The Night Parade: Film Review
Geraldine Maillet's first feature follows a man and woman starting a potential love affair during one night in Paris.
A wee wisp of a film, The Night Parade could also scarcely be more French, despite the fact that its original French-market title, After, is in English. The story of the beginnings of a potential love affair during the course of an all-nighter spent darting through the streets of a mostly empty Paris, Geraldine Maillet's first feature is soaked in nocturnal atmosphere and exhibits an alert responsiveness to every nuance expressed by the two lead actors. The film's exceedingly modest ambitions will restrict it internationally to second-tier festival rounds and limited theatrical runs in France, where it opened on January 30. But there is enough talent on display to warrant interest in a more venturesome future project from the writer-director.
Although she has made a couple of shorts, Maillet is better known in France for her books, one of which is titled What Would Tarantino Do in My Place? The answer to that question in the case of the present film would be to jack it up with elaborate conversational riffs instead of mundane everyday dialogue, a bunch of outre character actors and some crime of more consequence than the traffic-related infringements the male lead commits here.
For 83 minutes, Maillet sustains at least a degree of interest in a persistent come-on that begins in a Japanese restaurant where Julie (Julie Gayet) takes refuge during a late-evening downpour. The place is empty but for two employees and a good-looking young man, Guillaume (Raphael Personnaz). There isn't a taxi to be had, he chats her up and, when the rain relents, offers to take wherever she wants on his motorcycle. She hesitates, they talk some more, then off they go to a club he knows.
Right away, the most striking impression here is made by the way Maillet and cinematographer Martin De Chambaneix capture not only the look but the feel of night in the virtually deserted city. The rain has cleared the streets of pedestrians and traffic and no light comes from shops or apartment windows, just from the high street lamps that create pools of amber illumination that only enhance the looks of the blond Julie and black-haired and bearded Guillaume. The director has also gone out of her way to avoid immediately recognizable neighborhoods and touristy aspects of Paris, which is a commendable plus.
Over the course of the next few hours, which takes them from an upscale boite to a techno dance hall, an all-night restaurant and the front of her home, Guillaume never runs out of lines that keep Julie from calling it a night, even as it becomes clear she's married. She is, then, profoundly ambivalent, unwilling to discuss her problems with this somewhat younger guy she'll probably never see again, as he's leaving for South America in a few days.
The extent to which Julie might succumb, physically and/or emotionally, provides the only curiosity here (it fails to rise to anything one might call suspense). But their conversation becomes more personal and caring, if not quite intimate, as the film just manages to sustain its fragile viability until the sun rises and the future beckons.
Veterans of many films but not household names, Gayet and Peronnaz must carry the film and manage it capably, she with a reserve that cannot be allowed to become coy, he with an aggressiveness that must, and does, go beyond callowness to reveal some genuine tenderness underneath.
The eclectic score also enlivens the film's night without dominating it.
Venue: Santa Barbara Film Festival
Production: Bee Films, Wallpaper Productions, France 2 Cinema
Cast: Julie Gayet, Raphael Personnaz
Director: Geraldine Maillet
Screenwriter: Geraldine Maillet
Producer: Marie de Lussigny
Director of photography: Martin De Chabaneix
Editor: Julien Leloup