A Deeply Thematic, Hedonistic Trip
Paris Is Us will be a film you either love or hate. With multiple winding timelines intersecting and crashing into one another throughout the film’s 85 minute run time, Paris Is Us is a film as challenging as it is captivating to watch. In many ways, this hedonistic slice of French cinema feels like a surrealist painting. It questions conventional thoughts, gives deeper meaning to seemingly mundane instances and is chock full of symbology from start to finish. While this in itself makes the film unique in its own right, it’s also one that’s going to alienate a fair amount of people going in expecting a more conventional film.
The first 20 minutes or so play out in a relatively conventional manner. Anna and Greg are a couple very much in love but when Greg announces he’s leaving to go to Barcelona, Anna is reluctant to go with him. After a heated discussion, the couple go their separate ways. Unfortunately, Greg’s flight crashes en route leaving Anna caught in a whirlwind of emotion within France’s beautiful capital. From this point onward, we’re whisked up into a dreamy, psychedelic trip through a variety of different memories and what-if scenarios, making it difficult to discern what’s real and what isn’t.
On the surface, Paris Is Us’ incoherent structure certainly hinders the film and makes it difficult to work out exactly what order things should go in. When you take a step back and really think about the film, this makes perfect sense. The film’s disjointed, incoherent structure mirrors the grief Anna is feeling which is really the overall theme radiating through the film, projected through every element of the film. It’s beautiful and it’s sad and it’s messy. Just like love.
For such an artistic film, Paris Is Us backs up its bold ideas with a plethora of impressive shots. One long shot late on sees the camera moving around a train carriage with one side showing the train moving, and the other stuck at the station. An abundance of rotating shots feature quite heavily here too, reinforcing the notion of vertigo and spinning out of control. These work harmoniously with the symbology that runs rampant throughout the different scenes. It begins simply enough; reds and blues appear in seemingly innocent fashion (as pictured above). Late on, we see fire (often depicted as red) and water (often depicted as blue) both showing a more physical side of these emotions coming to fruition
All of this combines with a great performance from Noémie Schmidt who really deserves a lot of credit for her role here. With multiple timelines, emotions and layers of sanity peeled away as the film progresses, she captures all of this perfectly and in such a natural way that it’s easy to really go on this journey with her. It is worth noting at this point that the English dub is truly woeful and regularly changes or emphasizes lines in such a way that loses the impact of the native French tongue. If you intend to watch this one, watch it in French.
Despite all of this, Paris Is Us is not a film for everyone. While I personally loved the film’s bold, provocative take on this idea, it’s also a very different, artistic picture; one that challenges the conventional structure of film. It’s not perfect and at times it is a little confusing but this intentional ploy is really there to echo Anna’s true feelings throughout the film. When you look at it through that lens, Paris Is Us is a surprisingly clever, beautifully written film. It’s not for everyone but if you can take to the style, you’re in for a wild ride.