“Faire le Pitre” [Clowning Around]

A Brief Commentary Review of 
Paris Pieds Nus
[Lost in Paris]

Review by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director

This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren’t looking
I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.*
                         The Swimming Song, by Loudon Wainwright III

It was the 17th century French philosopher, René Descartes, who posited his own existence was based on his conscious mental capacity: “I think, therefore I am.”

On the other hand, it was the 20th century British comic actor of the silent film era, Charlie Chaplin, who quipped, “Think different. But don’t believe everything you think.” Chaplin’s genius lay in his ability to magnificently express his thoughts without uttering a word. And just when you thought you knew where life was taking him, his antics would take another precarious turn of events.

While the filmmaking team of Abel and Gordon don’t credit Chaplin directly as the inspirational source for their latest work, they readily acknowledge they are part of what they call the professional “actor-clown” tradition; with what they themselves dub as “burlesque comedy.” In this, their latest film ("Lost in Paris" is the title given to the film in the U.S., while "Paris Pieds Nus" translates as "Barefoot in Paris"), the dialogue is minimal; leaving facial expression and body movement to tell a tale that’s sheer comic delight.  

Fiona is the nerdy librarian from a snowbound Canadian diorama, who rushes to the City of Lights to rescue her octogenarian aunt (portrayed by veteran actor Emmanuelle Riva) from the impending confines of Les Alouettes, a home for elders. After a minor catastrophe that would make any normal tourist flee for home, Fiona instead perseveres for some hilarious and light-hearted turn of events. Enter Dom, the street hobo, who takes life in stride to become her unwelcome companion in a pas de deux for the arabesque that will ensue. 

In the course of the story, there’s charming dance and body movements reminiscent of La La Land; then ultimately rise to dizzying heights near the end of the film that are like a Chaplin-esque high wire act.

Far more than mere silly slapstick, LOST IN PARIS simultaneously uses humor to talk about essential things like death, freedom of choice, tenderness, intimacy, lunacy, solitude, and solidarity. 

LOST IN PARIS is not a film that’s intended for profound philosophical ruminations or deep cinematic interpretation. Like a bright and sunny day at the circus, it’s just plain fun!

* The film’s theme song is The Swimming Song, as performed by the Candian duo, Kate & Anna McGarrigle. Selected for what reason? It’s a fun, foot-stomping tune to accompany Fiona’s literal and figurative dives into her time in Paris.