Paris, alive and vibrant, a city of fashion, art, entertainment, dining and shopping, at the centre of it the Les Grandes Galeries, a department store of every desire, clothing, sports, musical instruments, toys and games, even tools and paint, the maze of mezzanines and staircases only a hint of the labyrinthine warren behind the façade, the staff a diverse cross-section of eccentric Parisian individuals.
The hundredth anniversary of Les Grandes Galeries imminent, the store is not performing as well as might be expected and an offer has been made on the premises; newly appointed manager M. Lepetit has that year to turn the fortunes around and demonstrate it is a viable proposition and his first task is to rehabilitate his unhelpful and often rude staff.
The debut feature of writer/director Cédric Klapisch originally released in 1992, in the accompanying extended documentary of the production on Arrow Academy’s new Blu-ray of Little Nothings (Riens du tout) he describes it as a “conceptual comedy,” a montage of the experiences and viewpoints of around fifty characters who work within Les Grandes Galeries.
Principal among them is M. Lepetit (Potiche’s Fabrice Luchini), a master of management speak coached in modulation of his speech and control of his gestures who tours the various departments and initiates team building exercises such as smiling classes, but with a surfeit of characters who are no more than sketches vying for attention and narrative space Little Nothings amounts to precisely that.
A particularly bourgeois depiction of class struggle and falling neither as drama nor comedy the circumstances of the marginal plot neither engage nor convince, the most rebellious character Roger (Comme si de rien n’était’s Pierre Olivier Mornas) in conflict with management but conveniently brought into the family by his relationship with Lepetit’s daughter Claire (Never Let Me Go‘s Nathalie Richard).
Also included on the disc and of more interest is Klapisch’s 1989 short film What Moves Me (Ce qui me meut), a recreation of the work of the polymath Étienne-Jules Marey, a pioneer of photography and numerous other fields whose work paralleled that of Eadweard Muybridge with whom, by amazing coincidence, he shared a lifespan, born a month apart in 1830 and dying a week apart in 1904.