“Lost in Paris” and “The Fencer,” two audience favorites from the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, return this weekend to the Film Center. “Lost in Paris” is a French/Belgian comedy starring Fiona Gordon as a Canadian librarian, and Dominique Abel as a vagrant. “The Fencer” is a Finnish/Estonian drama based on the life of the celebrated fencer Edel Nelis.
In “Lost in Paris,” Gordon and Abel co-direct as well as star. This married couple has a background in burlesque and circus performance. The film starts out in a remote Canadian village, where goofy Fiona works as the local librarian. In an early scene, a snowy winter wind — shades of Charlie Chaplin — blows everyone in the library sideways and sets the comic tone. Sight gags and physical comedy à la Jerry Lewis, a French favorite, rule in “Lost in Paris.”
Fiona receives an SOS letter from her elderly Aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) who is living in Paris and in danger of being put in a nursing home. Complete with oversize backpack and sneakers, Fiona arrives in Paris and promptly falls into the Seine, losing her passport and all her belongings.
Who should find her things except Dom? The two meet up, and the silly sight gags begin. Dom wears Fiona’s sweater and tosses out all her other belongings. He spends her money on champagne, some bottles of which end up in the Seine. Meanwhile Martha is hiding from the authorities, and Fiona has a hard time finding her. As it’s a comedy, you can imagine how events turn out.
Top-rated Estonian fencer Endel Nelis (Mart Avendi) begins a job as a gym teacher in a small Russian town. He has left Leningrad to escape the secret police. They are looking for him because during the war, the Nazis had drafted them into their army, and the USSR considered such Estonians criminals.
Endel starts out disliking teaching, until he starts a sports club and begins training his students to fence. In time his feelings as a teacher soften. Then the school principal (Hendrik Toompere), who dislikes Endel, begins investigating his past and tries to close down the fencing club, without success.
When the children learn about the National Fencing Tournament to be held in Leningrad, Endel is faced with a dilemma. Should he take the schoolchildren, who have excelled under his tutelage, and risk arrest, or avoid the danger of appearing in Leningrad? He has met and fallen in love with Kadri (Ursula Ratasepp), a fellow teacher who is afraid of what will happen to him. The conflicted Endel takes his students to Leningrad for the finish to an exciting competition that may risk his safety.
Information and tickets are available for these and other Film Center films are available at mvfilmsociety.com.