Avenue Montaigne

Director: Daniele Thompson

Co-written with and starring the director’s son Christopher Thompson, Jet Lag director Daniele Thompson’s latest French confection celebrates Parisian bohemian artists, actors, pianists and those who make their living based solely on their creative output. When Jessica (Cecile De France of The Spanish Apartment) leaves the elderly grandmother who raised her contented in senior housing, Jessica accepts a job at a Parisian cafĂ©, after being told that she’s working on a trial basis since they only hire male waiters. In her postion, Jessica becomes the confidant, fan and protector of her many patrons including Catherine, a soap opera actress starring in a Feydeau play across the street and struggling to land a movie deal playing Simone de Beauvoir for director Brian Sobinski (Sydney Pollack, also a producer on Montaigne and playing a fictitious version of himself). For her portrayal of Catherine, the neurotic actress facing middle age and professional crisis, Valerie Lemercier received a Cesar award in her native France. Beautifully shot ensemble piece in the vein of Robert Altman, although without the emotional depth or investment, it’s an amusing diversion but there are far superior French character pieces such as Va Savoir that would make for a more satisfying viewing as about midway through Avenue Montaigne, I began to realize just how little I cared about any of the characters involved. While Jessica is our tour guide and serves as a near stand in for the viewer in observing the high-strung arts world, too little back-story was provided for her character including an unbelievable romance between her and Christopher Thompson. We long for more scenes with some of the other supporting players, most notably Albert Dupontel in a fascinating study of an acclaimed international pianist who is tired of his breakneck schedule and lack of passion playing for stuffy audiences who wants to walk away from it all, play in hospitals and live in the country. An entire film could’ve been made simply about the pianist but instead, the film is uneven and bogged down by characters barely understood by viewers—an admirable attempt to depict Parisian artists in their habitat but one that definitely fell short of its promise.