Dans Paris

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IFC First Take

NEW YORK -- Christophe Honore's comedy drama "Dans Paris" plays disconcertingly like a greatest-hits collection of French cinema, particularly the new wave. Jump cuts and direct addresses to the camera ala Godard? Check. Sudden bursts into song ala Demy? Check. Endless talkathons ala Rivette? Check. Romantic complications played as life and death ala Truffaut? Check. By the time it's over, you feel as if you've taken a graduate course at UCLA film school.

This derivativeness might be more palatable if the film amounted to more than it does. This thin tale of a severely depressed photographer (Romain Duris) who moves in with his gadfly younger brother (Louis Garrel) and emotionally ineffectual father (Guy Marchand) after a breakup lacks the substance to justify its technical playfulness.

It's too bad because the director certainly has the talent to effectively ape his inspirations, and there are some fun moments amid the general tedium. The performances, too, couldn't be bettered: Duris well handles the difficult task of making his emotionally shut-down character interesting, the handsome Garrel is endlessly appealing, and Marchand movingly conveys the father's frustration at his inability to help his offspring. As an added bonus, Marie-France Pisier has a terrific cameo as the brothers' self-obsessed mother.

As with so many French films, this effort also serves as a love letter to Paris. From the apartment with a clear view of the Eiffel Tower -- is it mandatory that every flat in the city come so equipped? -- to the picturesque suicide attempt by Duris of leaping off a bridge into the Seine to the seemingly endless supply of nubile young Frenchwomen ready to jump into bed at a moment's notice, "Dans Paris" makes the city seem like the ideal place to be clinically depressed.
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