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Paris 36 (Faubourg 36)



It's Paris, 1936, and the winds of war are circling. The depression has created hard economic times, and the Chansonia Music Hall just to north of the city has closed down leaving three show biz workers out of a job. Stage hand Pigoil is worried he could lose custody of his 12-year-old son. Milou is a hot-headed electrician and a ladies' man who is determined to have his voice heard. Jacky sold sandwiches there but has his own dreams of starring on stage. When fate intervenes, the three get the chance to produce a show that could save the theater and change their lives forever.


A superlative French cast is led by veteran Gerard Jugnot as Pigoil who brings gravitas and warmth to the central role. Kad Merad steals all his scenes as the hapless Jacky whose talent for imitation leaves something to be desired. Comedy legend Pierre Richard returns as the mysterious Monsieur TSF who makes the dream possible, while Clovis Cornillac gets all the nuances of Milou down pat. Best of all, as Douce, a young girl hired for the big show is first-timer Nora Arnezeder, a major new talent who bewitches with dual acting and singing abilities that make her one to watch.


Co-writer and director Christophe Barratier more than confirms the promise he showed in his first directorial effort, The Chorus, another music-heavy project for which he received two Oscar nominations. With the help of a first-rate production team, he has created a part of Paris that may never have really existed but personifies the romantic ideal we have of the City of Lights. His purely delectable and visually enchanting film is a throwback to the kind of musicals we don't see anymore. And the song numbers, all in French, are just sensational.


There's a little bit too much emphasis on French politics of the time, but overall this is a wonderful cinematic valentine to an era long gone.


A Busby Berkeley-style song and dance number is lots of fun to watch and recalls the best of the Warner Bros. musicals of the '30s.



Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.