Film Review: Revoir Paris

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Film Review: Revoir Paris
Revoir Paris: You Can’t Go Home Again … Or Can You? In Revoir Paris, Alice Winocour aims to treat an important subject using the form of the traditional mainstream film, specifically the genre of sentimental pathos, also known as the tearjerker. It’s one of the first serious films dealing with the November 2015 terrorist attacks that struck the Bataclan concert hall and other venues. (Another coming out at roughly the same time is Novembre.) She doesn’t exploit convention for meretricious reasons but to limn truths accessible to the average moviegoer. She succeeds to a great extent, but not completely. The movie deals with events retrospectively, an approach which distances us, and keeps the film from falling into mere exploitation. Mia (Virginie Efira) is a survivor —surviving victim — of an attack on a restaurant in the east of Paris. (Aside from the Stade de France, north of Paris, all the attacks happened in eastern districts populated by the young, workers, hipsters and minorities.) Wounded and traumatized, she’d withdrawn to her family’s home in the country, but now returns to Paris, and her past. Revoir Paris © Pathé Films Mia’s need to revisit events might seem perplexing. She has a good job as a Russian-French interpreter, plush apartment, nice partner, and can’t really remember the events. But this hole in her memory gnaws at her. Virginie Efira (who was in Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta) does a first-rate job portraying Mia as a solid, intelligent woman who has difficulty not having a rational grip on an important episode in her life. That we almost always see her wearing a nifty leather jacket becomes, intentionally or no, a sign of her intrepid character. Mia’s search takes on various permutations. At first it’s a clinical exercise, a kind of therapy. It’s fascinating to discover that other survivors meet at the attack site to talk in a sort of encounter group, that there are also the inevitable online forums. There may be real-life victims trying to recover from memory loss, but for us there’s something unsatisfying about it, presumptuous as that may be. It’s reminiscent of old movies that took a primitive Freudian view of characters’ emotional problems. Revoir Paris © Pathé Films The director herself seems wary of this approach, and takes on a different one after another survivor accuses Mia of a selfish action during the attack: locking herself in a bathroom and refusing to let in others. It seems to be an unfounded charge by an unhinged woman, but the search turns to exculpation: Mia the victim needs to prove that she’s innocent. But the director discards that as well. Finally, Mia decides to find the restaurant employee (Amadou Mbow) who’d helped her, see that he’s okay, and thank him. There’s something interesting in taking up and discarding various tacks — it reflects how a real person might behave, changing motivations and concerns. Another subplot concerns the heroine’s relationships. As she focuses on the events of 2015, she distances herself from her partner, who comes to seem self-pitying and clueless. Grégoire Colin gives a good performance as Vincent, but the role is thankless, and feels contrived. It’s essentially a pretext for Mia getting involved with Thomas, another survivor, undergoing painful leg reconstruction. This works but barely — we can hear the gears of conventional storytelling clanking away. As Thomas, Benoît Magimel (La Pianiste) is charming, funny, simpatico — we like him, still he seems to have stepped out of a rom-com.
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Lead photo credit : Revoir Paris © Pathé Films

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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.