Review: ‘Paris: xy’

A West African living in France succumbs to multicultural malaise in "Paris: xy," the modest yet keenly observed sophomore feature from Zaire-born helmer Zeka Laplaine. Although too slight to make a strong theatrical statement, stylistic echoes of French New Wave-era Paris will earn pic festival attention.

A West African living in France succumbs to multicultural malaise in “Paris: xy,” the modest yet keenly observed sophomore feature from Zaire-born helmer Zeka Laplaine. Although too slight to make a strong theatrical statement, stylistic echoes of French New Wave-era Paris will earn pic festival attention and maybe even some specialty dates, followed by regional ancillary action.

After 10 years in an interracial marriage to Helene (Sylvia Vaudano), moody and self-absorbed clothier Max (Laplaine) watches her walk out at about the same time he learns his Arab partner Paco is hitting on his mistress, singer Keba. As Max mopes around a gray City of Light decked out for the holidays muttering “I hate Christmas,” encounters with Helene’s father, a gynecologist pal and a marabout, or seer, serve to confuse more than comfort. Laplaine creates a complex character at once selfish and sympathetic, with unity of other players subtly underscoring pic’s unforced theme that interpersonal relationships are much more important than racial considerations. Tech credits are evocative on an obvious budget, with B&W DV lensing of Octavio Espirito Santo updating the look of a vintage Truffaut pic via the immediacy of digital imagery.

Paris: xy

France

Production

A Les Histoires Weba/Bakis production. (International sales: Mercure Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Zeka Laplaine. Executive producer, Michael Krumpe. Directed, written by Zeka Laplaine.

Crew

Camera (B&W, DV-to-35mm), Octavio Espirito Santo; editors, Sarah Taouss Matton, Cathy Chamorey; music, Papa Monteiro; production designer, Thierry Tourant; sound, Branko Neskov, Marc Nuygart. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Planet Africa), Sept. 9, 2001. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Sylvia Vaudano, Zeka Laplaine, Pilou Ioua, Lisa Edmonson, Moussa Sene Absa.
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