‘Revoir Paris’ Review: Recovering Fragments of Memory

When Mia, the heroine of the tense French drama Levoir Paris, thinks about the night that changed her life, her face looks like she’s lost all emotion, as if she’s left everything empty. Months ago she survived a terrorist attack, but she now remembers little of what happened that night. All she leaves behind are vivid pieces that cannot be pieced together, such as images of a birthday cake with burning candles and images of a constant pelting downpour. It may have been a foreign country in the past, but for Mia, it is still partly in ruins.

“Levoir Paris” is a song about sadness, pain, and the next day. More central is how trauma alters memories, sometimes shattering or distorting them. So I mean it’s about storytelling, and the stories we tell, and stories about ourselves, and it’s about identity. This assault shaped her life for Mia and came to define her. She survived now. But catastrophe is still out of reach. “Maybe I’m not ready to talk yet,” says her well-meaning friend, not realizing that without her memory Mia still can’t tell her full story. .

The film begins on a seemingly normal day, but the instrumental music and piercing violin sounds add a pronounced pathos. For Mia, the emotionally lively Virginie Efira, it starts with morning coffee for her and a cup of food for the cat. Then she heads to her day job as a translator, riding around town on a Triumph motorcycle. (Yes, she’s independent. Yes, that makeup is too appropriate.) Later, she has dinner with her lover, the surgeon Vincent (Grégoire Colin), but he’s back to work soon. It’s decided. She went home alone, but it started to rain, so she stopped at another bistro to get out of the rain.

The question is what happened next. It’s an empirical fact skillfully crafted by writer-director Alice Winokur into a tense existential mystery in which Mia is both victim and lead investigator. One of the things that makes this mystery so powerful and moving is that she likely knows exactly what happened. On November 13, 2015, Islamic State militants launched a series of coordinated terrorist attacks using guns and explosives in Paris. During the assault, 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the Bataclan concert hall and other parts of the city. Winokur said in an interview: My brother was among the concert-goers at the Bataclanhe survived.

Levoir Paris begins on the morning of the raid, but as soon as the raid ends the story jumps forward several months. The story begins with Mia examining a jagged scar on her abdomen in her infirmary. Although she has left Paris to live with her mother, Winokur skips that interlude entirely. Instead, it follows Mia as she goes about her daily routine while beginning a reenactment of her night. As her past recurs in elliptical bursts, and in longer passages, Mia’s dismembered memories of her gradually form a coherent whole, making her one of the harrowing narratives in her story. be the author.

Winokur’s approach is discreet and direct. For example, on the morning of the attack, Mia dropped a wine glass on the floor and shattered it while flopping around in the kitchen, an ominous omen that hours later the bistro floor would be a carpet of broken glass. was. Winokur largely avoided showing the visceral terror of the night, eschewing horrific sights in favor of shocking pinpricks—gasp-like screams and footage of unshod feet. Winokur has all the tools at his disposal—narrative compression, coherent camerawork, sharp editing, ethereal scores, and crushed facial expressions—to powerfully convey the indescribable.

As it unfolds, Revoir Paris becomes dangerously over-plotted. Mia interacts with a group of survivors, including a teenager (Nastya Golubeva) who lost her parents in an attack, and another hapless restaurant patron (Benoit Magimel). The three share memories, sometimes more, form an ad hoc support group, and Mia embarks on an unconvincing search for another survivor, Assan (Amadou Nbou). You’ll be stepping into a side street. But despite having too many complications, Winokur remains quite astringent to keep Batos at bay—a tale of emotional realism about what it really means to survive. It should be called a sensation. Together with the finest ephyra, it invites tears obediently.

Louvoir Paris
Unrated. French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. at the theater.

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