Gallic low-budgeter “Doo Wop” is an appealing debut for shorts helmer David Lanzmann (“Dirty Socks”), even if it advertises its influences a smidge too flagrantly, particularly “Breathless,” “Mean Streets,” and the work of John Cassavetes. Mostly hand-held camera tracks hipster Ziggy (Mikael Fitoussi), a band manager on the run from gangsters, as he zips around the neon-streaked streets of Paris. Although plot is somewhat cliched, pic’s tone has a springy looseness to match the funky soundtrack. Modest returns can be expected from the recent bow in Gaul, but “Doo Wop” might harmonize with young Francophiles as a niche release abroad.
Twentysomething Ziggy (sexy newcomer Fitoussi) wakes up in the run-down Parisian hotel where he lives, thinking this is just going to be another hot summer’s day. While hanging out with a buddy in front of a hotel where Francis Ford Coppola is supposedly staying, he sees ex-g.f. Marie (Caroline Ducey, “Romance”). The two awkwardly catch up over coffee, an encounter recorded in one long static take. Same one-take aesthetic applies in a later, finely played scene where Ziggy reveals to some friends that he realized he loved Marie only after she left him five years ago.
Gradually, it emerges Ziggy has much bigger problems than commitment phobia. He owes E4,500 to loan sharks, and, the funk band he manages, Les Chaussettes Sales (literally “Dirty Socks” –also the name of Lanzmann’s first short), gets stiffed by the management of the nightclub they perform at, resulting in a minor brawl.
Judging by facial expressions in a park-set scene where Ziggy and Marie speak — but the audience can’t hear them (an homage to Coppola’s “The Conversation”), Marie doesn’t want to pick up their relationship where they left off.
A chance meeting with Bulgarian barmaid Maya (one-time Hal Hartly-regular Elina Lowensohn) offers a faint ember of romantic hope — as well as an apartment where Ziggy can hide. Signs, especially visual allusions to Godard’s “Breathless” and Cassavetes’ “Killing of a Chinese Bookie,” suggest Ziggy is heading for a doomed fate, but writer-director Lanzmann opts for a fairly soft ending.
It’s all for the best: Anything too melodramatic would break the pic’s laidback gossamer spell.
Lanzmann, also the film’s editor, displays a strong sense of rhythm as he thickens the plot slowly, but still takes time to linger over quieter or less consequential moments. There are a lot of p.o.v. shots from Ziggy’s car window as he drives around the bright lights of boho Paris, for instance, and perhaps a few too many where the camera ogles Fitoussi’s admittedly comely features, which sometimes makes the pic feel like a moving “L’Uomo Vogue” fashion spread.
Widescreen lensing by Pascal Lagriffoul (“Olga’s Chignon”) in mostly natural lighting dances gracefully around the thesps, at one point zooming in super close to fill the screen with just eyes or mouths during a seduction sequence. Sound design by Ferdinand Bouchara is similarly playful and inventive.