Lost in Paris (2016) starring Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon (Arrow Academy)
An accident-filled journey
Fiona Gordon plays Fiona, an accident-prone Canadian woman whose aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) had relocated to Paris when she was young. Some 30 years’ later Fiona suddenly receives a letter from her as she is about to be moved into an old people’s home.
Fiona, spurred by a long-running desire to visit Paris herself as well as helping her aunt out of her predicament, decides to fly there in order to pay her a visit. However, things go comedically wrong from the start, in particular when she asks to get her photo taken on a bridge overlooking the River Seine. Her huge red backpack unbalances her, causing her to flip back over the edge and into the water below. She sinks to the bottom and escapes drowning only after extricating herself from the pack. She’s alive, but she’s lost all of her belongings.
Later when she heads for Martha’s apartment she discovers from a neighbour that she has left. Fiona is now left wandering the streets of Paris in search of her aunt. Meanwhile, a homeless man named Dom (Dominique Abel) has got hold of her backpack and is quite happy to make use of her money and items.
Watch a trailer:
A movie marriage
Although not so widely known in the UK or US, the real-life married couple Dominique Abel (from Belgium) and Fiona Gordon (Australian-born, brought up in Canada) have long been popular in France and Belgium for their physical comedy double act. As well as several stage shows they have made four feature-length films together (including this one) as co-stars, co-writers and co-directors.
Along with the huge number of bittersweet physical gags there is a genuine sense of artistry and passion here that lifts it well above the average cynical Hollywood comedy vehicle for the likes of Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell. This is evident right from the opening animated time-lapse shot of a colourful but snow-covered Canadian coastal village as more and more buildings pop up over the years, representing Fiona passing from childhood towards the present day. The day-glo colours, largely profile-based shots and sliding transitions imbue a feel similar to the Belgian comic strips of Hergé and his ilk. The film’s Pulp Fiction-style interweaving of multiple character threads (jumping back and forth in time and viewing from different perspectives) is also surprisingly smart, especially during the scenes around Martha escaping from a nurse visiting her flat.
Fiona and Dominique have an evident ability to play off each other even when their characters are absolute chalk-and-cheese as we see here; Fiona is mousy and gawky, whilst Dom is hilariously uninhibited. However, while I appreciate the overall artistry on display in Lost in Paris I find the duo’s slapstick style a little too twee and affected at times. I admittedly did laugh on occasion but tend to prefer a little bit of subtlety and build-up with my comedic embarrassment. Toni Erdmann (2016), for instance, worked much better for me because Peter Simonischek’s character’s outrageous behaviour comes out of believably naturalistic settings rather than the colourfully quirky ones seen here.
On the other hand, the film’s warmth and generosity are hard to knock. There’s a charming and unpretentious subtext about the fulfillment of life’s dreams which pays off at the conclusion. It’s also a nice and appropriate send-off to actress Emmanuelle Riva, who passed away shortly before it went on general release.
Runtime: 83 mins
Dir: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Script: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Starring: Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Emmanuelle Riva, Pierre Richard
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
Since it’s a recent film it obviously looks and sounds great. The colours are incredibly rich and the detail pin-sharp.
Abel & Gordon: The Quest for Burlesque
An affectionate video essay by Variety critic Peter Debruge looking at the comedic couple. He examines their style of films and the comedic tradition that they fit into known as burlesque - as in the French for slapstick rather than the bawdy dancing style. He also discusses the supporting roles by Emmanuelle Riva - a highly regarded French actress who rarely appeared in comedy - and Pierre Richard, who was himself part of the burlesque tradition.
Walking on the Wild Side
A 2000 short by Abel & Gordon, which features Abel as a socially awkward man who falls in love with a woman (Fiona Gordon) whom he mistakes for a prostitute. When he hires her he finds out that she is a cleaning lady. Various comedic complications and embarrassing predicaments ensue. This extra is a lot of fun as it builds up to a hilarious climax involving a precarious dangle from a tall building. In fact, as far as I am concerned, this small dose of the duo’s comedy slipped down somewhat more comfortably than the feature-length main event.
A two-minute short starring the green tent from Lost in Paris.
The extras are rounded out by a theatrical trailer.
As lovingly crafted as it is, your own level of enjoyment of Lost in Paris largely depends on how much you enjoy burlesque slapstick comedy acts such as Jacques Tati. The film looks and sounds fantastic in the Blu Ray format and the selection of extras is small but neat.