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More than a decade after making his debut as writer/director, Arnaud Viard escapes writer’s block by turning the focus on himself in Paris, Love, Cut, whose original French title translates as “Arnaud makes his second film.” Amusing and sometimes sexy if necessarily self-involved, it’s a comedy of midlife likely to play better with men than women; should it escape the fest circuit here, art house auds would be kind.
Viard opens by addressing us directly from atop a cramped toilet, where his talk about the last time ideas “flowed” from within him acquires new connotations. We follow to his shrink’s office, where he expands on his inability to write a script he can get produced — a situation made more frustrating by the fact that he’s become very well known as a TV actor. Like the real Viard, the one onscreen here starred in a French TV series called Happy Times.
Differences between the real man and his cinematic avatar get confused a bit when he occasionally refers to himself as Jean Francois, his Happy Times character. But some storytelling sloppiness aside, things seem to boil down to this: Arnaud has a long-term relationship with Chloe (Irene Jacob) that puzzlingly falls apart when their efforts to have a child fizzle. Floundering, he pens a screenplay about impotence (again, autobiographical elements are both hinted at and denied) and takes a gig teaching an acting class. There he meets Louise (Gabrielle Ducorail), a gorgeous and ambitious woman half his age. Predictably, they begin a relationship.
Though initial scenes with Louise have a flirty spark, the film doesn’t seem to realize how much more effective it is when Viard and Jacob share the screen, whether in present tense or in flashback. The episodic script leaves us wondering whether it intends to bring the two age-appropriate lovers back together, or if we’re supposed to forget Chloe entirely, and instead it looks for depth in occasional visits to Arnaud’s dying mother (Nadine Alari). What it sacrifices in viewer engagement, though, the pic makes up in easy laughs and charismatic performances. Viard may feel himself trapped by TV success, but he’s perfectly capable as a big-screen protagonist for minor fare such as this.
Production companies: Les 1001 Marches, Reborn Production
Cast: Arnaud Viard, Irene Jacob, Louise Coldefy, Nadine Alari, Pierre Aussedat
Director-Screenwriter: Arnaud Viard
Producer: Marc Simoncini
Director of photography: Isabelle Dumas
Costume designer: Caroline Tavernier
Editor: Veronique Bruque
Composer: Mathieu Boogaerts
Casting director: Constance Demontoy
Venue: “Burning Bright: New French Filmmakers,” FIAF, New York
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