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RUNNING TIME: 101 Minutes
• Available Subtitles: English
• Available Audio Tracks: French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
• Making of
• Theatrical trailer
Watch the pretty people contort their faces into frowns! OR It’s hard out there for a concert pianist.
Cecile De France, Valerie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Claude Brasseur, Christopher Thompson, Laura Morante, Sydney Pollack
It was hard for Dagger to find work later on in her career.
Jessica comes to Paris looking for work, a place to live, and a fresh start. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when she applies for work at a bistro on Avenue Montaigne. Seen as sort of the cultural epicenter of the famed avenue where the working and upper classes meet, Jessica slowly ingratiates herself with some of the characters that converge at this point: the older gentlemen who is auctioning off a life’s worth of collected art (Claude Brasseur) and his son, a soap actress (Valerie Lemercier) longing to get her chance on the big screen and seeing that chance personified by a popular director (Sydney Pollack) in town casting for a picture, and a concert pianist (Albert Dupontel) who longs to get away from the stuffy confines of concert halls and return to the love of the instrument he once had.
The stage version of Dreamcatcher was substantially different from the film.
It’s a tricky thing, trying to get audiences to sympathize with ‘the upper crust’ of society. Oftentimes, the general idea seems to be ‘Hey look! They have the same problems too!’, but their characterizations feel so remote that there’s a disconnect that refuses to bridge the gap between actor and viewer. Luckily, Avenue Montaigne is a bit of entertainment that makes you care for the characters, perhaps because instead of being simply well-off, they’re artists whose craft we see them ply on screen and thus can sympathize with people who create beautiful things: One of my biggest pet peeves in many movies is that we’re supposed to buy that these characters are incredibly gifted at something specific, but we never actually see them doing whatever said talent is and instead are just asked to believe it (unfortunately the only movie coming to mind right now that is guilty of this is Jersey Girl, but many commit this crime).
"Don’t look at the Blue Man Group darling, it only encourages them."
The cover of the DVD suggest that this is some sort of Robert Altman-esque examination of these characters, but beyond the fact that director Daniele Thompson competently handles an ensemble cast, I don’t really see the connection. The final act of the film showcases some pretty solid editing between the numerous different subplots that would turn the film into a shitpile if in less capable hands, to Thompson’s credit. But what really makes the film work is the performances from the ensemble cast, many of which anchor the picture and give it an emotional throughline. Cecile de France didn’t really wow me in this role, as she’s something of an emotional void who works more as a device for the plot to orbit around, allowing us a connection between all of the much more well-developed characters who know her. The real gems come from Dupontel as the haggard concert pianist who is completely worn down by the meticiulously planned life his wife/manager, Claude Brasseur as the art collector auctioning off his past and Valerie Lemercier as the real comedic meat of the picture. All three manage to develop their characters despite having to split the screen time with numerous other actors, and their neuroses feel earned and real, which helps the audience sympathize with those who aren’t generally familiar to you. Pollack’s role is one of those tortured logic pieces where real directors exist and are referenced in the picture, but he’s playing a fictionalized director. A minor annoyance, but digestible. The performers are really what pulls the picture together and makes it more than just a trivial affair.
Which isn’t to say this is a particularly great film. It’s one of those “makes you smile”-type comedies as opposed to actually making you laugh (in fact, I think I may have only laughed aloud once), and your enjoyment of it may be related to your tolerance of those more easygoing attempts at comedy. Also, the female characters in this movie aren’t particularly developed. I guess that’s kind of interesting given the director, but the majority of the women are just there as a sort of prop for the men’s issues to played out against. Also, there’s a romance sparked late in the film that doesn’t feel quite right. It makes sense for one of the characters, but the other seems only to exist for the plot to revolve around them, so you never quite get a feel for why exactly they’d be complicit in this romance with the other character.
Same reaction he always gets from the Random Hearts fanbase.
Overall, though, I have to say that I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would. It starts out a little shakily, but gains its footing the longer it spends times with its characters. It works as an ensemble piece which at the same time shows the importance of art in the world and the different ways in which it affects people’s lives, from those who create it down to those who consume it.
All of the highlighted letters spell out a URL that leads you to a website where you play Pitfall backwards to get a 5-digit code that you enter into a prompt box on http://www.1-18-08.com which then leads you to a still image of John Leguizamo eating a bagel, where, if you invert the colors, reveals the monster to be MECHADEPARDIEU.
The cover art covers all of the pertinent details (Paris, check. Girl from Haute Tension, check.), although I wish they’d pull back a little bit on the image so you could see that she was gazing at MECHADEPARDIEU raging through the city. The film’s transfer is rather great, and it comes along with some French Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround, which differs from English Dolby surround with a certain Je ne sais quoi. On board is a theatrical trailer (Eiffel Tower collapses, onlookers rumored to say “It was a baguette! It’s huge!”). Pretty effective stuff. Also on board is a nice featurette on the making of the film that runs somewhere in the area of a half hour long. It’s not an overwhelmingly comprehensive look at the filmmaking process, but it’s the kind of thing you wish most DVD’s had, showcasing a little spattering of behind the scenes footage along with letting us in on a few of the trade secrets (watching Pollack discuss motivations behind dialogue was illuminating as was the reveal of how they pulled off showing our lead character seemingly like a piano virtuoso, something so seamless I didn’t even notice the veil had been thrown over my eyes) of the filmmakers. Entertaining and mildly enlightening stuff. Overall, a good date movie and a decent bit of comedy with some solid performances and assured direction. Reccommended.
7.0 out of 10