Lost in Paris (2016)

In Lost in Paris Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon create magical physical comedy in a surreal series of coincidences.

Objet trouvé

by Alexa Dalby
Lost in Paris

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

The lives of three unusual characters interlock in a surreal quest around Paris. Deep in snowy Canada, gangly bespectacled Fiona (Fiona Gordon) receives a plea for help from her 88-year-old aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) who has lived in Paris for decades. The authorities consider she’s acting strangely and want to put her in a retirement home. When Fiona arrives in Paris, a fish out of water weighed down by her massive rucksack with a Canadian flag on top, her aunt is missing so she’s all alone, but she meets a mischievous, dishevelled homeless man Dom (Dominique Abel), who joins in her search.

Writers and directors Gordon and Abel, burlesque performers and also a real-life couple, have made a surreal, heart-warming, beautifully executed Tati-esque physical comedy filled with visual gags and with sparse dialogue (what there is, is in a mixture of French and English). Newly arrived and posing for a touristy photograph on a bridge over the Seine, the weight of Fiona’s backpack sends her toppling over the edge (the resulting picture comically shows a pair of legs disappearing into the water). She loses everything – her bag, passport and money. Though later, in Maxim’s, she and Dom rumba together with elastic grace, made all the more striking since he is wearing her lost yellow jumper – “I have one just like that”, she marvels. But in an intricate series of coincidences, whose significance, like this one, is not realised as they happen, her life interlocks with Dom’s, and also his with Martha’s in a way that makes his pop-up tent elevate, and eventually Fiona’s search for Martha comes full circle.

Like Amelie or Zazie dans le Métro, Paris is a magical city where extraordinary things can happen. As in Zazie, the iconic backdrop of the Eiffel Tour has a crucial role, though Lost in Paris also boasts a Canadian mountie on secondment. The late Emmanuelle Riva, who died in January, shows an surprising talent for comedy after her award-winning dramatic role in Amour and there’s a touching scene where she and Pierre Richard (another French screen legend) do a soft-shoe shuffle sitting on a bench in Père Lachaise cemetery that turns into a musical. It’s that sort of film – creating a world of its own that’s totally improbable and also rather lovable.

Lost in Paris is released on 24 November 2017 in the UK.

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