Paris: Juliette Binoche Co-Stars With the Eiffel Tower

Paris, as overdocumented as any great city, still has new facets to reflect. For proof, see Claire Denis' idiosyncratically observed 35 Shots of Rum—a contrast to Cedric Klapisch's Paris panorama, an encyclopedia of "types" and banal c'est-la-vie lessons. When an ensemble film works, you welcome the shifts between characters, intrigued to catch up with each in turn. Paris' rounds feel like obligatory visits. Romain Duris, an actor whose overuse is symptomatic of France's shallow talent pool, does his preset clenched-forehead routine as a dancer facing a possibly fatal illness. Fabrice Luchini's professor of Parisian history gets the lone funny business, sending dirty text messages to a student (Inglourious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent—more spellbinding than Paris co-star Juliette Binoche ever was). The white working-class and African immigrants get obliging nods, and there's François Luzet's architect, here mostly for a nightmare scene expressing commonplaces about urban planning. There are some good, unusual stop-offs (Rungis, the massive wholesale market; Baudelaire's gilded suite on the Île Saint-Louis), as well as location resourcefulness (Klapisch coordinates a string of scenes along the city's highest monuments). At 124 minutes, though, the writer-director has stretched a wide canvas, and only sporadically found anything worth filling it.

 
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