Window to Paris
1994, PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Yuri Mamin. Starring Serguei Dontsov, Agnes Soral, Victor Michailov.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., May 19, 1995
Immediately charming with its first images of a lively Russian parade, this whimsical comic fantasy from director Yuri Mamin manages a lightweight mood while exploring the mutual prejudices and misunderstandings that occur when two distinctly different worlds and cultures -- Russian and French, in this case -- collide. The story concerns itself with the misadventures of a group of Russian friends who live in Saint Petersburg and accidentally discover a hidden window in their apartment that acts as a kind of portal that, magically, leads directly out to the rooftops of Paris. All the characters have different reactions to their new environment, the richness of which contrasts greatly with that of the poor slums of their homeland: Nikolai (Dontsov), a young music teacher, becomes fascinated with French culture and, eventually, falls in love with Nicole (Soral), a French artist whose apartment is located right next to the mystical window. Gorokhov (Michailov), Nikolai's friend and roommate, becomes infuriated by the wealth and material opportunities he sees in Paris and thus takes back to Russia as many goods and items (whether acquired honestly or otherwise) as he can carry through the portal. The culture-clash comedy that comprises the majority of Window to Paris is, aside from some occasionally silly stereotypes, genuinely entertaining, and there are some especially delightful sequences, including a drunken Nikolai's first meeting with Nicole, Gorokhov's hilariously vulgar violin solo, and Nicole's verbal rooftop battle with Gorokhov and his feisty family. However, when this business finally does get tired, Mamin wisely moves the viewer into a new and rewarding subplot in which Nicole crosses over from Paris to Russia, and Nikolai must find a way to get her back home. Themes of patriotism and loyalty to one's country are on display but, despite the film's supposedly lofty pretensions, it's the picture's light touch that emerges as its chief asset. In what is sure to be a very loud, flamboyant summer movie season, Window to Paris offers a nice alternative: a breezy, pleasant viewing experience full of new and likable faces, a clever plot, and even a little intellectual stimulation. In other words, it's not perfect and it won't change your life, but it is a nice change of pace.