Home Video Hovel: Paris-Manhattan, By: Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Manhattan is one of Woody Allen’s more critically-acclaimed films. Its gorgeous cinematography by Gordon Willis, sharp dialogue from Allen and Marshall Brickman, and memorable story make it one for the ages. Suffice to say, writer/director Sophie Lellouche is making a bold statement by titling her Woody Allen homage Paris-Manhattan, and does a fine job emulating Allen’s earlier romantic comedies with a brisk film running only 77 minutes. Like a chocolate mint left on a hotel pillow, Paris-Manhattan is sweet, refreshing, but not quite enough.
Alice Taglioni plays Alice, a Woody Allen fan since the age of 15. Whenever life throws a wrench in her plans, she returns home and stares up at her Woody Allen poster asking it for advice. The poster responds with Woody Allen quotes from various films. In a nice lo-fi touch, the poster itself isn’t animated when it talks. We simply hear the voiceover play over a static shot of the poster. It’s a clever way to demonstrate her Allen obsession. Her day job is working at a pharmacy. She often prescribes movies to her customers to cure their ailments, throwing in a Woody Allen film or two. Sometimes this even works.
After years of unsuccessful dates, Alice finally meets the charming pianist Vincent (Yannick Soulier). Yet something is missing. At a party, she meets alarm salesman Victor (Patrick Bruel). He’s intrigued by her Allen obsession and purchases Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask) on DVD. Victor and Alice go on a variety of adventures together. They get free massages. They foil a robbery of her pharmacy. They investigate her brother-in-law to find out if he is having an affair. Victor feels something for Alice, but Alice does not. It’s only when he offers her something that nobody else could give her that she has a change of heart.
Paris-Manhattan is an episodic film in which any conflict is wrapped up too neatly. Alice’s mother is an alcoholic? Just have a brief family meeting and she’s off the sauce. A burglar breaks into the pharmacy? Just give him a few Woody Allen DVDs to watch and send him on his way. These vignettes are charming and delivered with a light touch, yet there’s little dramatically interesting going on. Taglioni plays Alice as a bit flat until the ending rendezvous with Victor. Bruel brings a certain smarminess to Victor, yet we know nothing of his life other than his work and adventures with Alice. There’s a cameo at the end of the film that will leave you beaming, but it plays off as more of a plot device than an earned moment.
There’s nothing egregious with Paris-Manhattan. It’s a serviceable romantic comedy with some light set pieces and cute uses of dialogue clips from Woody Allen’s movies. The film is charming and light on its feet. The more you like Woody Allen’s earlier romantic comedies (think Annie Hall more than Match Point), the more you’ll get out of Paris-Manhattan.