When Fiona's orderly life is disrupted by a letter of distress from her 88-year-old Aunt Martha who is living in Paris, Fiona hops on the first plane she can and arrives only to discover that Martha has disappeared. In an avalanche of spectacular disasters, she encounters Dom, the affable, but annoying tramp who just won't leave her alone. Replete with the amazing antics and intricately choreographed slapstick that has come to define Abel and Gordon's work, LOST IN PARIS is a wondrously fun and hectic tale of peculiar people finding love while lost in the City of Lights.
Dominique Abel | Fiona Gordon | Emmanuelle Riva | Pierre Richard
Lost in Paris is a flight of whimsical fancy; a comedy fueled by meticulously choreographed humor. If old-fashioned slapstick isn't your thing, this may not be for you. Some of the jokes are brilliant, such as one in which lead actress Fiona Gordon, seeking to get the perfect photograph, ends up taking a bath in the Seine. Others are a little long-winded and overexposed. Gordon and her writing/directing/acting partner, Dominque Abel, are gifted physical comedians who reminded me of Roberto Benigni (some may consider that a red flag). Although editing plays a part in some of their bits, most are pure ability as they bend, twist, and contort their bodies in ways that Marcel Marceau might envy.
The story is cleverly presented with various scenes shown from differing perspectives as the narrative coils around itself, jumping backward and forward through time. Living in Canada, Fiona receives a letter from her (possibly senile) aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva in her final performance), who believes a nurse is trying to force her to move into a nursing home. Fiona, desperate to help her only relative, leaves behind the snowy climes of her homeland and travels to Paris, where she immediately becomes lost. Not only can she not find Martha, who has disappeared, but she is being stalked by the lovesick Dom, who follows Martha like a lost puppy. The two share a series of minor misadventures while repeatedly just missing Martha, who is always around the next corner.
In this Valentine to the City of Lights, Paris is the cleanest and emptiest place on earth. Its gleaming white streets are swept clean of all but a few leaves and the only people (other than the main characters) remain in the background. The humans, on the other hand, have a worn, lived-in appearance. These aren't the air-brushed, well-scrubbed stars of Hollywood. Fiona and Dom look like you and me - not ready for their close-ups but receiving them nonetheless. They are perhaps the most unlikely pair to headline a romantic comedy and maybe that's why it works.
Lost in Paris is occasionally self-indulgent, although one could argue that's part of its charm. One scene in particular stands out - a dance of feet between Riva and an old beau. It goes on for too long. Although there are a few sequences like that, it's hard to complain much about them. The movie has a skinny run time and a fresh, breezy tone. It's easily consumed and unlikely to cause indigestion. There's something of a throwback feel to the proceedings. Despite a few instances of profanity, the film could be at home fifty years ago. Lost in Paris is a capricious diversion with enough English that subtitle-phobes won't feel completely adrift.