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Paris is a (yet another) paean to the City of Lights.

Written and Directed by Cédric Klapisch, Paris is definitely not heavy, but it’s light in all the right ways. It features well drawn characters, a sense of joie de vivre, and enough cross cutting between multiple story lines to remind us we’re all in it together. There are no answers, no Crash -like climax, just a simple slice of life in the city.

Part of the appeal is the detail of Blu-ray
Part of the appeal is the detail of Blu-ray

If there is a main character, it’s probably Pierre (Romain Duris). In flashbacks we see he was a dancer in a flashy stage show, smiling and glittering and shaking his jazz hands. He’s been diagnosed with a serious heart condition and his sister Élise (Juliette Binoche) moves in, bringing her children with her. Both of them wonder if they’ll ever find love again, though for now they seem happy to look out for each other.

Another thread centers on the sellers at their local market. Two men share a sometimes good-natured rivalry, though a third seller, a woman, inspires their jealousy. They’re more rough-and-tumble than the siblings who live upstairs, never getting much higher up than the docs and warehouses at street level.

Yet another thread features a history professor (Fabrice Luchini) with a specialty in the history of Paris. He agrees to go on-camera to popularize what he knows about Paris. Off-camera, he falls for one of his students, which throws him off kilter and sends him to a shrink. It’s not enough to keep him from pursuing a relationship and, as only French films seem to get away with, she reciprocates.

Some minor characters fill in the corners — a bigoted bakeress, an Cameroonian emigrant, and friends and lovers of the other characters. Paris is a rich place, they seem to say, with millions of stories, only a handful of which fit into 2 hours.

DVD Extras

The extras on this Blu-ray release are split into three easy-to-digest segments.

The Music is a refreshingly rough bit of footage of the two key musicians doing their jobs. This is not a slickly produced feature of well-lit talking heads. It’s late-night sessions in front of the keyboards and monitors, discussing which takes capture the soul of the film. There is a little explanation from Klapisch about his process, but even he seems to have been interviewed at midnight after leaving the studio in the hands of the composers.

Likewise, Production Design is footage of craftsmen doing their jobs, building sets, fleshing out architectural details, and rigging lights and backdrops. Klapisch has more to say in this featurette and he sounds a little full of himself. He says that Paris is a blend of New Wave street filming and Hollywood-style studio shooting, but really, in 2010, that’s not such a revolutionary mix.

There is also a Behind the Scenes / Making Of documentary.

Picture and Sound

Part of the appeal of Paris on home video is the chance to see the city in high definition. Paris does not disappoint. Although the film is largely set in interiors, there are many cutaways and establishing shots offering finely detailed bird’s-eye views of Paris. Picture quality is impeccable.

What I didn’t expect was a groovy, cool mix of music a la Buddha Bar; a blend of classical (Eric Satie’s first Gnossienne) and electronic (including a mellow riff on Satie) that hits the spot.

How to Use This DVD

Work up your enthusiasm for a little armchair travel, and settle in for a character-driven tour of Paris. Pick an extra feature if the music or sets move you.