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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paris, A Movie Theatre and Lost but Refound Love--Would Make a Good Movie

One Evening in Paris: A NovelOne Evening in Paris: A Novel by Nicolas Barreau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a delightful, old fashioned love story that could easily be a romantic movie for a date night! As I read it( in one day), I was casting the parts in my mind but think that each reader would like to do that for himself or more likely, herself. It is the reverse of reading a book and then seeing a movie cast with actors that in no way fit your image of them.

There are several " stars " of this story: Paris is definitely one. I was transported back to my time there as "les rues" were named and described. Unfortunately, I was devastated by the description of the Montmartre area, so different from my experience about 25 years ago.

Another is the " girl in the red coat", although, except for one memorable night, she isn't physically there. She is a mysterious young woman who appears every week in the little movie theatre, Cinema Paradis, another of the stars, to see the love story movie of the week, put on by the theatre's owner, Alain. He has become curious about the girl who sits in row 17 in the same seat week after week and finally works up the gumption to ask her out for a drink. She accepts, the drink extends to hours in the café, where the sleepy crew eventually asks them to leave so they can lock up. They've talked and held hands for hours, gazing into each other's eyes and falling in love. By the time Alain goes many blocks out of his way to walk her home and has spent many romantic minutes kissing her good night under the chestnut tree in her front yard, he is well and truly a goner. She agrees to meet him again the following week, when she returns from a visit to her aunt for the week-end.

Alain, during that time, is approached by a famous French actress, living in LA and longing for her Parisian home and her director, Allan Wood!!!!!--I hated this one aspect of the book since I really don't like Woody Allen or his movies---with a proposal to use the Cinema as a setting for a nostalgic movie in which Solene Avril will star. He gladly accepts and feels his life is taking a turn for the better, the theatre not having brought in a great deal of money and his love life rather non-existent. Needless to say, fate has other plans for Alain and Melanie, his new love.

She does not show up for their date, despite having sent him a note indicating that she is as enamoured of him as he with her. Alain's debonair, non-sentimental. womanizing friend, Robert, a professor of astrophysics makes no bones about his frustration with Alain's failure to get Melanie's phone number or last name. And so the story's plot is set.

Barreau paints his characters with an exacting brush--Alain's angst and heartache are realistically described. Why didn't Melanie show up? Is there someone else, was she in an accident, did she just not feel the same passion as he? Robert's level-headed, analytical and casual approach to the situation, with frustration and impatience is so true to life his voice is almost audible. Solene's attraction to men and hers to them is as easy to relate to as her nostalgia for Paris rather than LA, although a very more luxurious Paris than that in which she grew up.

The supporting characters are also fully developed, patrons of the Cinema, though not seen often are three dimensional. The crew working on the film, especially Carl, who loves Solene, are, too. Alain's projectionist, and cashier, the waiters and waitresses at the various cafes and bars, though fleetingly present are real people.

And the search for Melanie, with all its confusion and convolution is as much fun and interest as the background scenes in the others' lives. All in all, as good a story as that in any of the films Barreau uses to enhance the action or the ones he lists as Alain's 25 Love Stories from the Cinema Paradis that he shows in his Wednesday late night series, Les Amours au Paradis. When they convert this book to a movie he may add One Evening in Paris as number 26. Wonder who will be in the cast!

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