VIRGIN TERRITORY: LOST IN PARIS 2016 dir. Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon

Since starting Film Classics Virgin, I’ve searched high and low through Virgin Territory of classic films, as well as having many Premature Evaluations of movies that could turn out to be classics. I’ve pondered if I’d ever find a newer film that stopped me in my tracks the same way some of the classics have, and friends, I’ve finally found it. That film? Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s latest feature, LOST IN PARIS, being distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories.

As a young girl in Canada, Fiona’s closest friend and relative, her aunt Martha, tells her that she’ll be leaving for Paris, France to become a professional dancer. Jump forward 30 years later, and Fiona has led a quiet life still in Canada. Lanky and awkward, Fiona is the personification of the POPEYE character, Olive Oyl. Sweet and sheltered, she dreams of bigger things and has lived vicariously by keeping in contact with her aunt. Sadly, her aunt writes in her latest letter, that people in Paris believe that she is going senile and are preparing to take her to a home for convalescing. Fiona feels it necessary to head off immediately to Paris, where she’s never been but always dreamed of visiting, to save her dear aunt.

After meeting a handsome mountie on an exchange program, Fiona makes her way to Martha’s home, only to find no one there, and her neighbor hasn’t seen her since an odd encounter a few days prior. Worried, Fiona takes to the street to find her aging aunt who is clearly showing early signs of dementia, only to be knocked off a bridge, and lose her belongings in the river. Those belongings are found by a homeless French man named Dom. With only a stray dog keeping him company, Dom roams the streets near the docks, in search of the finer things in life. You know: left-over food, wine, partial cigarettes.

After finding Fiona’s comically large travel pack, he finds himself with a new wardrobe and funds to get him into the floating restaurant he’s had his eye on. In that restaurant, Fiona, depressed as she has lost everything she brought with her, lost her aunt, and now, she only has food vouchers until the embassy is able to get her a replacement passport. Dom, post feast, wants to dance, scours the restaurant and after being turned down by every woman in the place, he stumbles upon Fiona and drags her onto the dance floor. What follows is one of the best dance sequences I’ve ever seen as it blends an excellent rhythm and choreography with an abundance of physical humor.

There are several tropes widely used in film, and expertly done so in the classics. We have the fish out of water, mistaken identities, love in unexpected places, and reunions of old flames. Have one of these and you have the basis for a strong story. LOST IN PARIS happens to meld all four themes into one beautiful tale without it feeling encumbered or overstaying its welcome. Fiona is the epitome of the fish out of water, sparks do fly in bizarre fashion, but to say any more would be giving too much away.

Abel (Belgian) and Gordon (Australian) met in France at a large international performing arts school. When the students were all set to go home, they were the only two that didn’t want to go home, so they came together and worked as a comedy troupe. (Source: Red Carpet News TV) They are very inspired by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Jacques Tati, so they allow a story to be told through actions and body movement, yet when they speak, they do so in a comedic way that only many years of practice and practice eventually leads to expertise.

Beyond Abel and Gordon, the stars/writers/directors, the cast is rounded out by Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) and her former dance partner, Duncan (Pierre Richard). Riva does a wonderful job of playing a woman that is still very spritely for her age of 88, and still extremely quick witted. Sadly, you can see that despite this, there is something off, and she is in need of help. Richard, playing her former partner and lover, is a sweet clown of a man, banking on many years of comedic work opposite Gerard Depardieu. The two share a truly heart warming dance without even leaving their seats on a bench. It lets us know so quickly how well they know each other, and how well they care for the other, even when they can barely care for themselves.

In most cases, while watching films for review, I’m able to get at minimum one solid watch in. And if I’m lucky, possibly two. With LOST IN PARIS, I went out of my way to watch the film a third time, and it still felt just as fresh as the first time. Each time as the closing credits came, I was smiling, feeling warm, like I’d just spent the day with a long time friend listening to The Beatles and laughing together. I’ve since tracked Abel and Gordon’s previous film, THE FAIRY, and found that I truly love their style of film making. But one thing is for sure, I’ll not be able to forget how discovering LOST IN PARIS felt any time soon.

LOST IN PARIS is opening in theaters in New York on Friday, June 16th, 2017. I will gladly be sharing when more release plans are available.

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