Paris-Manhattan

Alice Taglioni in Paris-Manhattan

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

24 May

 

Peter Minuit buys Manhattan, 1626

On this day in 1626, the German-born Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan off native Americans for 60 guilders (somewhere around $1,000 at 2013 prices). He had been sent to the New World the previous year by the Dutch West India Company to research possible new products to trade, and had taken over as governor general of the New Netherland colony. The tribe he bought the island off had little concept of anyone having a right to ownership of water or air and, being nomadic, their notion of the territorial right to land was also hazy. There is no record of the native Americans giving up Manhattan for a selection of trinkets, as myth has it, though in the sale of nearby Staten island clothes, agricultural tools, household appliances and musical instruments were all part of the transaction. In 1631 Minuit was suspended as governor general, most probably for lining his own pockets at the expense of the Company. Minuit went on to become governor of the New Sweden colony.

 

 

 

Paris-Manhattan (2012, dir: Sophie Lellouche)

In Woody Allen’s film Play It Again, Sam (he wrote though didn’t direct), Allen’s lovelorn and suddenly single character receives life lessons from Humphrey Bogart. In Sophie Lellouche’s romantic comedy Paris-Manhattan, her lovelorn and tragically single heroine Alice (Alice Taglioni) receives life lessons from Woody Allen, or his voice at any rate, lifted from some of his most familiar films, when she gazes at his poster on her bedroom wall. Alice is gorgeous, funny, clever and solvent, so the fact that she can’t find a man is one of those “only in the movies” situations, which Paris-Manhattan is deliberately all about. And the fact that there is a suitable guy, right under nose – the alarm installer who’s in her dad’s pharmacy more often than seems strictly necessary – is another one. Later on there’s a scene set at the family’s Friday night Sabbath dinner – the family is Jewish, of course – when Bruel’s Victor (how the alarm installer ends up at a family dinner is yet another one) makes an off-the-cuff remark about existence and nothingness, which gets Alice’s Allen antenna twitching, and from there it seems that love is a foregone conclusion. But not before Lellouche dumps a whole load of farcical obstruction in their way, to delay their progress. The obstructive business isn’t so much Woody Allen as Richard Curtis, though even non-believers in Mr Love Actually should admit that Curtis has the edge on Allen when it comes to rom-com, so let’s let that slide.

On the face of it, this is the sort of well dressed, well mannered, nice-looking bourgeois comedy which the French do so effortlessly, though they often travel as well as a tricky Bordeaux. This one works, largely because the two stars, Taglioni and Patrick Bruel, are entirely at home playing characters you really root for. Enjoyment also comes from a beguiling soundtrack – Ella sings Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered on a few occasions – and the fact that Lellouche has these two dancing the “will they won’t they?” to rhythms lifted from Woody Allen films. There’s more than a touch of Manhattan Murder Mystery in here, especially in the scenes in which Alice and Victor and Alice’s parents all start digging into the private life of Alice’s sister and break into her apartment. And is it a spoiler to say that Woody Allen turns up, too, in a cameo so short that it looks like somebody might literally have buttonholed him in a hallway and asked if he wouldn’t mind, you know, just speaking the lines on the card. Maybe he was in France, in the middle of Midnight in Paris, the dates are about right. However they got him in there, for the half a minute or so, he has barely got his Woody Allen shtick warmed up before the scene is over and he’s gone. It’s a nice detail in a film that is full of them, a film that, analysed coolly, is total fromage. File under guilty pleasure.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • A light, bright romantic comedy
  • The winning performances of Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel
  • Woody Allen’s tiny cameo
  • The swinging jazzy soundtrack

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Paris-Manhattan – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Paris-Manhattan”

  1. In Paris, the pharmacist Alice (Alice Taglioni) has been an obsessed Woody Allen fan since she was fifteen and has seen all his movies and talks to him alone in her room. When she meets Pierre (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) in a night-club, she finds that he loves jazz and she believes he is her prince charming. But when Pierre sees Alice's sister Hélène (Marine Delterme), they immediately fall in love with each other and marry each other.

    Years later, Alice is a spinster that administrates the pharmacy that belonged to her father (Michel Aumont) and believes that movies can heal many diseases. However her father insistently tries to find a husband for her. When the alarm technician Victor (Patrick Bruel) meets Alice, she does not see any future relationship with him. But one day, Victor brings Alice to meet Woody Allen in Paris and the director gives an advice to Alice.

