With her new film Paris Memories (Revoir Paris), Alice Winocour continues her exploration of traumatised bodies and PTSD that has defined all of her films to date.
Paris Memories is the opening night films of Film at Lincoln Center’s Rendezvous with French Cinema. The film will be released in the US by Music Box Films in June 2023.
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With Paris Memories (Revoir Paris), Alice Winocour continues her exploration of traumatised 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 hollows 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 gets drawn back 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 traumatised 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. While Winocour has elicited great if more animalistic performances before, especially from Soko in Augustine and Schoenaerts in Disorder, Efira’s performance is full of restraint.
Mia feels like someone who has been hemmed in by her trauma, losing not just her identity but her ability to move confidently in the world and find joy or interest in anything. Because Winocour doesn’t externalise Mia’s trauma in the way she did with her first two films, 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, and the space seems to hold these memories. Likewise, Paris Memories and Disorder very effectively use sound design to get us inside the traumatised headspace of their protagonists.
Alice Winocour’s male characters
Winocour is particularly gifted at writing male characters who are neither perfect nor romantic heroes, but realistic in 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, we see that in Benoît Magimel’s Thomas, a fellow survivor with whom Mia forms a bond because he’s the only one who can remember everything. 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, and only for a short time, they are what the other person needs to survive, and they help each other through the trauma. Similarly, Mia spends much of the film searching for the cook, Assane (Amadou Mbow), whom she hid with during the shooting. She doesn’t have unrealistic expectations of becoming best friends; 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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