Avenue Montaigne Movie Review

An absolute must for Francophiles and a great choice for anyone who loves a vibrant ensemble dramedy, Avenue Montaigne is a bustling delight, a slice of Parisian artistic life that will have you dialing Air France the morning after you see it.

Set in Paris's small theater district, the movie tracks the intersecting lives of a virtuoso pianist, a successful actress, and a rich old art collector, each of whom is facing a huge life change. The connections between them are facilitated by Jessica (Cécile De France), a young and innocent country girl who has arrived in the big city and taken a job at an atmospheric cafe patronized mainly by the artistic types who live and work nearby.

Jessica is thrilled to wait on her favorite TV star, Catherine (Valérie Lemercier), who is appearing in a play across the street. A fiery, larger-than-life thespian, she's a hilarious bundle of nerves, the Parisian version of an Almodóvar heroine. All she wants is to be cast as Simone de Beauvoir in an upcoming biopic, but to get the part she'll have to convince the American casting director (Sidney Lumet). She gives it her all at an uproarious dinner meeting during which the two destroy both French and English while trying to communicate.

Concert pianist Jean-François (Albert Dupontel) has had it with the grind. He's a genius, but he's ready to leave the circuit, build a house in the country, and play in hospitals and prisons and for people like Jessica, whose charming lack of musical knowledge makes him realize how sick he is of playing to the same stuffy audiences. His wife/manager has other ideas, however.

And the elderly and superrich Jacques (Claude Brasseur) is also in the neighborhood, supervising an auction at which he plans to sell his beloved and priceless art collection while his gold digger girlfriend hovers and his son Frederic (Christopher Thompson) jabs at him for his distracted parenting and disrespect of his now dead mother. Again, it's Jessica and her admiration for one of Jacques's Brancusi sculptures that inspires both Jacques and Frederic.

Mix in Valentine (Laura Morante), the vivacious and soon-to-retire chief usher of the theater, a woman who wanders its dark halls blasting classic French pop tunes on her Walkman, and you've got a potent blend. Now stir and enjoy.

Writer/director Danièle Thompson (her co-writer is her son Christopher, who plays Frederic), has an intensely powerful feel for the neighborhood she captures. Every detail is perfect. The film looks and sounds great, from the croissants in the café to the lovely theater interiors. Bits and pieces of the Eiffel Tower are almost always present in the background as Jessica darts across the street in her waitress uniform to make food deliveries to the concert hall or the theater.

All the characters face their life-changing decisions with authentic surges of fear and enthusiasm, and Jessica, who thinks she's merely observing all these dramatic lives, is actually egging them on without even realizing it. She's simply delightful, and it's a pleasure to watch her work her subtle magic on this crowd of fascinating people.

Aka Fauteuils d'orchestre.

Le poisson was theese beeeg, I swear!

Comments

Avenue Montaigne Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 2007

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