I may have seen one of the last musical hall revivals in London a few years ago on The Strand?it was full of tinny song and dance that made you tap your feet and long for the good old days of vaudeville and innocence. The telly has pretty much killed that simple pleasure, but Paris 36, a melodramatic story of the revival of a Chansonia in northern Paris, 1936, revives the joy of ensemble acting and dancing, original music, and the intrigue so much a part of the lively arts when they become business and pleasure.
Three Parisians undertake saving a music hall in their section of Paris called Faubourg using the talents of a star-crossed couple supplying the on and off stage romance. The intrigue is much less than Cabaret's; the nostalgia is more than Cinema Paradiso's; it's all more Moulin Rouge than Amelie. The songs are fetching, made especially for the film, and the plot is pure clich? right down to the lecherous businessman and cute ing?nue.
The background is unmistakably fascist versus socialist, owners battling workers for a depression-era slim slice of the economic pie and soul. Paris 36 risks it all with formulaic intrigue and predictable denouement. Yet throughout is a good cheer, a bel canto breeziness that draws you in to song, dance, history, and politics, never too heavy, light enough to make you wish that music hall still stood on The Strand.