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Paris 36

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Christophe Barratier; Written by Christophe Barratier, Pierre Philippe, and Julien Rappeneau; Starring: Nora Arnezeder, Gérard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad, and Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu.

Apr 04, 2009 Web Exclusive
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Inspired by a set of songs composed by contemporary songwriters Frank Thomas (lyrics) and Reinhardt Wagner (music), Paris 36 is a knowingly old-fashioned French film directed by Christophe Barratier, whose previous effort, The Choir (2004), received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

It’s spring 1936 in a working-class Paris neighborhood, and friends Pigoil (Gérard Jugnot), Milou (Clovis Cornillac) and Jacky (Kad Merad) are unemployed. The local music hall where they worked, the Chansonia, closed its doors at the beginning of the year. Pigoil’s young boy, Jojo, earns meals for his father and himself by playing accordion on the streets, but police catch him and put him in the custody of his estranged mother. Amid worker strikes, mounting election support for the left-wing Popular Front, and fascist opposition, the three friends move to occupy the theater, hoping to stage a hit show that will allow them to buy the property from the criminal town boss, Galpiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). A glimmer of promise arrives when Douce (Nora Arnezeder), a beautiful young singer, auditions to emcee the show.

Embracing the clichés of classical era films and those set in Paris-musical cues accompany dramatic entrances, a romantic nighttime tête-à-tête is framed with the Eiffel Tower in the background-Barratier juggles comedy, drama, sentimentality, and musical theater with affection and bright-light splendor. Arnezeder, a relative newcomer, sings five songs in the film, and her vibrantly photographed performance of “Loin de Paname” is a star-launching moment. (

Author rating: 7/10

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May 24th 2011

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