Smart Street: The Madcap 'Avenue Montaigne' Avenue Montaigne is a "boulevard comedy" — a breezy romp with sophisticated characters — that's actually about a boulevard. The locale is an elegant block in Paris populated with culture mavens.
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Smart Street: The Madcap 'Avenue Montaigne'

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Smart Street: The Madcap 'Avenue Montaigne'

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Arts & Life

Smart Street: The Madcap 'Avenue Montaigne'

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The French are famous for churning out bright, breezy plays known as boulevard comedies. Today, a French comedy that's actually about a boulevard opens in movie theaters. It's called "Avenue Montaigne" and our critic Bob Mondello says it's a sophisticated street with some rather eccentric residents.

BOB MONDELLO: Picture the classiest block on the classiest street in Paris. There's a wide theater, a concert hall, an auction house, dozens of boutiques and a five-star hotel, and right at the center of all that elegance is an old-fashioned, down at the heels, thoroughly ordinary bistro.

Concert pianists come there for a ham sandwich, and so do the guys who sweep up after the concert. At one table, you'll find a soap opera star who wants to be a serious actress, at another, an American director who might be inclined to make her one if she weren't mixing him up with Martin Scorsese.

Ms. VALÉRIE LEMERCIER (Actress): (as Catherine) (Speaking foreign language)

Unidentified Man: Yeah, me too. Marty's a pretty good director.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking foreign language)

MONDELLO: Mortification is something that haunts the "Avenue Montaigne," virtually everyone is muddling through self-inflicted disasters - a waitress gets trapped on a rooftop, a concert pianist sabotages his press interviews, an art collector starts dating his son's mistress, and that soap opera star -well, she is so convinced that her TV show is what's keeping her from being taking seriously, that even given a second chance with the American director, she makes a mess things.

(Soundbite of movie "Avenue Montaigne")

Ms. LEMERCIER: (as Catherine) I'm on TV, so what? I'm prepared, so what? (unintelligible) enough. People love me, so what?

Unidentified Man: No, no, no, no, no, no. Don't, don't, don't, don't cry, please. Don't, don't, don't.

MONDELLO: "Avenue Montaigne" was directed by Daniele Thompson, who's joie de vivre is apparently undimmed some three decades after she scripted the film "Cousin, Cousine." That picture convinced the international audiences that French romances could be funny as well as sophisticated.

And "Avenue Montaigne" does much the same for French high culture. It has an unpretentious way of skewering artistic pretense and to knowingly what character showing us arts mavens determined to suffer, despite their advantages, and little folks determined to be happy, despite occasional setbacks. "Avenue Montaigne" doesn't aim for profundity. It's just a stroll through a very pleasant cinematic neighborhood.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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