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‘Dans Paris’ tour of French film history

By Ann Hornaday

The Washington Post

Movies such as “Dans Paris” are supposed to be catnip to film critics. A story full of erotic obsession, psychological angst and finally redemption – on Christmas Eve, no less! – in a film that serves as a kind of manic tour through French film history. Ah, l’amour! Ah, le cinema!

Ah, the boredom. Romain Duris (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”) and Louis Garrel (“The Dreamers”) star as Paul and Jonathan, brothers who are living with their father (Guy Marchand) in a cramped apartment outside Paris. (“Dans Paris” translates as “Inside Paris.” It’s ironic.) Paul, in the throes of a passionate breakup with Anna (Joana Preiss), spends his days curled in a fetal position of self-pity; Jonathan, the wacky, carefree one, tries to jolly his brother out of it in a scheme that takes him into Paris and the beds of three consecutive women.

Filmmaker Christophe Honore pays homage to nearly every classic of French cinema, from “Jules et Jim” to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”; his affection clearly lies with the New Wave, a loyalty he comes by honestly, having once served as a critic at Cahiers du Cinema. “Dans Paris” will delight aficionados familiar with its myriad references, and there’s no denying the appeal of Duris and Garrel. But once the source of the boys’ primal wound is revealed, the whole enterprise comes to feel as mechanical as the Bon Marche window display that serves as one of the film’s plot points.

“Dans Paris”

Unrated, 92 minutes

In French with subtitles. Contains nudity, graphic sexual situations and profanity.