With her new film Paris Memories (Revoir Paris), Alice Winocour continues her exploration of traumatized bodies and PTSD that has defined all of her films to date.
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With Paris Memories (Revoir Paris), Alice Winocour continues her exploration of traumatized bodies and PTSD that has defined all of her films to date: Augustine (2012), Disorder (2015), and Proxima (2019). Loosely based on Winocour’s brother’s experience with surviving a mass shooting, Paris Memories is the story of Mia’s (Virginie Efira) recovery from such an event. The trauma and the survivor’s guilt hollow Mia out. This pushes her to flee her life with her somewhat indifferent partner, Vincent (Grégoire Colin), who can’t understand what she’s going through. She keeps returning to the restaurant where the shooting happened. There, she meets with her fellow survivors to try to piece back together her memories so she can cope with them. The film follows Mia through all the stages of grief. It then widens the scope to her fellow survivors to paint a portrait of an unexpected and traumatized community.
The film Paris Memories (Revoir Paris) feels most closely connected to Winocour’s Disorder, a thriller about a soldier with PTSD who struggles to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Like Matthias Schoenaerts in Disorder, Efira gives a physical performance, unlike anything I’ve ever seen from her before. Winocour has elicited great if more animalistic performances before, especially from Soko in Augustine and Schoenaerts in Disorder. By contrast, Efira’s performance is full of restraint.
Mia’s trauma hems her in, and Efira plays her with such stillness. She has lost her identity and ability to move confidently in the world and find joy or interest in anything. Winocour doesn’t externalize Mia’s trauma in the way she did with her first two films. So Efira’s more cerebral performance feels more akin to Eva Green’s career-best work in Proxima. Like Disorder, Paris Memories also has a touch of gothic horror to it. Mia obsessively retraces her path inside the restaurant before the shooting to try to trigger memories. The space seems to hold these memories. Likewise, Paris Memories and Disorder very effectively use sound design to get us inside the traumatized headspace of their protagonists.
Alice Winocour’s male characters
Winocour is particularly gifted at writing realistic male characters who are well-meaning, if limited by their male privilege. This was especially true in Proxima of the protagonist’s ex-husband (Lars Eidinger) and fellow astronaut (Matt Dillon). In Paris Memories, Benoît Magimel’s Thomas is a fellow survivor who forms a tender bond with Mia. Thomas is the only one who can remember everything and understand Mia’s trauma. Of course, Thomas is less isolated than Mia. He’s still supported by his wife in his failing marriage, while Mia’s partner disengages.
There’s a gentle flirtation, but he’s married, she is not looking, and the relationship never goes beyond the platonic. In this time and this place, they are what the other person needs to survive. They help each other through the trauma. Similarly, Mia spends much of the film searching for the cook, Assane (Amadou Mbow). They hid together during the shooting. She doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of becoming best friends with Assane; she just needs to know he’s okay for closure.
You may also like our other articles on Alice Winocour’s films before Revoir Paris (Paris Memories)
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