By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Fantasia Festival 2020
Played Aug 27 & 30th, 2020
Mathias Malzieu is a type of French movie maker whose output is very minimal because he’s the front man to a very active music band, Dionysos. The last film is an exquisite and haunting Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (2013). One detail I noticed is in how the soundtrack in his latest film is like this prior work because of one signature tune over variance. It works with the last film because of the cyclic motif, but here it doesn’t quite ring.
More music is needed in the live action Une Sirène à Paris. Gaspard (Nicolas Duvauchelle) has one song to win Lula’s (Marilyn lima) heart, and it’s ironic because usually it’s the other way around on who woos whom. The translated title is A Mermaid in Paris, which may seem unusual. Anyone who knows their classical mythology will recognize a siren (usually more bird-like than fish) no matter how it said in another language. She’s a mythical creature whose sweet melody lures sailors to their death.
This crooner was once an artist. He broke up with another girl some time ago and, as a result, is hardly productive because he no longer believes in love. This movie is the opposite of Baz Luhrmann‘s Moulin Rouge. Part of it is due to how Gaspard and Lula’s inability to love brings them together, and another part sees them helping each other out–perhaps destroying the last vestige of their humanity. Half fish? No problem. Plenty of them are in the sea when he takes off, looking for her, and I can only see problems. Despite the danger this half woman-half fish represents, the boy is immune to her spell and needs her.
In Paris, romance is in the air more often than naught, and it’s nice to see the challenges of giving life to a broken heart. To see Gaspard keep it going may require a new drug formed by a mermaid’s tears, but will he take it? In what Lula offers is a chance at rebirth. This theme is more often explored in Japanese manga than not. Traditionally water is symbolic of new beginnings. Malzieu nicely works the meaning in and cinematographer Virginie Saint-Martin‘s underwater sequences are beautiful to watch. It represents an awakening of Gaspard’s senses.
What happens next is straight out of Ron Howard’s Splash than any other work. Even Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid hardly changed the formula up too much. In del Toro’s The Shape of Water, the heroine joins the alien lover in the sea. With Malzieu’s piece, this man is certain to sail to his doom similar to Homer’s The Odyssey to chase a dream. A continuation is possible as I love the mythology to which this producer is building upon. But sadly, he doesn’t make a lot of movies. I would love for him to use Georges Méliès Under the Seas as inspiration. It needs more world building and a proper finale to make it stand.
3½ Leagues under the Sea