Movie review: A Lady in Paris

By Peter Calder

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Jeanne Moreau (right) as Frida illuminates A Lady in Paris. Photo / Supplied
Jeanne Moreau (right) as Frida illuminates A Lady in Paris. Photo / Supplied

The second octogenarian veteran of the French screen in a month to show up in our cinemas (after Emmanuelle Riva in Amour), the great Jeanne Moreau, illuminates this intimate drama whose substance doesn't quite match its exterior polish.

Moreau plays the title's lady, an elderly expatriate Estonian called Frida, who seems more like a hell-hound when Anne (Magi) arrives from the old country to be her caregiver. Anne leaves little behind in snowbound Tallinn - an overlong opening sequence shows us that her boyfriend's a drunk and her elderly mother has just died - and a new life in Paris seems attractive.

But Stephane (Pineau), who has hired her, hadn't mentioned that the client is rude and unmanageable: she violently objects to being locked out of the medicine cabinet ("Nobody has ever told me what to do"), condescends to the dowdy and provincial newcomer and throws tantrums that are all the more disturbing for being icily controlled.

There's a rather striking revelation at the mid-point which increases the emotional complexity, but the characters are all somewhat underwritten.

We have no idea why Frida ended up here in such luxury (her fabulous clothing and the apartment's sumptuous interiors are among the movie's incidental pleasures) or why she (conveniently for Moreau) refuses to speak her native language.

The film is instead content to skim the surface of the characters' lives, while being a showcase for Moreau's undimmed star power.

Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Laine Magi, Patrick Pineau
Director: Ilmar Raag
Running time: 94 mins
Rating: M (sexual references) In Estonian and French with English subtitles
Verdict: Moreau's still big; it's the picture that is small

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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