Paris Memories sees Virginie Efira in the role of Mia, a fictional survivor of the November 2015 Paris attacks. It is one of two films related to the November 2015 terrorist attacks showing at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023: the other is called November and looks at the attacks from the perspective of the police units trying to find the attackers.
Survivor Mia cannot remember what happened in the Brasserie that night and Paris Memories is about her quest to remember. Meanwhile, another survivor Thomas (Benoît Magimel, also in Jack Mimoun and the secrets of Val Verde and Incredible but true at this year’s AFFFF) wishes he could forget as he finds himself remembering every single detail about that night.
Before taking herself to the Brasserie for a glass of wine while the rain plummeted down, Mia was having dinner with her partner Vincent (Grégoire Colin) who receives a phone call and tells her he has to go back to the hospital because the new intern doesn’t know what she’s doing.
Throughout Paris Memories, Mia regains her memory of that night through flashbacks. She retraces her steps by going back to the brasserie where it unfolded and by joining a group of survivors who are all trying to process what they went through. Not all of them were there that night though. For example, Félicia (Nastia Golubeva-Carax) tries to understand the last moments of her parents, who were dining at the restaurant and perished in the attacks.
The Australian (Yoann Barrenechea) that the waitress Nour shared a kiss with as they hid in the air-conditioning vents provided a moment of amusement because his accent was as far from Australian as you could possibly get! It was a strange combination of English and South African but definitely not Australian. Thankfully his part in the film was very short so we didn’t have to hear the terrible accent for long
As Mia regains her memory she becomes desperate to find out if those she remembers also survived and so starts a project to find the man she remembers holding her hand and comforting her as they hid from the attackers and waited for the police to arrive.
One particularly poignant scene shows Mia looking out the apartment window as the makeshift memorial to the victims on Place de la République is cleared away by rubbish collectors. Watching as the last sign of the attacks is discarded only serves to show that the country is trying to move on while the survivors still struggle to return to their lives as they were before.
Being unable to return to life as it was before is something particularly difficult for Mia’s character and indeed many of the survivors shown in Paris Memories. Being able to continue in relationships with people who weren’t there and couldn’t possibly understand what the survivors went through is another problem the survivors face.
Alice Winocour, director of Paris Memories has personal experience with the attacks as her brother was at the Bataclan on 13 November 2015 when the attacks occurred and was contacting her via text message for part of the night. She was inspired to make the film based on her own “memories of the trauma and by the account my brother gave in the days after the attack. I experienced for myself how events are deconstructed, and often reconstructed, by memory”
Mia searches happiness through understanding and remembering what she experienced that night. One of the other survivors, Sara (Maya Sansa) who tries to help her through the process mentions a “diamond in the trauma” which is a positive thing that comes from a traumatic event such as friendships, relationships, and strong bonds that wouldn’t have otherwise formed.
Mia’s quest to find the man who helped her uncovers other ghosts in Paris, not those of the victims of the November 2015 attack but the hidden faces. Of this, Alice Winocour said:
I wanted to show how people can live invisibly in Paris. Mia sees ghosts, but there are other ghosts in the film too. People without papers, living here illegally, street vendors at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Virginie Efira continues to go from strength to strength and played Mia convincingly and with respect. Benoît Magimel brings a touch of lightness to the film because while he is visibly physically injured from the attack, he still cracks a joke and has a laugh. While Mia wants to remember, Thomas cautions she might be better off not remembering everything like he does.
Paris Memories is a touching film dealing with the search for happiness and normality after surviving a traumatic event. It has a talented cast and deals with the issues with delicacy and reality. It is a film worth seeing at the AFFFF 2023.
Matilda Marseillaise watched the film via a screener.
To find out when Paris Memories is screening near you, click this link:
KEY INFO FOR AFFFF 2023
WHAT: Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 (AFFFF 2023) – the 34th edition of the largest celebration of French film outside of France!
WHERE & WHEN:
Sydney, NSW: 7th March to 5th April – Palace Central, Palace Verona, Palace Norton St, Chauvel Cinema, Hayden Orpheum Cremorne
Melbourne, VIC: 8th March to 5th April – Palace Cinema Como, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Westgarth, The Astor Theatre, The Kino, Pentridge Cinema
Perth, WA: 8th March to 5th April – Luna Leederville, Luna on SX, Windsor Cinema, Palace Raine Square, Camelot Outdoor Cinema
Canberra, ACT: 9th March to 5th April – Palace Electric Cinema
Hobart, TAS: 9th to 19th March – State Cinema
Brisbane, QLD: 15th March to 12th April – Palace James Street, Palace Barracks
Byron Bay, NSW: 16th March to 5th April – Palace Byron Bay
Adelaide, SA: 23rd March to 19th April – Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas, Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas
Port Pirie, Renmark, Whyalla, Mount Gambier: 24th March to 26th March – Northern Festival, Chaffey Theatre, Middleback Arts Centre, Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre
Gold Coast, QLD: 29th March to 16th April – Dendy Southport
Parramatta, NSW: 29th March to 2nd April – Riverside Theatre Parramatta
Victor Harbour, SA: 3rd and 10th April – Victa Cinema
Bendigo, VIC: 21st to 23rd April – Star Cinema
HOW: The full program of 41 films can be viewed at the official Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 website via this link: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices vary between cities and there are also discounted festival passes available if you want to see several films. (NB You will need to pick the films and sessions when purchasing the pass)
See below for more AFFFF content
Our picks from the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 program
Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 first 15 films announced
Country Cabaret: a fun farm film to see at AFFFF 2023
Final Cut: a comedic zombie film that’s even for people who don’t like horror or gore
Happy 50/Plancha is about a group vacation gone wrong
Sugar and Stars: an inspiring tale about the road to sweet success
Silver Rockers: a film inspired by the story of rocker retirees from Normandy
The Colours of Fire: an heiress seeks revenge
The Origin of Evil is a must-see film this AFFFF
Which films won at the César 2023 and where you can watch them
COMPETITION: 10 DOUBLE PASSES TO GIVE AWAY
Also check out our Facebook and instagram accounts for your chance to win a double pass to the AFFFF (only valid for Palace cinemas). The competition will be drawn at 5pm ACDT today, Saturday 25 March.