Paris 36 (Aka Faubourg 36)

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No more press screenings this week, so how about a look at a French movie that had a very limited release in the U.S. in April ’09? Sure, why not:

The description of this movie, originally titled FAUBOURG 36, didn’t sound very interesting; I wasn’t very tempted to see it. A Paris working class district… An old theater… But the press release also said something about a mysterious and beautiful singer, so maybe there was a spark of hope after all – so I went to the press screening.

PARIS 36 begins with a typical, corpulent French man who’s called Pigoil being interrogated by the police – apparently, there’s been a murder. And then Pigoil tells the long story of the events leading to the eventual murder.

“Faubourg” is the French word for “suburb”, and in this nameless suburb, the old theatre Chansonia is about to close down for business. Pigoil and his friends have been working at the distinguished theatre for a very long time, and they refuseto sell it to the powerful “Godfather” ruling the district. The year is 1936 and dangerous political winds are blowing.

Then suddenly the friends decide to occupy the theatre and to put on a variety show. At the same time, young, lovely blonde Douce arrives to the theatre; she wants to become a performing artist and auditions, singing radio jingles, which of course is very funny.Pigoil and the others like her legs, so she gets the job hosting their show.

Douce presents a string of sort of good, and down right crappy acts, and she sings a jingle or two, but the audience wants to see more of her and hear her sing a real song. She’s persuaded into doing this – and the success is a fact.

Another character living in the district, is Monsieur TSF; the Radio Man, an older man who looks like he belongs in a graphic novel by Tardi, and who never leaves leaves his home. He’s a musician and he’s always at home, listening to the radio.. When he suddenly hearsDouce singing on the radio, he puts together a few elements from the past, gathers strength and and leaves his house to go to the theatre and meetDouce.

M. TSF has dug out some of his old, never used songs, and composes a few new ones, and then the amazing show Faubourg 36 opens; a marvelous success.

All this is interwoven with intrigues about Pigoil’s wife who left him and the their young son with her, a kid Pigoil isn’t allowed to meet, and some more thriller themes occurrences involving gangsters and a fascist party.

This is light entertainment that thanks to several music hall show numbers borders on being a musical. It’s rich, it’s wonderful locations and sets, and it’s very, very French. The movie also offers something I think is among the funniest things there is: a comedian who isn’t funny. In this case “The Master of Impersonations” who does totally worthless imitations of air planes, ducks and frogs in front of aspeechless audience. Myself, I laughed so hard I cried, this has to be seen. There also pops up a few other, strange characters performing bizarre songs and telling weird jokes.

But most of all, PARIS 36 belongs to Nora Arnezeder as Douce. She made my knees tremble. Arnezeder reminded me a tad about Audrey Tautou, albeit it blonde and taller.  Yes, she’s very French. She is one of those women who could yell at me in French and calling me the most rude things I don’t really understand, but I wouldn’t protest and just ask for some more bitching, since it sounds so beautiful in French. An incredibly pretty French girl singing chansons, that’s not something we see everyday in movies or on TV, and that’s a shame.

The scenes from the successful show break the fourth wall and is turned into some kind of Busby Berkeley version of a music video. It’s catchy, happy and colorful.

PARIS 36 is much better than I expected. Cozy and nice. And sometimes funny. Check it out!

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