Paris 36 In Theaters
"Paris 36" - Spring 1936 - in a working-class district in the north of Paris, a neighborhood that probably had a name once but that everyone now simply calls the Faubourg. At the top of the hill, a view over Paris to one side and, to the other, the burgeoning suburbs of the city. A small square, a few shops, lopsided buildings, cobbled streets and the peeling façade of the neighborhood music hall, the Chansonia. In this blue-collar neighborhood, the triumphant election of the Popular Front government is greeted with enthusiasm and hopes for a brighter tomorrow, yet stirs up all kinds of extremism. Among the new government's promises, the famous law on paid holidays that will allow numerous workers to see the sea for the first time.
In early May, three inhabitants of the Faubourg, show-business workers and close friends, do not share other people's wild hopes, the Chansonia, the music hall that employed them, closed down four months earlier, leaving them all unemployed. Pigoil (Gérard Jugnot), a stage-hand, thirty years with the Chansonia. Without a job, he could lose custody of his 12-year-old son, JOJO (Maxence Perrin)and have to give up his plans to take him to see the sea. MILOU (Clovis Cornillac), a hotheaded electrician and a skirt-chaser. Symbol of the "workers aristocracy," spokesman for every kind of demand, he is determinded to "change the world."
JACKY (Kad Merad), former sandwich man at the Chansonia. After carrying aroundthe names of stars on his sandwich board for years, Jacky has started dreamingthat he will be the king of the music hall himself one day. Convinced that he has a talent for imitation, he continually seeks engagements that he never finds. Supported by the locals who live to the rhythm of Monsieur TSF's (Pierre Richard) radio, the three friends decide to take hold of their destiny: they try to force the hand of fate by occupying the Chansonia and producing the "hit" musical that will allow them to buy the place. Each one of them has different motives but they all share the same goal: finding new balance in their lives.
In addition to their lack of experience, they have to deal with the hostile antagonism of the neighborhood "godfather", Galpiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), and come to terms with the arrival of a mysterious and attractive young singer, Douce (Nora arnezeder). The dream of a whole neighborhood, can the Chansonia "rise from its ashes" in this joyous month of June?
STARRING: Gerard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad, Nora Arnezeder, Pierre Richard, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Maxence Perrin, François Morel, Elisabeth Vitali, Christophe Kourotchkine, Eric Naggar, Eric Prat, Julien Courbey, Philippe Du Janerand, Marc Citti
DIRECTOR: Christophe Barratier
STUDIO: Sony Classics
RATING: PG-13 (For some sexuality and nudity, violence and brief language)
THEATER COUNT (Opening Weekend): 2
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours
LANGUAGE: FRENCH (With English subtitles)
"Paris 36" - HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
A story of friendship, a story of love and brotherhood - PARIS 36 is all these, to be sure. But it's probably more than that, since it turns on the sometimes conflicted but always affectionate relationships between three friends - Pigoil, Milou and Jacky - all struck head on by unemployment (a consequence of the 30's financial crisis) - as well as Douce a pretty young girl from the provinces who has come to Paris looking to hit it big and Monsieur Radio, an aging musician whose unhappy love affair has led him to withdraw from the world around him.
It's the end of 1935, on the eve of the new year and the setting is a working class neighborhood in Paris - a neighborhood dreamed up for us by Christophe Barratier drawing on Montmartre and Ménilmontant, two former villages annexed by the capital, which they overlook from atop their modest hillsides. This imaginary town, where a provincial life can still be lived in its entirety is perceived in sumptuous panoramic shots and through several luxurious and decadent cabaret scenes.
Now this probably calls for a few explanations. While the Paris quarter in the film is surely a product of Christophe Barratier's poetic fantasy, it nevertheless reflects an historic reality. Paris, at the time, did indeed possess dozens of small concert venues and especially vaudevill music halls. These popular pleasure centers also drew a part of their patrons from industrial quarters, thus forming a vast admixture where social barriers have not yet been set up.
History with a capital H also comes into PARIS 36 with the explosion of the "POPULAR FRONT." In the spring of 1936, the poorest classes of French society sweep aside the old political guard of a French republic riddled with financial scandals and immoral manuvering. Answering this groundswell of support mustered by leftist - socialist, communist and anarchist - a violent reaction was organized among the right-wing nationalists, openly fascinated by the triumphant examples of Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. That reaction is represented in PARIS 36 by the S.O.C., a fascist-leaning quasi-military militia.
It is in that historical context that our three friends join together and try to revive the dream of the old Chansonia theater, threatened with demolition. Three comrades with a passion for music, love and liberty will make their stand there, attempting to strike down the ambient brown plague, that hulking beast which has already spread through Europe and which is about to drag the entire world with it into the grips of war.
Pierre Philippe Historial Consultant on PARIS 36