Urban landscapes change with the seasons. Where once sat a quaint bench there is now a rack of e-scooters. The family-run bakery that provided the high street with pastries is now a Prêt. Some changes feel necessary, while others destroy what makes a city unique. Alexandra Pianelli’s down-to-earth documentary, The Kiosk, depicts this sense of gentrification with charm and compassion as she works shifts in her mother’s newspaper stall on Place Victor Hugo in the French capital.
Shooting entirely from the first-person perspective, the director captures warm interactions with the regulars who keep the kiosk alive and as a result manages to showcase the allure of a Paris from another time. She jokes with retired women about their sex lives, she gives career advice to kids and talks current affairs with the intellectuals who stop by to pick up their favourite revues.
The filmmaker walks the viewer through the intricacies of the tiny booth and explains how it has been kept alive as mere promotional space. Unfortunately, the advertising companies no longer see the news stand as useful and decide to close it down, forcing Pianelli’s mother into early retirement. The bittersweet conclusion of this last bastion of a by-gone era is beautifully capped off with a farewell party, featuring the delightful locals.
However, the film suffers from its length, the first-person point of view is immersive and insightful at first but becomes inadvertently claustrophobic as the kiosk itself begins to feel like a prison cell after 45 minutes. The documentary seems to answer its own questions halfway through and is then artificially stretched out to feature length, instead of aiming for a more concise and immediate delivery.
The Kiosk is released digitally on True Story on 19th February 2021.