A Paris Education (Jean-Paul Civeyrac, 2018)
What’s this all about?
A provinciale goes to Paris to learn about cinema but doesn’t learn much about life because movies, dear readers, don’t teach you about anything.
My friends know little to nothing about movies. They confused Robert Redford with Zach Galifianakis and think Paul Newman is a salad dressing. It's fine. I don’t mind not talking to them about Terence Davies or the upcoming Roy Andersson feature. That’s why I publish reviews on this website and have a Letterboxd account. The only friend I had who knew about cinema was an obnoxious guy who hated movies such as In the Mood for Love or The Tree of Life and, worse, hated people who liked those films. He accused all of us of snobs. Calling him a friend, I suppose, is an exaggeration.
Sometimes I long to have friends I can watch movies with. Sometimes I would like to share my opinions with someone I know so it doesn’t feel like I am putting messages in a bottle and sending them out to sea. But then I watch things like The Dreamers or A Paris Education and I realise that maybe I don’t need it that much.
A Paris Education is a movie about cinephiles for cinephiles where young people share quotes by Pascal, watch films like The Colour of Pomegranates and rightly shade Paolo Sorrentino’s filmography. With a style reminiscent of the Nouvelle Vague period, the film follows Etienne, an intelligent wannabe filmmaker, who neglects all of his friends and lovers as he’s more concerned in pursuing a career in cinema than in, you know, worrying about the rest. A Paris Education is not so much a love letter to creativity and imagination as it is about the way we place our passions above everything else. Etienne’s ultimate goal in life is not to start a family or fight for good a cause but to become the next Jean-Luc Godard, which it is highly respectable, but sometimes, to achieve that, you need to be more open and approachable.
Even though Civeyrac purposely makes Etienne as a non-entity—shy, unemotional and lacklustre—it is hard to believe that all the girls and boys he meets along the way have an instant crush on him, as the only interesting fact about Etienne is that he’s surrounded by people who are actually interesting. Etienne is not necessarily an unlikable protagonist like my so-called friend who hates Wong Kar Wai and Terrence Malick, but A Paris Education would have benefited from a livelier lead character like the know-it-all Matthias or the passionate Annabelle or the always-enthusiastic Jean-Noël.
By the end of A Paris Education, our anti-hero Etienne comes to the conclusion that we might live for the movies, but that doesn’t make us better people.
After Matthias commits suicide, Etienne realises he hardly even knew the guy he admired so much, which happens quite often with our crushes and idols. We worship them in such a way, we believe they’re perfect and forget they can be as troubled or conceited as anyone else.
Matthias’s death is tragic, but Jean-Noël’s quarrel with Etienne is also heartbreaking as both friends had struck up a lovely friendship and they never see each other again after Jean-Noël rightfully snaps.
The last image that emulates the scene from Marlen Khutsiev’s I Am Twenty that Etienne, Matthias and Jean-Noël loved so much.
He likes me because I love Boris Barnet.
An intellectual snob to the nth degree.
Jean-Noël would have liked this, but Jean-Noël has no criteria as he likes everything.
Matthias, on the other hand, would have hated it as it doesn’t take any risks and doesn’t feel as organic as he thinks all movies should.
A Paris Education is definitely the movie Etienne would have made, but I don’t think you can take this as a compliment.
Good companion pieces
Regular lovers (2005). All of the filmmakers around the world, did Civeyrac really need to emulate Philippe Garrel? Of course, A Paris Education is better than whatever Garrel’s done lately because, well, anything is, but mainly because it is not as affected and obsessed with adultery as Garrel’s filmography is.
If the viewer is not eager to watch I Am Twenty after the movie ends, then A Paris Education, as a film, has failed.
The supporting cast is impressive: Jenna Thiam nails her performance as the seductive Valentina during the brief 10 minutes she’s in the movie; Gonzague Van Bervesseles plays Jean-Noël with such warmth and tenderness that you wanna punch Etienne for losing such great friend; but let’s stick to Corentin Fila who manages to make Matthias an attractive personality even though he’s also an impertinent charlatan.
Pierre-Hubert Martin’s black-and-white cinematography really makes you feel you’re in Philippe Garrel’s universe.
Why am I watching this?
Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s Through the Forest is one the best movies of the 2000s
A movie about movies? I’m in.
For Your Consideration
Best Movie - Best Director: Jean-Paul Civeyrac - Best Supporting Actor: Gonzague Van Bervesseles, Corentin Fila - Best Supporting Actress: Sophie Verbeeck - Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Role: Jenna Thiam - Best cinematography: Pierre-Hubert Martin - Best ensemble cast