PARIS 36 (Faubourg 36) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
July 31, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Absolutely fantastic! ‘Paris 36’ is well-produced, well-acted and absolutely irresistible! You will be drawn by the film’s beautiful music! Wonderful performances by the talent, especially newcomer Nora Arnezeder, who is definitely an actress to watch for in the near future! This DVD is highly recommended!”
DVD TITLE: PARIS 36 (aka Faubourg 36)
YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2008
DURATION: 120 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: French 5.1 Dolby Digital, 2:40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Subtitles
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For some sexuality, nudity, violence and brief language)
RELEASE DATE: August 11, 2009
Directed by Christophe Barratier
Written by Christophe Barratier and Julien Rappenau
Dialogue by Pierre Philippe
Produced by Nicolas Mauvernay and Jacques Perrin
Associate Produced by Romain Le Grand
Music by Reinhardt Wagner
Director of Photography: Tom Stern
Editing by Annette Davey, Danny Rafic
Casting by Sylvie Brochere
Editing by Yves Deschamps
Production Design by Jean Rabasse
Art Direction by Jean-Yves Rabier
Gerard Jugnot as Pigoil
Clovis Cornillac as Milou
Kad Merad as Jacky
Nora Arnezeder as Douce
Pierre Richard as Monsieur TSF
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as Galapiat
Maxence Perrin as Jojo
Francois Morel as Celestin
Elisabeth Vitali as Viviane
Christophe Kourotchkine as Lebeaupin
Eric Naggar as Grevoul
Eric Prat as Comissaire Tortil
The musical film from France that has received critical acclaim worldwide.
“Paris 36” (Faubourg 36) is a wonderful and enchanting film directed and written by Christophe Barratier (Producer of “Winged Migration” and “As Life Goes By”). The film is co-written by Julien Rappeneau (“Have Mercy on Us All” and “A Ticket to Space”) and Pierre Phillippe (“We Forget Everything!” and “A Rare Bird”). Joining Christophe with the film is cinematographer Tom Stern (“Gran Torino”, “Changeling”, “Things We Lost in the Fire”, “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”) and composer Reinhardt Wagner (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, “Towards Zero” etc.).
The film would feature an outstanding soundtrack but also would introduce the world to a new star named Nora Arnezeder who can act and sing and just shines along with her castmates in this irresistible film.
“Paris 36” begins in the Paris suburb, Faubourg in 1936. A man named Pigoil (Gerard Jugnot) is being questioned by the police for something tragic that had happen that night. Pigoil then begins his story.
Pigoil is the stage manager for the theater known as Chansonia. His life was thought to be OK while working with hard in the theater with lighting operator Milou (Clovis Cornillac) and performer/worker Jacky (Kad Merad) until his wife became unfaithful (with several men) and has left him. Also, the fascist and ruthless businessman Galapiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) wants his payment for the theater but the owner of the theater is not making enough money to pay right away. As the actors at the Chansonia try to celebrate New Year’s Eve, the owner of the Chansonia knowing that he doesn’t have the money to keep the theater afloat, commits suicide.
Fast forward four months later, Pigoil is left to take care of his son Jojo (Maxence Perrin) after his wife has run out on him with another man and to make things worse, France is in political turmoil and people are broke and all hell has broken lose. The Chansonia has been bought and shut down by Galapiat and everyone seems to be unemployed and Milou seems to have joined the Red Army. But things continue to get worse with Pigoil when his son is caught peddling on the street with his friend (playing the accordion for money) and ends up losing his son, who now moves in with his mother.
Pigoil has hit bottom. With nothing to lose, he approaches his former staff to occupy and re-open the Chansonia and through hiring new talent, finding a way to keep the theater open but also for people to get paid. Immediately, all the former workers at the theater decide to help Pigoil, including Jacky and Milou and they work hard to restore the theater, hire new talent and hopes to get a loan to keep the theater afloat.
Meanwhile, Douce (Nora Arnezeder) comes to Faubourg in search of the former owner of the Chansonia. She meets up with Galapiat who starts to fance the beautiful young woman who is trying to start her singing career. He then has her audition at the Chansonia. Of course, because it’s a woman sent by Galapiat, the three men – Pigoil, Jacky and Milou are a bit standoffish of hiring her. But Douce is not only beautiful but she has a wonderful voice and body that Pigoil knows will attract the audience.
