Lost in Paris

A Jacques-Tati-on-a-shoestring romance that never misses an opportunity for a sight gag or other lightweight silliness.

Formalistic whimsy is a tricky thing to get right. (It also existed long before Wes Anderson, but that’s another matter entirely.) Married couple Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s latest film Lost in Paris gets it right, creating a sort of Jacques-Tati-on-a-shoestring romance that never misses an opportunity for a sight gag or other lightweight silliness. Fiona (Gordon) is a tall, gawky librarian — the best kind! — in a snowbound Canadian town that might as well be the title locale from Dawson City: Frozen Time. She receives an overdue letter from her long-lost Aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva), beckoning to join her in Paris.

There, Fiona promptly loses her belongings and becomes involved with an average-sized tramp named Dom (Abel) who helps her track down Martha, though the increasingly dotty aunt doesn’t necessarily want to be found. The tone is so sweet and affable that the film almost pulls off the impossible feat of a cross-dressing joke that isn’t pointless and outdated. Lost in Paris also features the best scratchy-vinyl-needle-drop soundtrack since Woody Allen back when he gave a damn, much of it no doubt their favorite music, including Frank Zappa’s “Chunga’s Revenge,” and four uses of Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s “The Swimming Song.” Like formalistic whimsy, self-indulgence is tricky to get right, and Abel and Gordon do.

Lost in Paris
Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

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