« A Dandy in Aspic | Main | So Sweet, So Dead »

July 25, 2023

Revoir Paris

revoir paris.jpeg

Alice Winocour - 2022
Music Box Film DVD

Hands are a key part in several films by Alice Winocour. The title character in Augustine is a young epileptic woman with a clawed left hand. After she takes a serious tumble, Augustine realizes her hand is no longer paralyzed and in addition to moving her fingers, she is apparently cured of her epilepsy. She is last seen running away from the medical institution which was as enlightened as might be expected in 19th Century France, that both improved her condition but also kept her imprisoned as a subject for experimental treatment. In Disorder, the right fist of the veteran soldier, used with powerful force to fatally punch a would-be kidnapper in the face, also forces the soldier to distance himself from the woman he has been hired to protect.

In Revoir Paris, Mia searches for the unknown man who held her hand in the darkness, among the people hoping to survive a terrorist attack at a restaurant. When Mia makes love with Tommy, another survivor of the attack, Winocour films close-ups of the hands of her actors caressing each other, exploring their respective wounds.

The French title translates as "Paris Memories" which not only sounds sappy but is misleading. Winocour's film was inspired by Bataclan shooting, one of several coordinated terrorist attacks that took place in Paris in 2015. Winocour's brother was a survivor of the theater massacre that left 90 people dead. Most of the film is about Mia's recovering of her memories of what happened that night. While not always signified as such, several of the fragmented memories are from Mia's point of view. The terrorists are only visible as partial black shapes. There are brief bursts of light illuminating the bodies on the restaurant floor. At one point, Winocour breaks to have the Senegalese cook, the man Mia is looking for, tell his story. The fragmented memories has its literal iteration in the form of a postcard, a small detail in one of Monet's Water Lillies paintings, the link a young woman has with her parents who were among the restaurant victims.

While the film does not discuss the identity or motivation of the terrorists, it is not entirely apolitical. By breaking the narrative to show the cook's point of view, Winocour touches upon how the Parisian restaurant industry depends of immigrant labor, some of which is extralegal. Mia connects with other survivors of the attack both as a means of remembering that which has been forgotten or blocked out, but also to verify her own memories. The psychological wounds such that even after several months, Mia finds it diffucult to resume her former life. Mia moves to a friend's apartment located across the street from the Place de la Republique. Winocour recreates the gathering of people who have annually gathered to memorialize the Bataclan shooting since 2015.

The DVD comes with interviews with Winocour and stars Virginie Efira and Benoit Magimel, plus a post screening discussion from the Cannes Film Festival of 2022.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 25, 2023 06:44 AM