Coup de Chance: Woody Allen à la Française

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Coup de Chance: Woody Allen à la Française
Conventional wisdom has it that Woody Allen’s personal controversies have made him so radioactive in the U.S. that he’s being hounded to Europe in order to continue working. Be that as it may, Allen has always had a special relationship with the French: his movies have always been warmly received in France, they make more money here than in the U.S., and to the French he’s an icon of New York and Jewish-American humor and intellect. In return he’s made complimentary remarks about France, and directed Midnight in Paris, a Valentine to the city (and one of the best movies of his “late” period). It was perhaps just a matter of time before he tried his hand at making a movie not just set in France, but a French movie, with French characters, a French story, and in French to boot. The result is definitely worth seeing, an example of filmmaking at its most assured and immaculate, with a marvelous ensemble of actors and technicians, in particular the legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (who’s worked not only with Allen but also Coppola and Bertolucci). Coup de Chance is in other ways an unwieldy mixed bag. It changes gears from extramarital drama to James Cain-ish noir to Agatha Christie procedural. The disparate pieces hold together but it’s a little jarring, and riddled with plausibility holes. Underneath it all we see the faint outlines of The Great Gatsby, that archetypal American story, transposed to a land where sinister remains of the aristocratic day can sometimes emerge, like an old boar that’s still very lethal. Still from “Coup de Chance.” Image credit: Metropolitan Filmexport The story begins when a pair of youngish Parisians, one-time university friends, meet again after many years. The situation we’ve seen in other films isn’t the result of an on-line search, but a chance meeting on a Paris street — a central motif of the film is the irony of fate, or chance. He’s a somewhat boho writer, she works at the posh auction house ArtCurial. They begin meeting at lunchtime, until the newfound embers of friendship flare into full-scale romance. The stumbling block is Fanny’s husband Jean, a charming but hard-edged financier, one the lovers are able to maneuver around, until his wife’s behavior arouses suspicion. Lou de Laâge (who acted in Réspire and Le Bal des Folles, directed by Mélanie Laurent, as well as giving a prize-winning turn in Les Innocentes) gives a strong performance as Fanny. She’s a sensual beauty, but also capable of expressing tectonic shifts of intense emotion. Niels Schneider as Alain is charming and romantic, but we don’t really believe in him as a writer. The gravitas  (even when not quite authentic) of a French author is lacking. It’s a light, and er, expendable, role. Still from “Coup de Chance.” Image credit: Metropolitan Filmexport
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Lead photo credit : Still from 'Coup de Chance'

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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.