A Mermaid in Paris
SONY PICTURES RELEASING (2020)
Director: Mathias Malzieu
Starring: Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marilyn Lima, Rossy de Palma, Lola Bessis, Romane Bohringer
Fantasia Festival 2020 Selection
A Mermaid in Paris...it just sounds fantastical and romantic, especially when presented with its original title Une sirène à Paris – I can hear it in my head now. Written and directed by Mathias Malzieu (who also wrote the corresponding novel), A Mermaid in Paris is the story of how a man stumbles across a wounded mermaid on the flooded banks of the Seine and takes her in, seemingly proving to be the only man immune to her deadly siren call that has lured many men to their untimely ends.
Gaspard (Duvauchelle) is the man impervious to the call, he’s a vintage singer at his family’s legendary but failing river club, the Flowerburger. He claims that he feels nothing anymore due to his heart being broken and destroyed so when Marilyn Lima’s seductive sealady, Lula, arrives, can he remain unmoved by love or will the two create a unique bond? That’s the question that thunders the movie along and, of course, it gets a resolution but the journey in getting there is what provides the magic – and this is a magical movie. With shades of Jeunet and Gondry, Malzieu sets up a Paris damaged by floods and delivers off-kilter set pieces, both garish in colour and dripping in mundanity depending on the location and it’s all very deliberate – there’s a distinct look to the movie, an almost dreamlike gloss at times that elevates the fantastical elements. The relationship and chemistry between Gaspard and Lula is excellent, allowing for some fun comedy and sweeter, romantic moments in an unlikely relationship but this isn’t a riff on The Shape of Water, A Mermaid in Paris focuses more on the fun of the situation and personal issues in comparison (it has been compared to del Toro’s movie and Amelie also) and feels like more of an energetic jaunt than del Toro’s movie. It’s a classic love story through a different lens and it’s successful because you believe in the characters, they’re portrayed in ways that you can engage with – a subplot including Gaspard’s neighbour Rossy (de Palma) would feel out of place and detrimental in another movie, but given the fantasy element it works here (though another subplot including a character hell-bent on revenge wasn’t entirely necessary but doesn’t detract). The journey Gaspard and Lula go on together is wonderful and allows for Paris to be displayed in all its glory (it’s an incredible city). It’s the visuals that help to propel the movie, the characters and music (both soundtrack and in-movie) are great but it’s the distinct visual style that compliments the fairly conventional narrative.
If you can buy into the fantasy story and elements and bring that sense of disbelief and wonder, you’ll enjoy A Mermaid in Paris as much as I did – I was mesmerised by this movie. A classic love story bursting with incredible visuals and wonderful music set in the city of love itself, A Mermaid in Paris is a charming, sweet and dazzling fantasy experience.
August 28th 2020