‘A Paris Education’ (Mes Provinciales) Review: Melancholy Musings On Life And Cinema

Etienne (Andranic Manet) leaves his family and loving girlfriend to attend film school in Paris. Once there he makes some friends, sleeps with some ladies and tries to improve as a film maker. Most beguiling is his relationship with the mysterious Mattias (Corentin Fila) who appears periodically to criticise the mediocrity of modern film and urge Etienne to be provocative and discover some deeper meaning in film.

This is a film about the process of making film. Etienne seems to have very little to actually say compared to the people he meets. He has no great political cause like Annabelle, or a yearning to expose his life like Héloïse. He merely knows that he wants to, but is seemingly terrified of being mediocre or derivative. The film’s characters have much to say about film and call out many modern directors as being derivative. It’s a little unfortunate that all of this black and white self-reflection reminded me of Jarmusch.

The characters are fairly pompous and arrogant, but the film is almost an argument in favour of artistic arrogance. It’s about having the nerve to know that what you have to say is important, and that challenging the status quo is in and of itself a worth thing to do. Stylistically the film is stripped of anything terribly sophisticated, favoring simple coverage. This is perhaps a statement against artificiality. The film therefore is very much driven by it’s dialogue. It’s a movie in which characters embody positions rather than people.

There is, though, a humanity at the heart of this film. Andranic Manet gives a very convincing performance as the self-obsessed artist in turmoil. His struggle to relate to those around him is painful. He’s supported by a cohort of wonderful female performers playing his potential love interests, all of whom leave him for different reasons.

A Paris Education is a fairly charming nostalgia piece that effectively recalls the angst and excitement of being young and surrounded by people angsty and excited. It does succeed in it’s stated aim of capturing something of life, even if it is being young and a little irritating.

Three Stars

A Paris Education has it’s UK Premier at the London Film Festival on Wednesday the 10th of October at the Odeon Tottenham Court Road. 

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