    "Paris-Manhattan" is a delightful French comedy and certainly cult for any fan of Woody Allen. Like the lead actress, I have watched all the movies of Woody Allen and my favorite is Manhattan (but fortunately I have never had a conversation alone with him like she does). When I started to watch the movie, I believed that it was a Woody Allen's film since even the letters in the presentation were very similar to his movies. But when Woody Allen himself appears on the screen, this was the greatest surprise I had. In the end, I loved this great little movie. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): "Paris-Manhattan"

  2. "Paris-Manhattan" features a woman obsessed with Woody Allen, much like myself and many others are. She lives in Paris, works as a pharmacist, is single, spends her days discussing Woody Allen movies and spends her nights discussing her life with Woody Allen – meaning, a poster of Woody Allen. Luckily the film got the rights to Allen's movies, and he responds to her with things he has said before.

    The beginning of the movie is the funniest with the poster version of Allen delivering all of the film's witticisms – meaning Allen's own witticisms from his own movies. We have laughed at them all before, but there's a reason we still watch them – they're still funny. He complains about life, complains about death and offers her zero constructive advice. But that's why we love him. The heroine, Alice Ovitz (Alice Taglioni), seems to get frustrated by that, but she's frustrated with her life in general.

    She's in love with Pierre, but Pierre is married to her sister. Her sister is a lawyer and has a teenage daughter, while Alice is just a pharmacist working in their father's store, and gets sets up on dates by her parents, her sister and her perfect brother-in-law. Alice was a frustrating heroine. She would complain incessantly about being single but when someone would set her up on a date, she would try to assert her independence and say that she's a career woman with no interest in being with a man. She is, unfortunately, a terribly written character. And a movie dedicated to Woody Allen deserves much better.

    The filmmaker definitely knows her Woody Allen, which is, of course, a must for a film like this. The film switches from a comedy of family entanglement to a romantic comedy to a comedic caper and back to a romantic comedy with ease just as Allen himself has done throughout his career. When Alice's romantic misgivings become tiring, the film switches pace to a mischievous comedic caper à la "Manhattan Murder Mystery" or "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion". It's too bad the filmmaker wasn't able to infuse any of her Allen knowledge into the main character. When somebody says to her that "'Manhattan' hasn't aged well" she argues back with "No." Apparently she has nothing else to say on the subject.

    When the film switches back to a romantic comedy, Alice is now at the point where she has to move on with her life and so the Woody Allen poster comes down. Blaming him for her romantic rut. But he wasn't the one to tell her to idolize rich, handsome men who lie and cheat. But it has also already been established that she's a terrible character, so we just have to get past that.

    But the good thing is, we can get past all that. First, Alice's romantic counterpart has a brilliant line about gods and the men Alice idolizes. And ultimately "Paris-Manhattan" is funny. It's a feel-good romantic comedy that also delivers an ending that all romanticists and realists alike dream about.

  3. I rarely watch films on planes apart from the small screen, I hate the ridiculous censors applied particularly by aircraft operated from Muslim countries. Anyway it was a long flight, I knew nothing of the film, the title I think I'd heard of, it was reminiscent of course of "Paris, Texas" so I was intrigued. A romantic comedy nice and easy. It was delightful, I was unsure whether it was a 'Woody Allen' film or not but when I discovered that it wasn't it made it even more wonderful that he appeared, little more than a cameo but perfect. I cried with joy, very sweet, light hearted and fun. If you don't enjoy it perhaps you have a wooden heart?

  4. Paris-Manhattan (2012), written and directed by Sophie Lellouche, stars Alice Taglioni as Alice, a 30-something pharmacist in Paris who worships Woody Allen. Alice can't find the man of her dreams. (Well, she found him, but he married her sister.) So, instead of looking for another man, she spends her time watching Woody Allen films and talking to Woody's poster, which hangs on the wall in her room. (The poster answers back, using quotes from Allen's films.)

    Of course, she finally meets that man of her dreams, but she doesn't realize he's the man of her dreams. He's not sure she's the woman of his dreams either.

    There are secondary plots about the boyfriend of Alice's young niece, and about whether Alice's brother-in-law is having an affair. Neither subplot adds much to the film, but they keep the movie moving forward.

    In a way, I'm surprised that I enjoyed this film as much as I did. However, when you have a movie that is set in Paris, a protagonist who is strikingly attractive, who quotes Woody Allen the way other people quote the Talmud, how can you not enjoy it?

    We saw this film at Rochester's Dryden Theatre as part of the excellent Rochester Jewish Film Festival. It will work well on DVD. It's worth seeing, as long as you don't expect "Hannah and her Sisters," or even "Play it Again, Sam."

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