File this under: things you don’t expect to cry about, but do.
This bittersweet little documentary about a Parisian newsstand will change the way you look at a kiosk forever: they’ll no longer seem like transitory stops on the way to somewhere, but a destination themselves. Director Alexandra Pianelli, whose family has run this particular newsstand for four generations, shoots from inside the tiny cabin, from where she and her mother dispense newspapers, magazines, directions, and friendly conversation with anyone who stops by.
Anyone who’s seen Agnès Varda’s Daguerréotypes — her fond portrait of the traditional shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre, the street she lived on — will recognize the same warmth and humane curiosity in The Kiosk, which documents a quickly fading way of life and the community that clings to it. As Pianelli movingly shows us, the kiosk is an invaluable fixture in the lives of an assortment of locals: regular customers (particularly elderly ones, who perhaps visit more for the company than the magazines), a big-hearted homeless man, and fellow vendors like Islam, a Bangladeshi asylum-seeker and fruit-seller who uses the kiosk to hide his merchandise so that French police don’t confiscate it. The decline of printed material that the film documents isn’t just a threat to the family business, then, but the very concept of a truly joined-up society itself.
As well as giving us a loving portrait of the random community that sprung up around the newsstand, The Kiosk gives us a fascinating, intimate sneak peek into the profession that so many members of Pianelli’s family committed themselves to. The documentary was entirely filmed while the director was on shift in the two-meter-wide kiosk, from where she shows us the “fossilized” markings left by her great-grandparents’, grandparents’, and parents’ fingers, which scraped for coins from the same little drawers for decades. From inside the cabin, we also glimpse affectionate drawings of regular customers taped on the wall alongside a list of their usual purchases, a charming and even moving detail that only speaks to how much is being lost with the disappearance of this way of life.
What did you think? Who should watch it?