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Tivoli Theatre Presents – After Hours Film Society – Revoir Paris

September 25, 2023 @ 7:30 pm

Reviewed by MaryAnn Johanson | flickfilosopher

A deeply humane, delicately constructed journey through trauma and recovery that cuts like a knife and soothes like a hug, somehow, miraculously, managing both bundles of feeling at the same time.

It feels like a precious gift, the latest film from French director Alice Winocour, a delicately constructed journey through trauma and recovery that cuts like a knife and soothes like a hug, somehow, miraculously, managing both bundles of feeling at the same time.

Paris Memories (aka Revoir Paris) is unexpectedly gentle about the thing that it’s about: the shattering of mundane normality that is modern urban terrorism. At least after the sharp shock of how Winocour (Proxima, Mustang) depicts the shooting spree at which Mia (Virginie Efira) is present. No quarter whatsoever is given to those who perpetrate violence, and rightly so. They are not even afforded the human dignity of faces… and rightly so. We are wholly with Mia — we are Mia — while gunshots and screams echo as she cowers under a table; the gunmen are nothing more than briefly glimpsed anonymous legs and feet stalking the restaurant where she’d stopped for a drink on her way home one evening. We hold our breath with her as she plays dead, hoping to survive the next few minutes…

Jump to a few months later, and she has survived, but with suppressed memories of the event. Is it better to remember such horrors, or to forget them? For Mia, the not-knowing is worse, and she needs to reclaim that night in order to move on. She returns to the restaurant, where, she discovers, other survivors gather weekly to commemorate and commiserate. And the manner in which she discovers this is yet more of Winocour’s humanity, which is — as with her other cinematic emotional conundrums — dreadful but also hopeful and compassionate: the waiter behind the bar recognizes Mia’s shell shock as she enters the restaurant, offers her a free coffee, and kindly but offhandedly points her toward those others who were spared and are still trying to process the experience.

The nonchalance of this unnamed spear-carrier character might say it all: this is life today, all of us struggling to make sense of the senseless. Not just the overt random violence of active terrorism but the subtle random violence of … you know… everything. Of a world falling apart, of human connections that are deliberately severed by the cruelty of how we’re running our societies. As with the half-remembered kitchen worker from that night that Mia is desperate to find, to thank him for helping her… but he was likely undocumented, and so cannot show up for survivors’ gatherings and must lie low.

Paris Memories is wholly Efira’s movie: Mia is a reserved, logical woman, a translator by profession, but the actor uses the tiniest, finest of facial expressions and body language to scream Mia’s pain and, more importantly, her disconnect between Before and After. Her partner, Vincent (Grégoire Colin), a doctor, and by all evidence a Good Guy, seems suddenly remote, not through any fault of his but because he is unable to understand what she’s going through; he was not present for the attack. Mia finds new, perhaps (probably? and maybe that’s exactly right?) fleeting succor with another survivor, Thomas (Benoît Magimel), who was celebrating his birthday with coworkers that horrible night. Amidst the performative if also surely heartfelt but also still bullshit of candles and flowers left at a public memorial, clinging to someone else who has actually endured the same nightmare you have feels like… something? At least?

This is the deep, distressed humanity of Paris Memories. It has nothing definitive to offer. It has no answers, no solutions beyond what we already know but often — way too often — forget: That comfort and healing are found in those who understand — really know — what we’ve been through. If we’re even lucky enough to find that.

$7.00 Members | $11.00 Non-Members
5021 Highland Avenue  |  Downers Grove, IL
630-968-0219 |  classiccinemas.com
We apologize—Movie Pass cannot be used for AHFS programs


September 25, 2023
7:30 pm