At the center of Paris 36 is a small theater and its hard-working employees, each of which represents at least one of the many cultural, political, and social elements at the time in Paris. Miloud, the radical labor man. Douce, the strong-willed innocent with tremendous talent. Jacky, so eager to succeed that he is drawn to a right-leaning fascist group for acceptance. Galapiat, the moneyed overlord of the Chansonia who is very much a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. Threading through each of these stories is gentle but determined Mr. Pigoil, the Chansonia already his life's work at the beginning of the film. The turmoil and unrest brewing across Paris is apparent through the lens of what happens at the Chansonia, but Pigoil's motives revolve more around his personal problems and his family. His passion for family is transferred onto the theater briefly, making his the most pure motives of any within the little group of players that define Paris 36.
French movies aren't lacking in emotional impact, generally. Paris 36 feels very much in the spirit of Director Barratier's previous film The Chorus, and fits neatly into a long line of films that betray the abundance of passion and emotion in the French people. Barratier tells a neat story that is both interesting to watch unravel and comfortingly predictable in the end. Nobody gets hurt, everybody gets hurt, you might say. Great music, if a little anachronistic, fills the later half of Paris 36. Good performances by everyone, including newcomer Nora Arnezeder, make even the slow moments worth watching. You may not consider yourself a fan of foreign cinema, but give Paris 36 a try. You'll search high and low to find anything as accessible as this, in terms of its dialogue, plot, and production. Recommended.