Review: Lost in Paris dir. Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon

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Written, directed by and starring clown-trained duo and couple Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, Lost In Paris features their signature whimsical style and is a charming romp into the French city of light. Fiona Gordon stars as a small town Canadian librarian suddenly called to Paris when her aged Aunt Martha (the late Emmanuelle Riva) sends her a distress letter. Packing up her things, Fiona leaves her ordinary life and sets out on a backpacking adventure, only to discover Martha’s disappearance when she arrives. In her search, she encounters Dominique (Abel), a hobo in the streets who’s absolutely obsessed with her.

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Lost In Paris is a film that’s absolutely bursting with life. Off-kilter humour is all abound as the comedic duo pull off incredibly choreographed slapstick stunts. But in between these laughs are unexpectedly beautiful shots. Fiona falling into the Seine in an attempt to get her photo taken sees the camera plunge into the blue-green waters beneath, an underwater shot that seethes with grace. A midnight sexual fantasy turns awry as the camera pans out to reveal that Fiona and Dom are dreaming in separate beds, a well edited shot that brings the comic elements home. And Emanuelle Riva, in a turn from her more serious roles, has a jubilant, youthful energy inside of her that comes out in full force as she brings the handyman in for a kiss, while still delivering that same flair for genuine emotion as she shares strong onscreen chemistry with Pierre Richard.

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There’s the sense that one has stepped into an actual circus as one fully immerses into the eccentric, wonderful world of Lost In Paris. Against quaint, gorgeous backdrops that add elegance to the burlesque, it’s a film that’s poignant, beautiful and reassuring all at the same time, an innocent charm and an urgent serendipity  to it that makes Lost In Paris triumph of comedic cinema in the 2010s. 

An Interview with Dominque Abel and Fiona Gordon

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We spoke to Lost in Paris directors and actors husband/wife duo Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. Read the interview in full below:

Bakchormeeboy: Tell us about how you two met, and how you two decided to start working together?

Fiona: We met in the mid 80s, when we were both at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq school in Paris. We never worked together at all in the two years we were in school together. After school, a lot of people went back to places like Japan, Italy and England, and the two of us, we just looked at each and decided we didn’t want to go home and to give this theatre a try. Over the years, we worked with a couple of other people, but ultimately decided to work as a duo and develop physical comedy with each other.

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Bakchormeeboy: What was it like working with the late Emmanuelle Riva?

Dominique: Originally, we never thought of working with her. But then somebody showed us a video she did in Amour, during the Oscars, where she danced around in a Superman cape in Paris, fooling around. We realized she had a fun side to her as well, and really mischievous. We met in a nice restaurant and when we met her, we immediately felt at ease and just kept laughing throughout our conversation. She’s a bit like a wild cat, and when we told her that, she really responded to the way we directed, and enjoys actors like Buster Keaton. She’s quite fragile, so we really wanted to make the filming process comfortable for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t know she was ill and passed before we were able to show her the final cut, but we like to think that she’d have enjoyed it and made for a good swansong. 

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Bakchormeeboy: Why did you decide to shift your medium to film instead of live performance? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

Fiona: We’ve always wanted to do cinema, but didn’t know how to do it. somebody would always film our shows and it’d be terrible because they’re intended as live performance, not film and the camera can’t capture the same effect. We started experimenting with small cameras, not understanding how to go about it. We eventually saw a clip that was a bit musical comedy, and realized our film didn’t have to be completely naturalistic and still do it like how we do onstage, more like a painting than realistic. 

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Bakchormeeboy: What makes you love doing what you do so much?

Fiona: The clown work we do is very personal and often takes along time, and we’d like to spend more time on a single film one day. We’re not really gifted improvisers or entertainers, but we like to rehearse and improvise in the privacy of our rehearsal space and there’s always a few second or a minute that seems worth developing and feels good. 

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Bakchormeeboy: What makes comedy funny?

Fiona: There’s really no rules. We were watching the film Toni Erdmann, and the director said she didn’t know when she was filming it that it was going to be funny. Somehow there has to be some distress released in some way through the laughter in contrast with the comedy. As clowns, our goals is to make people laugh, but also to be careful about the kind of laughter we evoke. We want it to be profound but not pretentious, far from the kind of ‘fast food’ laugh where you laugh and forget why after.

Lost in Paris is in UK cinemas 24th November

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