What’s it mean when a French movie features the Eiffel Tower with a frequency more befitting an American couple’s vacation slide show? Avenue Montaigne
, with its eponymous street full of actors, moviemakers, art collectors, authors, and classical musicians, is an export-ready tourist fantasy just begging some American critic to call it “A Gallic delight! As light and satisfying as the perfect soufflé!”
Not that it isn’t digestible: the cast is uniformly agreeable, starting with gamine goofball Cecile de France as a provincial girl turned café-waitress-to-the-stars. Her naiveté functioning as social lubricant, she becomes the point of entry to the anxieties of a gallery of continental sophisticates: the soap star rehearsing a belle époque farce and courting an American director (Sydney Pollack playing himself, unconvincingly) planning a Sartre-de Beauvoir biopic; the widowed, happily gold-dug connoisseur auctioning off his collection to the consternation of his religion-prof son; the concert pianist feeling stuffy in his tuxedo. Co-writer/director Danièle Thompson can polish a homily with a dinner party-ready sheen of Parisian wit and wisdom (“at your age you build a home; at my age you buy one”), and the editing’s got smarts to spare. And Thompson’s evenly distributed affection for her cast is warming, even if it’s just a matter of wanting them to appear charming.
In addition to the de Beauvoir-Sartre film, and the Brancusi sculpture valued at several million Euros that serves as a metaphor for the continuity of family, the list of names dropped in Avenue Montaigne includes but is by no means limited to: Nelson Algren, Monica Bellucci, Georges Feydeau, Fernand Legér, Amedeo Modigliani, Mozart, and Scorsese. Feel cosmopolitan yet?
Opens February 16 at Lincoln Plaza, Angelika