Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret, Vittorio Caprioli
Director: Louis Malle
Running Time: 93 mins
Zazie Dans Le Métro is a French film about a young girl who arrives in Paris to stay with her relatives for a couple of days, but escapes and ends up on a whirlwind tour of the city, encountering weird and wonderful characters from all walks of life.
This is such a strange film, encompassing all of the most bizarre elements of the French New Wave, and then going one step weirder with a rapid-fire barrage of bewildering visual jokes, chase sequences all around the city and more. In that, it’s a very light-hearted, fun and even cute film that is a delight to watch, and although it does overstay its welcome to some degree about two-thirds of the way through, it’s still a brilliantly weird and wonderful way to spend an hour and a half.
Let’s start off on the bright side, with the film’s gleefully eccentric sense of humour and story. Now, there is a plot to this film (as much as it may not seem the case), and although its specific events may not be quite as interesting as watching a whole series of basically inexplicable things on screen, there is a sweet side to the carefree nature of the plot here, as you follow Zazie on her strange dash around the streets and landmarks of Paris.
Of course, there’s also a deeper side to the story, one that looks into the nature of contemporary Parisian culture, from the haphazard and somewhat chaotically fast pace of life, to all of the artistes and young people living their lives in the most debaucherous fashion. It’s not something that comes through too clearly, and takes a while to grab onto, but it is an interesting side note to the main madness.
Above all, however, it’s the crazy, hyperactive comedy that’s the film’s best quality. It’s a really fun watch in the opening two acts, continuously throwing all sorts of unexpected and inexplicable gags at you, leaving barely a moment to breather in between. Louis Malle directs the film in a hugely eccentric style, with the film never holding back from making visual jokes with rough cuts, repeated scenes, and deliberate continuity errors, but it’s an added bonus that makes the quirkiness of it all even more charming.
Then there’s the fact that everything feels like you’re a young kid on a sugar rush. The opening act begins at an insane pace, only getting faster and faster as it moves along, culminating in a five minute-long chase sequence across Paris that’s full of all sorts of bizarre encounters. And then after a quick respite, the film picks up the pace again, putting you as the viewer in the shoes of Zazie, the crazy young girl, and touring the city with both a sense of wonderment and awe, as well as at the speed of light.
Of course, as with any sugar rush, there is eventually a massive crash, and that does happen with Zazie Dans Le Métro. Yes, it’s a really fun film for the first hour, but there is a point where everything gets a little bit too much out of hand, and the relentless pace and bizarre nature of everything just becomes too much to handle, leaving you exhausted and without a chance to briefly recuperate. As a result, it’s hard to be as endlessly entertained by its final act, which is more of the same but with the added weight of having gone through an hour of madness already, and although it’s still engaging, it’s a little bit of a disappointing end to the film.
Overall, Zazie Dans Le Métro is an undoubtedly unique and spirited film, filled with some utterly bizarre and inexplicable sequences that will make you laugh just as much as totally bewilder you. It’s a sweet and light-hearted watch, and really fun for its first two acts, but given that it’s hard to keep up with its relentlessly manic pace, it does eventually overstay its welcome, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.