Americano: Grief in Paris

In his feature directorial debut, actor Mathieu Demy—son of eminent filmmakers Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda—succumbs to and stumbles beneath the anxiety of influence. Americano, which Demy also wrote and stars in, is an ambivalent, occasionally touching work of homage to his parents, yet one whose clumsiness only underscores the superiority of their directly quoted films. Playing a Parisian real estate agent in his late thirties named Martin, Demy is introduced mid-schtup with girlfriend Claire (Chiara Mastroianni, the product of Marcello Mastroianni and frequent Jacques Demy lead Catherine Deneuve). Martin soon receives news of his mother Emilie's death, which requires him to fly to Los Angeles to settle her affairs. Soon, he is flooded with memories of his childhood years living with Emilie in her Venice Beach bungalow—flashbacks culled directly from Demy's own mother's Documenteur (1981). This repurposing does Americano little favor: Varda's portrait of grief and isolation, one of her best yet least-seen works, pierces with its palpable loneliness—a specific kind of soul-sickness that Demy aims to convey through Martin, a character who often just seems callow and rash. Eventually, in Americano's most poorly structured section, Martin will hound stripper Lola (Salma Hayek) for answers to mysteries in his mother's life, only to be met with outright scorn or sex-worker world-weariness: "I gave up living a long time ago," is a typical line, made worse by Hayek's frequently unmodulated delivery.

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