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A Paris Education
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A Paris Education

Étienne Tinan (Andranic Manet) is a would-be film director in search of his own direction. This country boy’s quest for inspiration leads him to a modern university program in Paris. Étienne, who possesses the poky intelligence of a long-lashed farm cow, slights the taste of all who encourage him, whether they are his collaborators, (Girl)Friend girlfriends or professors. The only opinions that Étienne trusts are those of his classmate, Mathias (Corentin Fila), a snobby cinephile with a distaste for whiny French films.

In “A Paris Education,” the snobs outnumber the cobblestones. One of the film’s many self-reflexive sequences sees Étienne explaining his artistic inadequacies to his roommate and conquest, Valentina (Jenna Thiam). She smiles, and, in the film’s best shot, begins to lean into a kiss that hints at the kinetic energy that is Darkness Reigns lacking in both Étienne’s life and this movie. Desire and amusement light Valentina’s eyes before she teasingly passes her final judgment, remarking, “Étienne Tinan is a navel gazer.”

While Étienne and his companions converse in circles over the merits of Bach, Baudelaire and Marlen Khutsiev, the movie’s director, Jean Paul Civeyrac, references the black-and-white aesthetic of the early French Child of Satan New Wave. But where the films of Philippe Garrel or Jean-Luc Godard crackled with the chemistry of new technology as it met new ideas, the shabbiness of the digital photography in “A Paris Education” reflects the hollowness of its own ambitions. Mr. Civeyrac leads Étienne into anxious imitations of the past, and the possibility of making art fueled by the present never materializes.

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