The Kiosk review – fond farewell to a Parisian newsstand | Film
In its unassuming way, this sparky documentary captures an aspect of modern Paris life at the very moment that it’s becoming obsolete: almost a fragment of the belle époque. Alexandra Pianelli is an artist and film-maker who is working shifts at a newspaper kiosk in Paris, which is run by her mum and which was once run by her grandparents and great-grandparents before that. With a headcam, she films the regular customers who come in to buy their papers and magazines and generally chat and flirt with Pianelli – her camera records their faces, and she also sketches them and creates witty little models and stop-motion animation sequences to show what life is like in her kiosk.
Things are tough. A distribution strike reduces the number of papers they have to sell but their overheads remain the same. An old-fashioned clippings research agency goes bust owing them €30,000, which they will never see. A demo on the street results in better sales one day, but their eyes are stinging from the teargas. Unlike British cornershops selling papers, the kiosk can’t diversify into fruit, veg and convenience-store sandwiches. And, of course, most importantly, the internet is killing print – the kiosk’s bread and butter. Pianelli’s mum is seriously considering retirement and letting the kiosk be dismantled (and we are entitled to suspect that the film-maker knew perfectly well from the outset that this retirement is a certainty, and would provide her with a bittersweet ending). We in fact only glimpse Pianelli herself a couple of times – but her headcam is clearly an icebreaker for the regulars who cheerfully play up, now that they know what she is doing.
This is a very sweet, charming film and there is something high-minded and even innocent about this little island of print journalism.
• The Kiosk is released on 19 February on True Story.