Andréa in La La Land Paris: Call My Agent! on Netflix

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Andréa in La La Land Paris: Call My Agent! on Netflix
Netflix’s never-ending thirst for content makes for a host of strange cultural bedfellows. The service’s global reach has led to popular American series set in France, and French series that have piqued the interest of American viewers. One of them is Call My Agent!, which ran for four seasons (2015-2020). While Emily in Paris is a projection of American TV tropes onto Parisian settings, Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent in French) is something else entirely. The series is about the complications befalling actors’ reps in a Parisian talent agency. Episodes typically feature real-life cinema and television personalities, in Season 4, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Xavier Beauvais, Julie Gayet, Nathalie Baye, Jean Reno, even basketball star Tony Parker. It’s an example of the French genre called comédie-dramatique, which as the name indicates, is a work with a dramatic form but large doses of humor, as well. That’s not so different from certain American sitcoms that overlap with soap opera, or serious shows with an ironic undertone. But that’s not where the convergence ends. Call My Agent! is a completely French show, with French characters, French settings. But it too is a kind of chimera. In fact, the world of agents is very American. The show is a French fantasy of Hollywood reality parachuted into Paris, something akin to Disneyland Paris. Agents don’t really have the prominence in France that they do in the U.S. arts industry. In publishing they’re a distinctly minority presence. Agents do exist in the world of movie and TV entertainment, but without the enormous agencies and package-making clout as in Hollywood. Camille Cottin in “Connasse, Princesse des coeurs.” Photo: Gaumont Distribution Call My Agent! isn’t a French equivalent of, say, Robert Altman’s The Player. We’re in the more amusing, more human world of an old-fashioned boutique agency, with individual agents representing individual clients. In episode one, the César Awards are depicted in sheer show biz terms, as the Oscars used to be years ago. (Even in France, the Césars have recently joined the real world of protests about sexual abuse and other controversies.) Just as Emily was saved by Lily Collins, the sprightly actress with a gift for goofy comedy who plays the eponymous heroine, so Call My Agent! is mostly redeemed by Camille Cottin, playing Andréa Martel, a chief partner at her agency. While Collins possesses an elfin prettiness Cottin is more substantial, physically and otherwise. She’s not conventionally beautiful, but can be attractive when attractiveness is called for. She’s a masterly actress who can do both comedy and drama. With a turn of her expression and tone she not only modulates her own presence, but what’s happening around her — she can turn the whole show from comic to dramatic and back again on a dime. It’s fascinating watching her, even when the script wallows in the banal and you mutter, “But what the hell is she nattering about?”
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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.

Comments

  • Blair Jackson
    2021-04-15 08:27:35
    Blair Jackson
    Thanks for the in-depth review! I do think Dimitri undersells the show slightly, however. We really came to love all the characters and one thing that made it even more enjoyable was that after each show we looked up in Wikipedia the guest actors playing themselves with whom we were unfamiliar (which was quite a lot or them once you get beyond the popular-in-America likes of Charlotte G., Juliette Binoche, Isabelles Adjani and Huppert, Cecile de France, Audrey Fleurot--you loved to hate her in 'A French Village'-- Jean DuJardin (hilarious!) and others), and it was fun seeing how those actors on this show either played either their real-life images and biographies, or played against type. There was one specific episode involving a biting episode that apparently was based on a real-life scandale. It's great to see the "stars" being such good sports at their own expense! Anyway, my wife and I were sad to see it end, and it's given us a lot of new (and old) faces to watch for in future French films or older ones one that finally arrive on American shores. I'd call 'Emily in Paris' a guilty pleasure (which got better with each episode, so I'm hopeful about next season); whereas "Call My Agent" was clever, artful and engaging from beginning to end!

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  • mike McKibbin
    2021-04-15 07:03:40
    mike McKibbin
    Nice piece Dimitri. I hear they are going to shoot Series 5 - to make up for the poor ending (in Series 4). Also a stand alone film is in development. Glad you focussed on the enjoyment of this entertaining series. It is very French and all the better for that. I liked that serious actors were queueing up to show they don't take themselves that seriously and can do comedy brilliantly.

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