Film Review | Woody Allen looms large in Paris-Manhattan

Alice is bright, attractive and enjoys her career as a pharmacist. When it comes to love, though, the 30-something Parisian is a bit of a malcontent, constantly striking out. She pushes good men away yet takes up with a handsome married man, with no real promise of a future together.

If only life were like the movies — a romantic Woody Allen film, to be precise. In Alice’s make-believe world, the iconic director is her true love and her confidant, the person to whom she turns for advice and consolation.

“Paris-Manhattan”

“Paris-Manhattan” is a charming French film that probably would easily slip under the radar for audiences in the United States. Fortunately, the romantic comedy will be making its Bay Area premiere as part of the East Bay Jewish Film Festival on March 12.

Warm and funny, “Paris-Manhattan” follows Alice (Alice Taglioni), whom we first meet briefly as a 15-year-old tomboy type in Paris smitten with the Manhattan-centric Allen.

Years quickly skip by, and we meet up with her 12 years later, as a young woman living on her own. A large black-and-white poster of her nebbishy prince charming is posted on a wall in her flat, DVDs of his films are scattered about and the voice of Allen often dispenses advice to the unsettled Alice.

All of this gives Alice a much-needed lift. “He makes me laugh the most,” she explains when a suitor asks why she is so taken with Allen.

It doesn’t help that Alice’s father is constantly butting into her love life, trying to find her a partner. “He stole my business cards again,” she complains to her mother, after her father hands out her cards to men at a social gathering.

Family looms large in this film. There’s Alice’s doting father (who insisted his attorney wife not work in order to raise their two daughters); there’s her secretly alcoholic mother (who is largely unhappy because she aborted a promising career at her husband’s insistence); and there’s Alice’s sister, Helene, (who married the man Alice met first, and now has her own family problems).

When Victor enters the picture — he has been hired to install an alarm system — Alice hardly bats an eye. It is only later, when he brings an invoice to her father at home (dad owns the pharmacy), that things get interesting. The entire clan is gathered for Shabbat dinner and Victor is invited to join them. Sparks fly as Alice and Victor take jabs at one another, though in a friendly way.

When a hilarious, foiled holdup occurs at the pharmacy, Alice and “the alarm man” have a more extended encounter and an odd-couple relationship builds, even as Alice continues to see her married lover.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say that everything changes when Victor has an accidental rendevous with the real Woody Allen (who makes a cameo appearance).

It’s a happy ending, for sure.


“Paris-Manhattan”
screens at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at the CinéArts in Pleasant Hill. In French with English subtitles. (Rated PG, 78 minutes)

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.