“All Paris is a dream; Zazie is a reverie.”
To provide an example: in just one 25-second section of a delightfully lengthy chase scene between Zazie and a policeman named Trouscaillon (Vittorio Caprioli), Zazie pours a glass of water over Trouscaillon’s head, which he promptly spouts out of his mouth like a fish. Zazie then jumps down the stairs and hides in a metal pail, which Trouscaillon sits down on. He hears rattling inside, and when he opens the lid, he sees that Zazie has transformed into a black cat. He leaps up in surprise and is suddenly found standing on the banister of a marble stairway, reeling Zazie in with a fishing pole. When Zazie reappears on-screen, she’s played by an elderly woman wearing the same orange shirt and gray skirt. This “older Zazie” slaps Trouscaillon, and their chase continues, with the original Zazie now back on-screen. And so it goes.
Zazie herself is an incomparably precocious and delightfully salty protagonist. As played by Demongeot (who apparently never pursued an adult acting career), she’s fearless in her encounters with the lewd and/or sexually confused adults she’s surrounded by — including her uncle (the always wonderful Philippe Noiret) and creepy Caprioli (who reminds me of Stanley Tucci). Meanwhile, another of the many delights offered by the film is its time-capsule view of Paris: made the same year as Godard’s Breathless, it provides a heady visual counterpart to that fabled vision of the city, shown here in vibrant colors rather than in stark b&w. Though Zazie is repeatedly foiled in her attempts to see the Metro (whose employees are on strike), her experiences in the rest of the city — including, naturally, the Eiffel Tower — are a treat to partake in.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: