October 25, 2005 -- It seems odd to experience a Spanish film set in Paris featuring so many French themes. It seems like a French film made with a Spanish language soundtrack. The film I'm talking about is “En la ciudad sin límites” (City of No Limits). It reminded me of another dual-personality movie, “The Barbarian Invasions,” a Canadian French language film which crossed borders into the United States. Both films depicted proud dying men, surrounded by feuding family members. In both films, an estranged son tries to do what he can to ease his father's passing.
In “City of No Limits” the dying patriarch is Max (played by Fernando Fernán Gómez). His scheming wife, Marie is played by Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of movie legend Charlie Chaplin. Victor (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is the outsider son who comes to Paris to join his family. Most family members are circling like vultures, making plans to sell the family business.
Max doesn't trust them. He confides in Victor that he has one last urgent mission, to contact a mysterious man named Rancel and deliver a message about a deadly political trap. Rancel must be persuaded not to get on the train for Spain, Max tells Victor. Although Victor has no idea what Max is talking about, he gamely tries to help his father. He discovers a secret apartment that Max has kept in Paris for more than 60 years. Marie tells Victor that she has never heard of Rancel, but Victor begins to suspect there is a hidden truth behind Max's story.
Max does some detective work and uncovers a secret kept by his parents from him his whole life. Scurrying back and forth between France and Spain, he discovers the identity of Rancel and unlocks the mystery of Max's intended warning for Rancel. While this is going on, the family is in disarray. The wife of one of Victor's brothers is angry that her husband's mistress has been brought along on the trip to Paris. In true French fashion, it seems every man in the story has a mistress of some kind. This makes it even more like a French movie. There is a lot of in-fighting over the estate, as well. The family is a loud, scrapping lot. The movie works better as a detective story than it does as a family drama. It is an intriguing movie with a split personality. This film rates a B.
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