This life-affirming look at the day to day running of a Parisian newsstand, mostly shot using a headcam, is a gem to behold
On a bustling street in a wealthy neighbourhood of Paris, there sits a tiny kiosk. It's been there for close to a century – an inevitable part of life for decades. But the times, we know, are changing. Yet what of its loyal customers, who have made a trip to the newsstand part of their daily routine? Like the elderly woman who pops round for a natter; the Bangladeshi worker who stashes his fruits and vegetables to avoid them being taken by the police; the homeless man with a tendency to lose his cat; the generous older gentleman who turns up bearing coffee and cakes.
These are just some of the wonderfully drawn individuals who make up this lovely, carousel-like portrait of contemporary Parisian life, which feels both decisively modern (it is ode to an industry crumbling at the mercy of digital media) and achingly nostalgic (the practice comes to feel deeply romantic). The Kiosk was shot by artist and filmmaker Alexandra Pianelli, who occasionally works at a stand that's been run by her mother for decades, and her grandparents and great-grandparents before her.
Filmed primarily using a head-cam, we are given the impression of working at the kiosk ourselves. As customers come and go, chatting ideally, we get to know their faces, quirks, and humanity. As days flit by, we learn more about the deceptively complicated job of running the newsstand (memorising thousands of titles and the days on which they're released, as well as the returning customers' preferences), and of the seemingly endless number of factors trying to make the business extinct. In amongst the footage, Pianelli cuts in charming models and cute stop-motion sequences.
For a film comprised of ostensibly banal day to day life interactions, it all makes for surprisingly poignant viewing. Returning customers quickly come to feel like friends. And later, when tragedy strikes with one of the regulars, not long after a beautiful show of kindness, it's genuinely heartbreaking. When there's talk of the kiosk closing down, we can't but feel deflated. But Pianelli – mostly heard but not seen – is ever optimistic and adaptive, unwilling to dwell on the bad news, her “oh well” spirit carrying this film into the realms of life-affirming. And of course now she has this film as an object of timeless curation.
What is it about the act of buying a physical newspaper or a magazine that we cling to? What makes it feel romantic, or worth more than the digital equivalents? Maybe it lies in the notion of a simpler product and all that goes with that; something fixed and unchanging in a world that's anything but. Maybe in a hundred years they will look back and laugh at the idea of any physical media. Here in the present, it can't help but feel like a loss.
The Kiosk is an affecting eulogy to the last days of a beloved business, but it also doubles as an inspiring look at the human race at its most empathetic and kind. Lovely is a word that gets thrown around far too often, but it's this word that lingers in the mind, like the faces of this newsstand's regular customers, after sitting with this charming film. Now, what magazine to buy?
The Kiosk is now streaming on True Story.Where to watch