Sheffield Doc Fest Exclusive Review: The Kiosk (Le Kiosque)

Year: 2020
Runtime: 78 Minutes 
Director: Alexandra Pianelli

By Bianca Garner

In the world of the Kiosk, everything is within a 2-metre distance. It’s a small, cramped and confined world, certainly not one for those suffering from claustrophobia. We find ourselves in the world of the Kiosk, seeing it through the eyes of the young French filmmaker Alexandra Pianelli. The Kiosk has been in her family for four generations now, and we can see the history of this world around us. In the coin trays, we can see how the wood has been worn down after years of fingers rummaging around for the right change, “the fossils of our fingers” is the way that the director describes it to us. Previously Alexandra’s mother was the sole inhabitant of this world, but now Alexandra is experiencing it and we are with her every step of the way.

We open with the camera being locked inside the confined space of the Kiosk. It’s very early in the morning, and we can barely make anything out through the shutters. Then slowly the outside world is revealed to us. Through voiceover, Alexandra informs us that she had requested to be locked inside the kiosk for this shot. Throughout the film, we see the world via a go-pro camera strapped to her head. It’s intimate and the closest we can get to seeing the world through her eyes.

Copright: Alexandra Pianelli

The world of the Kiosk is an unusual one. An array of eccentric and unusual customers appear like clockwork. Each one is charming and amusing in their own way, sometimes they bring Alexandra cakes and more often than not they provide something more important: company. We meet the likes of Damien, a homeless man who has a pet cat. He’s such an empathetic and caring individual that when a woman comes up asking for a metro ticket (the Kiosk doesn’t stock any), he gives her the change without hesitating. There’s also Mariouch who likes to bring the baked goods for Alexandra. And there’s the wonderful Madame Piou Piou, a lively old woman who loves a good conversation.

“The world of the Kiosk is an unusual one. An array of eccentric and unusual customers appear like clockwork. Each one is charming and amusing in their own way.”

Soon, Alexandra becomes accustomed to this new world. She begins to know what type of magazines people will buy based on their appearance and the clothes they wear. However, her mother is a real ‘champ’ at this and knows exactly what magazine a person wants before they can even ask. Alexandra knows which type of customers will be coming on particular days, “On Tuesday the grannies come for their society magazines” we are told. Her friend brings her a she-wee which she uses only for there to be the sound of a loud splash and the exclamation of “merde” (shit). Alexandra must learn the name of every title, she must (in her own words), “become a machine.”

Copright: Alexandra Pianelli

There’s trouble brewing in the world outside of the Kiosk. The days of the printed press are numbered as many magazines are moving to digital. Alexandra’s mother is using up her savings in order to keep the place running, and it’s beginning to take its toll on her. Even though the Kiosk is located in an affluent area of Paris, the family are struggling to make ends meet. Then the newspaper printers go on strike, and their income drops even further. 

Copright: Alexandra Pianelli

“Le Kiosque” is a delightful little documentary, a real glimpse into a world that we often pass by on our journey.”

Although we rarely see the world outside of the Kiosk, it’s all around us. We see a montage of newspaper headlines, exclaiming all sorts of woes to do with the economy, the rise in unemployment and the ‘threat’ of migrants. Protests and marches occur at certain times, and the customers themselves discuss the issues plaguing the city. Alexandra manages to keep us updated with the news of the strike through the use of little cardboard models and stop-motion animation, which she makes to pass the times.

“Le Kiosque” is a delightful little documentary, a real glimpse into a world that we often pass by on our journey. How many other little Kiosk worlds are there, all with their own history and secrets? You can’t help but be fascinated by Alexandra’s world and her story. There’s a bittersweet ending, but one that doesn’t come as a shock, and we are reminded that even though the world of digital magazines is convenient, we are losing the intimacy and eccentricity of the newspaper kiosk in the process.

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