A Mermaid In Paris (Une sirène à Paris), directed by Mathias Malzieu (the mind behind the animated feature Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart), is likely as whimsical as you’d hope for it to be. If I had to sum it up, I would say this is like Splash and Amélie had a baby, and Moulin Rouge is that baby’s cool aunt; but that overly simplifies it. The movie dabbles in magical realism before plunging into surrealism. A disclaimer: It isn’t horror, but there are dark elements (the concept of an irresistible siren serenading you to your ultimate demise will forever be a horror story indeed). The French title of Siren sounds a hell of a lot less cuddly than a mermaid. Also magical realism, surrealism and Amélie specifically… are my jam. I’m also a lifelong Francophile. So here we have it, don’t be misled by my covering it here and go in expecting horror. Not horror, but definitely genre, with dark elements, and a shit ton of other stuff to love.
Gaspard, a roller skating show crooner who has had his heart broken enough times to be immune to love, rescues a mermaid in need from the Seine. There are the usual bits of a fish out of water, (yeah I said it) experiencing our world for the first time but Nicolas Duvauchelle as Gaspard and Marilyn Lima as Luna are wonderfully endearing allowing the whole thing to play out so joyously. Lima balances between dangerous and wide eyed wonder effortlessly. When I talk about wanting to be transported while watching a movie, this is precisely what I’m talking about. Take me somewhere. Create a world and take me there. The world on screen is so painstakingly crafted for our eyes, beautiful colors to drink in, and even a bit of animation fused with live action. The visuals in this film are absolutely ogle worthy, making fantastic out of the mundane.
Protagonist Gaspard hails from a long line of “a secret society whose members lived only for wonder and panache”, magic in the mundane is in his DNA. Clearly Malzieu is a member of this society as well. A society who subscribes to “doing things for the beauty of it. The spirit of adventure.” Prevalent in both Mermaid and Cuckoo Clock is the overall question of whether a heart can withstand love. Grappling with themes of love, failure, closing ourselves off in self preservation, confronting those techniques, attempting to open up, to bounce back and live again through fantasy, romance, music and whimsy. To further borrow from the film, “A Noah’s Ark for those with a lust for life. You have to be apt at wonder.” If you, like me, are a member of this society; craving magic and wonder, this film will unequivocally speak to your soul.
Pull up a seat at this magical buffet. Prepare to be stuffed with wonder.
A Mermaid In Paris had it’s North American premiere August 27th @ Fantasia Fest