MOVIE REVIEW: Lost in Paris

(Image courtesy of Oscilloscope Studios)

(Image courtesy of Oscilloscope Studios)


In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “sight gag” is defined as a “comic bit or episode whose effect is produced by pantomime or camera shot rather than by words.”  The results vary in creativity from lowbrow to highbrow.  The absolute master was Buster Keaton, whose work could teach clinics.  It’s an art too often lost on the chatty comedies of today that over-explain or over-hammer wordy jokes to death.  Two filmmakers and performers that can be counted as masters and purveyors of this comedic medium are the husband/wife team of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon.

Lost in Paris is an exceedingly charming ditty of a comedy from the duo.  The film envelopes three very different “lost” people in the City of Lights and is presented in overlapping character-coded chapters.  Each follows their respective character’s pratfalls and screwups through the course of their fateful intersections.  It is playing in limited release in New York with expanded cities and dates coming soon.

The first wayward soul is Fiona (Gordon), a nebbish and clumsy Canadian librarian living in a perpetual blizzard beyond her workplace doors.  She receives a mistakenly lost and delayed letter from her beloved Aunt Martha (Amour Academy Award nominee Emmanuelle Riva) living in Paris.  Swirling with dementia, Martha urgently was trying to warn Fiona about orders to have her moved to a senior living facility.  Eager with vigilance and saddled with naivety by more than her enormous hiking backpack adorned with a tiny Canadian flag, Fiona jets to Paris to help her aunt, hoping she’s not too late. 

Through her wacky mistakes, Fiona crosses paths with the film’s next castaway, the homeless Dom (Abel), a derelict vagrant not above pissing in front of tourists into the Seine.  Selfishly resourceful, he comes upon Fiona’s lost backpack and claims its contents, everything from the money to women’s clothing, all for himself.  The two become smitten as more hijinks ensue. Through it all, Martha has made a run for freedom evading her hospice nurse and finds herself wandering the city streets and briefly running into an old flame named Duncan (supreme farceur Pierre Richard).  In humorous fashion through the clear fun Riva is having playing the character, Martha is always a coincidental step or two away from reuniting with Fiona or getting tangled in Dom’s silliness.  

Lost in Paris weaves its yarn with clever panache.  It’s a surreal jaunt that juggles the cheekily uncouth with the innocently sweet inside its ever-present sense of whimsy.  Perfect framing from the cinematography team of rookie Jean-Christophe Leforestier and frequent Abel collaborator Claire Childeric will remind American audiences of Wes Anderson, only this looks more organic than choreographed.  Fans of Wes’s films will find much to like in this foreign endeavor.

Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon are nostalgic and skilled geniuses.  Both in front of and behind the camera, the spouses have created a triumph of physical comedy filled with unpredictable errors, adorable characters, and burlesque stylings.  Anyone can break from a stroll or conversation into a dance or extended gag.  The pristine editing from Sandrine Deegan and the buoyant local musical flavor highlight and enliven those winning moments.  There’s a great deal to love about Lost in Paris.  Seek this little gem out if you admire such throwback comedy. 

LESSON #1: TAKE WHAT YOU WANT WHENEVER YOU WANT-- Most of the blunders that beset our characters stem from Dom’s opportunistic behavior.  Because he’s a man that possess next to nothing, he also tends to care about next to nothing as well.  He drifts on his own quest of self-centered gratification.  Honestly, it works for him and it’s freeing to watch him live for the moment and the pleasures.  More of us could take a page or two from his dirty newspaper.

LESSON #2: ONLY ONE OR TWO DETAILS SEPARATE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY FROM BEING COMPLETELY LOST-- Details matter and you can never be too thorough.  A number off here, a minute difference there, an inch short in one place, the wrong word translated, a forgotten punctuation mark, or more can build to or create potential calamity in one moment or perfection in another.  There’s joy to be found in such volatility sometimes.