FANTASIA ’20 – ‘A Mermaid in Paris’ is Very French and an Imaginative Retelling of a Classic Tale

A still from 'A Mermaid in Paris'. A man in a tuxedo waistcoat and a bow tie holds a mermaid woman in his arms, wearing a long black dress. A light shines above tbem, illuminating their faces.
Fantasia Festival

We all know a few mermaid tales. They more or less start or end the same. A mermaid leaves the ocean for some reason and enchants all the men around her, but only one is special enough to fall in love with.

As Disney is gearing up to remake their classic interpretation of the fish lady out of water story, Mathias Malzieu is out here showing us how to infuse a whimsical French perspective with a familiar story to present something unique and different.

Gaspard Snow (Nicolas Duvauchelles) is a melancholic musician who is dealing with a few personal blows, in particular, a tremendous heartbreak. One night he stumbles upon an enchanting mermaid on the docks and quickly becomes infatuated with her, even though he claims to be immune to her charms. The wide eyed mermaid named Lula (Marilyn Lima) also has her own complicated relationship with love. She and Gaspard bond through the power of love, music, and a grand zany adventure that is just brimming with fantasy.

A still from 'A Mermaid in Paris'. A memaid sits on the edge of a bath in a bright pink room. A woman sits beside her, painting her fingernails. Plants and nick nacks litter every available surface.
Fantasia Festival

This film has the hallmarks of a classic whimsical and bubbly Parisian tale. With the colourful shades of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie and a dash of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water Mathias Malzieu’s A Mermaid in Paris approaches a familiar set up to give us a charming good time. What adds to the experience is the artistry angle, with our lead musician coming from a community of people who value the power of art. Also, the musical cues throughout the film is excellent, with a few numbers that will be sure to get you humming along.

The film balances warm and cozy with a brooding cool colour palatte that gives the colours of the film a rich texture no matter how bright or dull they may be. With a keen eye for production design and costuming A Mermaid in Paris has one exquisite shot after another to create a series of images that give a truly specific experience. From the visuals to the sound design, this entire production is a sensory experience on the level of Amélie and The Shape of Water. A triple feature is a must!

Due to the setting, the offbeat characters, a delightful duo in our leads, and the overall melancholic and romantic tone A Mermaid in Paris cannot be replicated elsewhere. It is so specifically the creation of a focused visionary that no matter how derivative the tale may be there is enough personality injected into it that gives A Mermaid in Paris the leg up in the originality department.

A Mermaid in Paris enjoyed its Canadian Premiere at the virtual edition of Fantasia Film Festival 2020 on August 27th.

by Ferdosa Abdi

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