Review: A Paris Education
by Fabien Lemercier
- BERLIN 2018: Jean-Paul Civeyrac offers a splendid piece of fiction, full of scope, charm and mastery, with some excellent performances from young actors
"Men travel in manifold paths: who traces and compares them, will find strange figures come to light." It's with this quote by Novalis that the film A Paris Education [+see also:
interview: Jean-Paul Civeyrac
film profile], unveiled in the Panorama section at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, by French filmmaker Jean-Paul Civeyrac begins, following a very personal journey through the world offilmmaking. His talent has gone far from unnoticed since his debut at Venice in 1996 (with Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam) and the various sections of the major international festivals that have punctuated his evolution (the Berlin Forum in 2002, Locarno in 2003, Toronto in 2005, the Directors' Fortnight in 2010 with Young Girls in Black [+see also:
film profile]), but his infamy has remained somewhat confined to the walls of pure cinephiles who love cult writers, as though a secret to be exchanged by insiders. A Paris Education marks the end of this state of things. Civeyrac is a great director and his new feature film, with all its exceptional cinematography mastery and magnificent fiction, easily and delicately contains indisputable proof of the fact.
Sumptuous black and white film, rich in a number of impressive shots that weave together a plot that is both simple and yet very sophisticated, the film distils an irresistible timeless charm, realistic without being naturalistic, contemporary without being a slave to the times. But it would only be a very beautiful film worthy of admiration for its form, if not for the fact that it touches on three intermingled subjects that all have a high potential for identification. A young man from the countryside arriving in the capital (with his solitude and discovery of the big city), the artistic dreams of a small group of friends, and the twists and turns of romantic beginnings. Etienne's (Andranic Manet) film school peers gravitate towards him, especially the uncompromising and seductive Mathias (Corentin Fila) and the friendly Jean-Noël (Gonzague Van Bervesseles) but also a flock of girls: his love interest from the countryside, from whom he slowly distances himself (Diane Rouxel), his various roommates, such as fine art student Valentina (Jenna Thiam), activist Annabelle (Sophie Verbeeck), and finally the wise Barbara (Valentine Catzeflis). So many personalities who, with the ardour of youth, nourish the education of this young man and confront him with the truth and lies of his own desires and illusions.
Composed of four parts (“Un petit château de bohême,” “Un illumine,” “Une fille de feu,” and “Le soleil noir de la mélancolie”) followed by an epilogue, A Paris Education (whose script was written by the director after discovering Ilyich's Gate, a 1962 film by Russian director Marlen Khoutsev) perfectly captures the trial and error, brave outbursts, rebuffs and uncertain hopes of these young learning artists. From bars to apartments, from the university to the streets of Paris (beautiful walking sequences in the capital, day and night), Civeyrac concentrates a whole spectrum of cinematographic creation on a small area. And if its spirit is solicited by the multiple dialogues of an abundant narrator, it's the fact of knowing what these young people (all very well acted) really have in their hearts which prevails, a subject that is gradually pinpointed with a lot of subtlety, without any narrative force, but by the grace of a mise-en-scène perfectly placed between intensity and detachment.
(Translated from French)
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