“Fall in love with Paris 18 times”
Paris, je t’aime is comprised of 18 short films by an international line up of 21 of the world’s more interesting directors. Each short is named for and takes place in a different neighborhood in Paris and each one is concerned with a different aspect of human love. The result is sort of a wonderful cinematic small-plates meal that manages to satisfy like a main course.
Taken individually, 12 of the shorts ranged from good to great. The best ones managed to start in one direction but end in some surprising way. My personal favorites were Gurinder Chadha’s story of cultural differences where an awkward French teenager becomes attracted to a beautiful Muslim girl along the banks of the Seine, Walter Salles, Jr. and Daniela Thomas’ segment about a poor woman who every day must leave her own baby in a nursery so she can work as a nanny to a rich family; Isabel Coixet’s tale of a man who has fallen out of love with his wife and plans to divorce her only to learn she’s dying of leukemia; Oliver Schmitz’s piece about two people from another part of the world who are briefly brought together in a moment of tragedy; Wes Craven’s film about an English tourist who thinks her fiancé could use a little of the spirit of Oscar Wilde and Alexander Payne’s finale concerning an unsophisticated American woman seeing Paris alone.
The only stories that didn’t work for me at all were Vincenzo Natali’s vampire tale and Sylvain Chomet’s too whimsical story about a mime. Luckily, the individual pieces are so short, around 5 minutes each , that if one isn’t very good, another comes along quickly.
The short length of each story also has an interesting effect on how they blend together. Though each story is independent, no single piece is allowed to dominate. Each short works as more of a fragment or a layer. While those looking for one or two knockout punches might be disappointed, the real satisfaction comes not from comparing and contrasting the individual layers but in allowing them to build one upon another. Each story lingers and blends with those that follow. The end result is a sort of a lovely, surprising mélange. At times funny, at times heart warming and at times sad, Paris je t’aime is a delightful celebration of Paris, of love, of the endless breadth and depth of humanity and of life in all it’s colors and moods.
Montmartre (Bruno Podalydès – Florence Muller and Bruno Podalydès)
Quais de Seine( Gurinder Chadha – Leila Bekhti and Cyril Descours)
Marais (Gus Van Sant – Marianne Faithfull, Elias McConnell and Gaspard Ulliel)
Tuileries (Ethan and Joel Coen – Julie Bataille, Steve Buscemi and Axel Kiener)
Loin du 16ème (Walter Salles Jr. and Daniela Thomas – Catalina Sandino Moreno)
Porte de Choisy( Christopher Doyle – Barbet Schroeder and Li Xin)
Bastille (Isabel Coixet – Javier Cámara, Sergio Castellitto, Miranda Richardson and Leonor Watling)
Place des Victoires (Suwa Nobuhiro – Juliette Binoche, Martin Combes, Willem Dafoe and Hippolyte Girardot)
Tour Eiffel (Sylvain Chomet – Yolande Moreau and Paul Putner)
Parc Monceau (Alfonso Cuarón – Sara Martins, Nick Nolte and Ludivine Sagnier)
Quartier des Enfants Rouges (Olivier Assayas – Lionel Dray, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Joana Preiss)
Place des Fêtes (Oliver Schmitz – Seydou Boro and Aïssa Maïga)
Pigalle (Richard LaGravenese – Fanny Ardant and Bob Hoskins)
Quartier de la Madeleine (Vincenzo Natali – Olga Kurylenko and Elijah Wood)
Père-Lachaise (Wes Craven – Emily Mortimer, Alexander Payne and Rufus Sewell)
Faubourg Saint-Denis (Tom Tykwer – Melchior Beslon and Natalie Portman)
Quartier Latin (Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin – Gérard Depardieu, Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands)
14ème Arrondissement (Alexander Payne – Margo Martindale)
Paris, je t’aime: Switzerland/Liechtenstein/France 2006. French w/English subtitles and English. 2 hours. MPAA Rating: R for language and brief drug use.
4 stars (out of 5)