With its title having become a dirty word in the wake of the Princess Diana tragedy, Gallic comedy “Paparazzi” lives dangerously by milking humor from the exploits of kamikaze celebrity photographers. But the film’s moral distance from its protagonists’ profession goes some way toward allaying the problem, and the chemistry and charm of leading duo Patrick Timsit and Vincent Lindon (teamed previously in Coline Serreau’s “La crise”) goes further still. Like much mainstream French fare, however, this looks more likely to spark remake interest than to travel far under its own steam.
Photographed next to a philandering TV star at a soccer match while he should have been working, humble night watchman Franck (Timsit) is caught by his boss and fired when the pic makes the cover of a national gossip magazine. Too ashamed to tell his beautician wife (Catherine Frot), he goes to the mag’s editors to demand compensation. Initially unaware that he was responsible for getting him fired, Franck falls in with ace paparazzo Michel (Lindon), who makes the unwitting stooge his accomplice in ambushing another celebrity couple.
Seduced by the money and glamour of Michel’s world, Franck becomes increasingly difficult for the photographer to shake off. Timsit’s shtick as the nerdy underdog willing virtually to sell his soul is amusingly played off against Lindon’s cooler style and contrasting physical presence as the characters slip into odd-couple mode. Both partners plainly are willing to exploit the other, and before long, Franck begins adopting his mentor’s tricks and trespassing on his turf.
Using familiar but functional role-reversal mechanisms and steering hardened cynic Michel through an appropriate moral turnaround, the comedy makes all the requisite points about the dubious ethics of this kind of invasion of privacy without overstating them.
Director Alain Berberian paces the events agreeably, and Vincenzo Marano’s widescreen lensing is agile, though rather flatly lit at times. The one mystifying technical element is Franck Roussel’s espionage thriller score, which seems at odds with the comic tone. Backing up the engaging leads, Frot is amusing as Franck’s disconcerted but loyal suburban wife, and Nathalie Baye adds elegance as Michel’s lover, whose disapproval of his work partly triggers his reassessment. Celebrities making brief appearances as themselves include Isabelle Adjani, Patrick Bruel, Johnny Halliday and Carla Bruni.