MONTMARTRE DE PAPA (2020)
Genuine and hilarious documentary of a filmmaker's recently retired father fulfilling a life-long dream as a street artist in Paris
Trevor Treharne, Online Marché du Film, June 2020
In Montmartre De Papa, Min Byung-Woo has written a love letter to his parents and by the film's conclusion it is impossible not to fall in love with them too.
His belligerent, acid-tongued mother is a superstar, capable of producing savage putdowns that create genuinely hilarious moments.
This is a unadorned story done well and you feel as if you move within this family as a member yourself, seeing their vices and denial of them at every stage.
Min wanted to make a film about the retirement plans of his art teacher father. When asked for these plans, the father would simply reply “I have my kind of plan” and “it is not fun to say in advance”.
However, when retirement arrives, his father slips into a drab and repetitive life of food, walks and sleep.
Eventually, he chases his childhood dream of painting as a street artist in Montmartre, Paris. He then begins the lengthy application process, starts to learn French and eventually is assigned a month-long spot.
As he become inspired by French culture, its stunning scenery and the former artistic masters the country has produced, his father starts to produce more and more painting, but can he sell one?
“Art is not to be made for sale,” the father insists, but you can see in his eyes his wants that sale.
Montmartre De Papa is about how retirement is a new beginning. A lengthy retirement is something afforded more modern generations and with his father in good health, he wants to achieve something he has dreamed about all his life.
His optimism at this new start is off-set by his wife of 38 years, and Min’s mother, who is always on hand to provide a sobering reminder. “If he goes to Paris, I’ll dip my fingers in boiling soy sauce,” she says, doubling down on this promise if he manages to sell a painting there.
Min’s bickering parents are proof of familiarity breeding contempt, but it is hard not to find their exchanges hilarious. It seems his mother might have a point on some levels, as the lure of the casino is often too much for the father, who is skipping meals to dive in for a quick go on the slots machines.
The impact and love of art is also displayed in great brushstrokes throughout, hearing the father talk of the great artists and even appear emotional on seeing the Mona Lisa.
The mother still manages to steal the show in the modern art museum though, “Is this art? This is only art because people say it is.”
By the film’s conclusion you feel privileged to have shared this meaningful experience with the family. You see how they act, warts and all.
It is a simple tale of an old man going to Paris, but how much it means to him rubs onto you. You too just really want him to sell that one painting.