The story of “Paris 36” starts to focus on these characters as Pigoil tries to restart the Chansonia but missing his son so much, he does what he can to contact him to no avail. Jacky wants to become a theater star but his comedy is quite terrible but he is hired by Galapiat to relay any information about Douce and what is going on with the Chansonia (and thus betraying his comrades) while Milou shows disdain towards Douce because of her association with Galapiat, but for Douce…she thinks that Milou behaves that way towards her because he is attracted to her.
The show must go on to bring the Chansonia back but will the talent be enough for the audience to come daily and pay? Will Pigoil succeed in bringing the theater back to becoming financially successful but most of all, getting in touch with his son? Will Jacky’s comrades find out that he’s spying on them? What of Milou and Douce?
Needless to say that this is only a summary of just a small part of “Paris 36”. There is more to the story of these individuals but also the magic of their performances which the company must go through imaginable rough spots before success but for that success, why is Pigoil being questioned by the police at the beginning of the film? What tragedy awaits for any of these individuals?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
I was quite impressed by the look of “Paris 36”. The film is presented in 2:40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and this suburb captures the city around the Chansonia. Everything looks so real but you often wonder if its a real studio set, CG-based or what? There is a lot of grit and grime on the buildings, details from the handwritten letters on the buildings. I thought that a lot of the film (around the Chansonia) was shot in Paris and had utilization of CG but what was more surprising was to find out that a village was actually created in an open field (there is a wonderful featurette that goes into detail about this). Very impressive.
This is one of the films that I really wish would get a Blu-ray release because there are so many details within the buildings and interiors, especially the vibrant colors that would benefit from High Definition but for the DVD, picture quality is fine. One scene includes a wonderful Busby Berkeley style of performance that is just vibrant and beautiful to watch. For France, this type of filmmaking is rare to see but Christophe Barratier and Tom Stern capture the look and beauty of the theater performances quite extraordinarily well. This is a beautiful film to watch!
As for the audio, the film is presented in French 5.1 (Dolby Digital) and for the most part, the film is driven by its dialogue and music. Once Nora Arnezeder took the stage, just hearing her vocals just captured my attention. And from that point, her character brings life into the other characters and the music turns from campy and humorous to a wonderful and beautiful music. Suffice to say, immediately after watching this film, I started looking for the movie soundtrack. That is how much I loved the music of this film.
As for the subtitles, optional English subtitles are provided.
“PARIS 36” comes with the following special features:
I absolutely loved “Paris 36”.
After watching this film, I wanted the soundtrack and I wanted to know more about the talent and also know who this actress Nora Arnezeder was. Needless to say, this film was beautiful to watch. At first, finding out this film was about the political and economic turmoil of the 1930’s, I was wondering if it would be similar to the 1980 Francois Truffaut film “Le Dernier Metro” (The Last Metro).
But this film is a hybrid film that it manages to feature a romantic drama and a musical all in one. Unlike “The Last Metro” in which the political turmoil and German invasion was a big part of the film, “Paris 36” captured the initial feeling of division amongst the French but focus on the primary characters who wanted the show to go on and despite not making any money at first, really believed in their theater and their hopes and dreams in making sure that they give the best performance they can but overcoming difficult challenges during the darkest era for the people in France.
The pacing of the film is wonderful and as challenging as I can imagine of balancing the dramatic segments of the film with its musical segments, everything works from beginning to end.
I know that I’m gushing about the film and how beautiful, how well-produced and well-acted the film is but if I had to find one nitpicky situation, it’s how the film ends with one ending. As the film does focus on a variety of characters, you wonder what happens to each of the characters at the end. And I was hoping for that. But director Christophe Barratier does explain in the commentary that scenes were shot for the other characters but during the testing with the additional scenes with the audience, French viewers felt it was too heavy and thus he limited it to one subtle ending. Overall, the ending does work quite fine and so, for those who wonder what happens to other characters, it’s definitely worth listening to the commentary.
“PARIS 36” is such a wonderful film, even though many of us who do not understand French may not understand what the lyrics of the songs are about, it’s no different from listening to opera or international music. You can hear the passion in the vocals and the music does reach your soul. It’s that effective, it’s that addictive and most of all, the whole entire film is just irresistible!
“PARIS 36” is highly recommended!
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