Year: 2017
Director(s): Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Writer(s): Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
Region of Origin: France

Rating: n/a
Color, 83 mins

Synopsis: Fiona visits Paris for the first time to assist her myopic Aunt Martha. Catastrophes ensue, mainly involving Dom, a homeless man who has yet to have an emotion or thought he was afraid of expressing. (Source)

Comedy is a vast pool of possibility, yet the genre has taken a turn stateside, mostly reduced to a slew of raunch romps without much beyond fleeting knee-jerk reactions. Watching a film like Lost in Paris, from comedy duo Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, reminds us of how skillful the genre can be, bringing to life artful laughs through classical discipline a la Charlie Chaplin or Jaques Tati. Blending clever choreography with a story about feeling lost in an alien world, the pair have crafted an infectious film that pays tribute to the bustling energy of Paris, celebrating the inexplicable bonds we find in the most unlikely of places. Gordon and Abel are a team that can’t be missed, pulling double duty behind and in front of the camera for an adventure full of whimsy and technicolor sights.

When Fiona (Fiona Gordon) was just a child, her grandmother Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) moved to Paris in search of more. As an adult, Fiona is content in her snow-swept, humble town, but alarmed when she receives a message from the senile Martha. Without hesitating, Fiona makes her way to a city that feels foreign to her small town eyes. What she finds, is that Martha has gone missing, leading Fiona on a wild goose chase with only a few ominous leads at her disposal. Making matters worse, Fiona, excited and overwhelmed by the city’s sights and sounds, loses her luggage and phone during an impromptu photo op, leaving her to navigate a cultural divide with little less than the clothes on her back. Throwing things even further into disarray is Dom (Dominique Abel), a vagrant who finds Fiona’s belongings and is instantly smitten. Fate brings the two together early on, and a comedy of errors ensues.

Watching the film, one can’t help but have the biggest grin from ear to ear. There’s truly a craft to what Gordon and Abel have pulled off, creating two endearing characters unwittingly longing for connection. As Fiona and Dom navigate social pleasantries gone awry, uproariously defamatory eulogies, impromptu dance numbers and a snowballing sense of desperation, the film mixes in bittersweet revelations about life, love and everything in between. Though everything feels spontaneous, Gordon and Abel meticulously film each gag with precision, playing upon misconception, miscommunication and visual trickery to highlight a story of souls lost and found. Throughout, Fiona and Dom are sailing ships passing in the night, with each encounter only dialing up madcap laughs and a friendship that carries a rare type of sincerity. Though there is dialogue, Gordon and Abel rarely need it – the film’s best laughs and plot advancements coming from well-timed visual reveals and gags. The film’s not-so-secret weapon turns out to be Emmanuelle Riva, who’s Martha experiences her own poignant journey, culminating in a resonant climax with a bird’s eye view, both literally and metaphorically.

As a comedy with a distinctly human slant, stars Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel are in top form. Gordon’s unassuming Fiona is an utter delight, conveying innocence and wild-eyed wonder through delicate physicality and surprising dexterity. Gordon’s moves feel like a dance, navigating her surroundings with spring in her step. Abel’s Dom is just as great, roaming the city with a sly irreverence and oddball charm. He’s a firestarter that we can’t look away from, prodding and pushing the hornet’s nest in the best way. Both performances tread the line between caricature and pantomime, finding emotional common ground through Gordon and Abel’s honesty. As mentioned, Emmanuelle Riva is not to be glossed over, giving the story its dramatic heft and soul. Riva has a few standout moments of her own, always glowing with mischievous aplomb and a sweet natured glint in her eye.

Lost in Paris has a big heart and packs in tons of surprises. It’s a shame that there aren’t more films like this one, a reminder that comedy can be more than toilet humor or cheap laughs, but something that speaks to deeper aspects of human nature with childlike purity. From the choreography to the colorful moods and tones of its characters and setting, Gordon and Abel’s film is a crowd-pleaser that flies by with the impact of a lightning bolt, striking with a bold command of hilarious misadventures and disappearing far too soon.

SG