Saturday, September 29, 2007

Movie Log: Avenue Montaigne

I think I added Avenue Montaigne to my Netflix queue on a whim -- or perhaps it was a recommendation -- and it came last week, also on a whim. (I saw three movies last weekend, and I'm still catching up.)

is French, and yet another example of the "several loosely related plots" genre, which I seem to be a fan of. (I keep seeing movies like that, and liking them, so I guess it must mean something.)

Jessica (Cecile De France -- and did you ever see a more portentous name in your life? I sincerely hope she didn't pick it herself) moves to Paris to seek her fortune on the advice of her aged grandmother, who did the same thing in her own time. Jessica gets a job at a cafe in a trendy, upscale district, purely because three major events will be happening simultaneously in a few days, and the cafe's headwaiter knows he'll need more servers on hand.

The three major events each supply characters and drama to our movie: there's a wealthy art collector who is auctioning off his entire collection, a classical pianist preparing for a major concert, and a famous actress from a TV soap opera appearing in a Feydeau play. We also have the general manager of the arts center (or whatever it is; her area of control seems to include both the pianist's concert hall and the actress's theater), who is retiring after a long career. She also shows up in the pianist and actress plots, but doesn't really have a plot-line of her own.

Jessica wanders through the lives of those three people, and their individual problems (the pianist hates the high-end circuit and wants to quite it; the actress want to play de Beauvoir in a movie directed by Sydney Pollack-playing-himself-with-a-different-name; and the art collector is somewhat estranged from his grown son due to his new young wife) are solved as Jessica affects them all. It's not quite Amelie, but it's not precisely trying to be, either. (But it's definitely along those lines.)

Nothing is absolutely wonderful about this film, but it's all professional and entertaining. De France and Valerie Lemercier (as the actress) are both quite good, and the rest of the performances (except maybe Pollack) are good enough to not call attention to themselves. If you enjoy the light, frothy kind of French movie (as opposed to the Catherine Breillat sort), you'll probably like this.

Oddly, this had a title change for the US release, though it wasn't dubbed into English. The original French title was Fauteuils d'Orchestre. I believe that means "Orchestra Seats," more or less, and is a phrase and metaphor that shows up in the movie. As an official Ugly American, I have no idea where Avenue Montaigne is or what it has to do with anything. So the title change was not entirely effective for me.

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