Oh la la! New must-see: “Call My Agent!”

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s the best!

You can find three seasons of this terrific French series on Netflix, its original name “Ten Per Cent” — the amount each agent recoups from their clients at the Paris-based ASK talent agency.

 

Formidable!

 

I haven’t laughed so much in a long time.

 

The agency, owned by a man named Samuel who dies unexpectedly while away on holiday, thereby tossing the agency into chaos, infighting and intrigue:

 

Who’s Camille and why does she keep stealing glances at Mathias?

Will Mathias be able to buy out the owners’ widow’s shares?

Will his team agree?

Will shark/agent Andréa ever find true love — and does she even want it?

Will Sofia, the ambitious receptionist, finally launch her acting career?

 

The characters are fantastic — Gabriel, Andréa, Arlette and Mathias as agents, Noémie, Camille and Hervé as their loyal assistants, Sofia the receptionist. And Jean Gabin, a feisty little white terrier who manages to steal many scenes, always with Arlette.

Recurring characters include Mathias’ wife, his former mistress and a parade of gay women whose hearts Andréa keeps so carelessly and selfishly breaking.

And — so cool! — major French actors and actresses who simply play themselves, with a new one in every episode, Nathalie Baye, Isabelle Huppert, Guy Marchand, Jean duJardin and many more.

The drama and laughs are never-ending as the agents try to out-scheme one another, as Mathias is wooed by a competing agency, as Camille, new to Paris at 23, finds her professional footing — and so many screw-ups!

My father made films for a living and I love movies, so I really enjoy this funny/serious inside look at all the many many things that can go wrong trying to find the right actor or script or director, wrangling a set, how to manage a sex scene between two actors who loathe one another…

It’s also a poignant look at actors’ fragile egos and their very real need for steady, career-building projects, even when they actually don’t already know how to ride a horse or speak French Canadian French or swim or dance hip-hop (all of these are real plot-lines!)

You realize how many skills some have to learn, fast, to win a coveted role or work with a great director.

And see the personal heartbreak of an extra whose only two lines of the whole film get cut.

It really shows the work and hustle and negotiation that makes entertainment even possible.

Plus — Paris!

 

Take That Photo Today — Here’s Why

Cover of "The Purple Rose of Cairo"
Cover of The Purple Rose of Cairo

My little town, 25 miles north of Manhattan, is so charming it’s been used as a set for several films: Purple Rose of Cairo, The Preacher’s Wife, Mona Lisa Smile and The Good Shepherd.

But Oliver’s Barber Shop, used in the Purple Rose of Cairo, is suddenly gone.

It had two huge, perfect 1930s windows, filled with plants and flags and signs. It was, in its own funky way, a set piece, literally.  I loved everything about it and even did a watercolor painting of it about six years ago, framed it and gave it to my sweetie for Christmas. Oddly, the brick around those windows remains a lighter beige, painted for the movie to look more photogenic.

But the barber shop (now a trendy hair salon) is gone for good and I’m in shock and in mourning. I will miss that window, in its ancient messiness, terribly.

I love old things and their patina of age, doors whose paint is alligatored and faded, porcelain that is crazed with a thousand tiny cracks, silver a little banged up, textiles worn thin by someone else’s skin. I can’t explain its hold on me, the ancient. Maybe because it helps me feel anchored by centuries past, not adrift in a world of noise, plastic and neon.

We tend to photograph the unusual and the special: births, christenings, graduations, weddings — but not the quotidian. We’re too busy or assume the things we love about our neighborhoods, our cities and towns and rural landscapes, will always be there.

The disappearance of Oliver’s was a great wake-up call.

Love it before it’s gone.

Take a photo — keep a memory.