’s the sympathetic expression on the face of the runner, who is left holding Fiona’s phone and dashes after her even as she’s swept downriver. Cruel comic mishaps may be this movie’s raison d’être, but they are softened at every turn by the gentle humanity of the city’s inhabitants, and by the unspoken sense that everything will turn out fine in the end.

Everything does turn out fine, and so does Lost In Paris, the fourth film by husband-and-wife team Gordon and Dominique Abel. Honed through years of circus experience and steeped in the grand French physical-comedy tradition of Jacques Tati, their deft and inventive antics invariably leave a smile on your face.

Their latest is a brightly hued, cleverly orchestrated bit of nonsense that begins in a snowy Canadian hamlet where Fiona, a middle-age librarian, receives a letter from her aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva). Now 88, Martha asks Fiona to come visit and keep her from being packed off to a retirement home.

Gordon makes Fiona a gawky delight to watch. She lands in Paris in a bright green outfit that contrasts sharply with her ginger hair, her oversized red backpack and the maple-leaf flag sticking out of the top, looking like a sentient Christmas tree. Within hours of her arrival, she’s taken that tumble into the Seine and lost her bag and her passport, which fatefully wind up in the hands of Dom (Abel), a drifter whose elfin features promise a healthy dose of mischief.

It’s no surprise that the two will turn out to be soulmates. That much is clear from the moment Dom whisks Fiona out of her seat and twirls her around a dance floor in a gracefully composed sequence that lets us take in the actors’ spectacularly Gumby-limbed bodies in long, unbroken takes.

Although rife with pratfalls, near-misses, crazy coincidences and mistaken identities, Lost In Paris is a whirligig contraption that never turns frenetic or throws too much at you. It’s like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet farce on Xanax, with a soothing dose of Wes Anderson whimsy for good measure. It’s also a fond, if inadvertent, farewell to Riva.

At one point, the picture stops gently in its tracks so that Martha can reunite with an old friend (Pierre Richard, another French cinema legend), and the camera zooms in on their feet as they go through a soft-shoe routine. It’s the loveliest of throwaways, but also an emblematic moment in a movie that moves to its own loopy, life-affirming beat.

– Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times


Esseulée et diminuée à Paris, Martha appelle à l’aide sa nièce Fiona, une grande duduche canadienne. Cette dernière accourt dès lors, sac au dos rouge avec fanion et feuille d’érable apparents, mais se perd immédiatement dans la grande cité. Puis elle croise Dom, un SDF transi d’amour pour elle. En parallèle, Martha se retrouve à la rue. Dès lors, un chassé-croisé démesuré peut commencer.

Les auteurs, Fiona Gordon et Dominique Abel, trimbalent leur galaxie azimutée depuis vingt-cinq ans. Leur burlesque est celui de situations qui prennent le pas sur les mots, en cela proche des facéties de Jacques Tati et de l’esprit bravache des Deschiens. Avec liberté, ils investissent ici pleinement un quartier de Paris qui rassemble plusieurs sociotypes déclinés de manière naïve : les serveurs d’un restaurant d’une péniche, des touristes, des sans-abri, l’ensemble à l’image d’un vrai personnage récurrent qui influence le récit.

Concentrés sur leurs rôles, les réalisateurs-acteurs déclinent une palette de maladresses avec la conviction inébranlable que la gaucherie, la balourdise, la gaffe est le symptôme premier de l’être humain. Cette dynamique incontrôlable, communicative et inhérente à tout le film, nourrit un jeu de balancier permanent qui vise à évaluer les limites, comme le font les enfants, entre la pudeur et l’impudeur.

En témoignent Fiona, aussi repoussante que touchante en larmes et avec le nez qui coule, le discours d’enterrement de Dom, hilarant et indécent, les ébats amoureux de Martha sous tente (Emmanuelle Riva, dont c’est ici la dernière prestation) à faire bondir le bourgeois. Il n’en demeure pas moins qu’au final, une tendresse décalée et une certaine tristesse affleurent du propos, tel un contrecoup mélancolique à toutes les gesticulations. Naît alors une apaisante poésie.

– Olivier Bombarda, Bande à part

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