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a paris education review
The travails of a young film student in the French capital.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jean-Paul Civeyrac

Starring: Andranic Manet, Diane Rouxel, Jenna Thiam, Gonzague Van Bervesseles, Corentin Fila

a paris education poster

There is a moment within the vacuous, self-absorbed sequences which constitute Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s A Paris Education (occurring at about, oooh, half an hour in) where a hint is given that, yes, as you hoped all along, the film is perhaps a canny satire of the vain, empty and humdrum film students whom the narrative has thus far followed as they take part in a practical/taught cinema course in Paris. Unfortunately, the moment (a lecture which touches upon Umberto Lenzi and Aldo Lado as part of the "second Italian Renaissance" - represent!) passes pretty quickly and the awful truth once again descends, and your fears about the potential tedium of the remaining running time are given merciless weight.

a paris education review

I am of an optimistic nature, and so when the film opened with Etienne (our cinephile hero, played by Andranic Manet) giving his long term girlfriend a copy of 'Wuthering Heights' as a parting gift, instead of laughing at the jejune action, I thought how lovely and innocent the cliché was. He’s only a kid really, he doesn’t know any better. But, as the film trudged along, and Etienne is given an unimpeachable romanticism, I realised that Civeyrac, in fact, wants us to take the gesture seriously. JFC. Cue the sighing accents of Parisian students in the throes of ennui; sucking on Gitanes, shagging each other and chatting shit about the nature of cinema to the backdrop of one of the most amazing places on the planet.

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To be fair, this is a situation we’ve probably all fantasised about at some point in our lives. But that’s the thing about dreams: when you write them down, or tell other people about them, you’re often disappointed by how objectively prosaic they are.

a paris education review

This, by the way, is all shot in heavy pewter monochrome, for no reason other than it artificially makes everything look a bit more serious and arty. The plot is loosely built around Etienne’s lack of self-belief (Zzzzz) and his competitive relationships with other people on the course. Problem is, it doesn’t really ring true. A Paris Education never captures film students as they really are; creative, interested, committed. This is an idea of what film students are according to hack perception; an unimaginative archetype of serious young men and women arguing about integrity, a dead platitude which you would have thought had been eroded by the potential for DIY filmmaking and viable streaming platforms.

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Furthermore, Etienne is such a jammy little sod, it’s hard to emphasise with him. For a start, he’s gorgeous, and this biological fluke allows him to have it off with every woman he comes into social contact with (although not, disappointingly, any fellas, which would have given the film at least a Rules of Attraction type thrill factor). This boringly denoted fortune reaches a jaw dropping apex when, in a protracted filler sequence, Etienne decides to stalk a girl whom he spots in the street all the way to her home. Instead of calling the police or confronting him, she instead flirts with Etienne from behind the gated door of her apartment block. It is meant to be charming and cute. It is actually jaw-droppingly ill-judged.

a paris education review

I realise that a film blogger complaining about how dull a film about people pontificating about film is, is shaky ground (it is worse than that: Etienne’s licentious existence seemed to uncomfortably mimic mine to such an extent that even the tone of his iPhone is the same one I use, and I checked my phone at least twice before I realised it was my spiritual doppelganger’s ringing up there on the screen; as if the film was trolling me), but this really is the pits. I did like seeing the French editions of the books which are precariously heaped next to Etienne’s bed, mind: the ones with white covers and a discretely central painted image. If you are also a fan of the immortal design choices of French literary publishers, then perhaps you might too find something to enjoy in A Paris Education. Otherwise this might be a lesson you can bunk off.

A Paris Education is on MUBI UK now.