A LADY IN PARIS
Anne (Laine Mägi) leaves Estonia to care for ageing but proud Frida (Jeanne Moreau) in Paris, an elderly Estonian lady who emigrated to France long ago. Anne soon realizes that she is not wanted. All Frida wants from life is the attention of Stephane (Patrick Pineau), her younger lover from years ago. Stephane, however, is desperate for Anne to stay and look after Frida, even against the old lady's will. In this conflict of strangers, Anne finds her own way...
Review by Louise Keller:
At the grand age of 85, Jeanne Moreau steals every scene as the viperous grand dame, Frida, who demands the world pays attention, in this gentle but rewarding film from Estonian director Ilmar Raag. The catalyst for change is Anne (Laine Mägi), a downtrodden home carer from Estonia, who relocates to Paris to take care of the formidable Frida. There are three strands to the film's journey, the third belonging to that of Frida's former (younger) lover Stéphane (Patrick Pineau) who, as the only person that Frida wants to see (and possess), exists in a draft of guilt.
The film begins in Estonia when we bear witness to the extremely tough life that Anne (Mägi) leads, taking care of her ill, demented mother. The funeral almost seems like a relief. It's Paris so jump at the chance, Anne's daughter tells her when the job opportunity arises to take care of an elderly Estonian living in Paris, although the mood is as melancholic as the song "si tu t'apelle melancholie". The contrast between the frumpy Anne in her dowdy clothes and the elegant Frida, wearing pearls and silk, designer couture as she sits in her expensive rose-filled apartment could not be greater.
Through Anne's eyes we get to know Frida, complete with her tantrums and rudeness. All Stéphane has told her is that Frida speaks her mind and the key of the medicine cabinet should be hidden. She learns from Frida that "a real croissant is something you buy in a bakery, not a supermarket". But it is also through Anne's eyes that we discover Paris complete with her beautiful shop windows, stylish perfumes and the spectacular vistas which she inhales with enthusiasm. (Notable are the two contrasting scenes at the Eiffel Tower - one filled with Asian tourists, the other without any people or distractions.) That's when life-embracing jazz starts to play and Anne's wardrobe begins to gain colour and chic.
The most satisfying part of the film is the way we learn about each of the three main characters, who in turn become interdependent. Mägi brings a gentle sincerity to the role of Anne, while Pineau gives us a glimpse of what Stéphane and Frida once shared in a surprisingly intimate love scene in which passion plays no part and nostalgia is the driver. But the film is all Moreau as the circumstances shift and the characters find themselves travelling at a new pace in a modified direction.
Email this article
A LADY IN PARIS (M)
CAST: Jeanne Moreau, Laine Mägi, Patrick Pineau
PRODUCER: Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto, Riina Sildos
DIRECTOR: Ilmar Raag
SCRIPT: Agnès Feuvre, Lise Macheboeuf, Ilmar Raag
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurent Brunet
EDITOR: Anne-Laure Guégan
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pascale Consigny
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 13, 2013