PARIS, JE T’AIME (PARIS, I LOVE YOU) (2007)
Starring Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Juliette Binoche, Catalina Sandina Moreno, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Melchior Beslon, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Miranda Richardson, Fanny Ardant, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell, Willem Dafoe, Marianne Faithfull, Barbet Schroeder, Xin Li, Paul Putner, Olga Kurylenko, Margo Martindale and Gerard Depardieu.
Screenplays by Olivier Assayas, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurindher Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Gabrielle Keng, Richard LaGravenese, Kathy Li, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podaydes, Gena Rowlands, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant.
Directed by Olivier Assayas, Frederic Aubertin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurindher Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podaydes, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant.
Distributed by First Look Pictures. 116 minutes. Rated R.
Paris is a city full of wonder, beauty, intrigue, mystery, love, and diversity. It has inspired artists and cynics, the amorous and fighters, adults and children, lovers and loners. If you have bought into some people’s cynical attempts to denigrate the country and the city, get over your freedom fries crap — Paris is simply the most beautiful city in the world.
Paris, Je T’Aime is an attempt to capture Paris in all of its complicated majesty by allowing some of the great filmmakers in the world to show life in the city in bite-sized chunks. It is a short-story collection of eighteen mini-films which tries to capture the city through the diversity of the people who visit and live there.
The directors were only given two hard-and-fast rules. Each short film must revolve around a specific neighborhood of the city. And each story must be about love.
That does not necessarily mean romantic love — though that is certainly the subject of quite a few of the tales — it could also encompass familial love, unrequited love, love of self, love of place, love-gone-cold, love-not-captured, raw passion, or deepening friendship.
Just like the lives in the city, the film is made up of all ages and races, religions and cultures. The stories can be comic, tragic, trivial, ironic, slapstick, surreal, gothic, sordid, sadistic, sappy, cynical… sometimes all of these things at once.
Like any anthology-type film, some of the stories are good. Some are not so good. Luckily, the good well outnumber the lame. However, at about five minutes apiece, even the worst episodes (the visually beautiful but ridiculously surreal dream of a middle-aged beauty supplies salesman comes immediately to mind) are gone soon enough and you are on to the next.
On the other hand, the best of the stories run out way too soon. You want to learn more about the lives of the young student who meets a sweet Muslim girl by the Seine or the lonely middle-aged Denver mailwoman (Margo Martindale) who finally gets to take her dream trip to the City of Lights but has no one to share it with. Either one of these shorts could make a fascinating feature.
Despite actors of many cultures, the dialogue is mostly in French, with some English mixed in. Most of the actors sound completely fluid and comfortable with the language and even when they don’t (particularly the lonely mailwoman) it is part of the point of the character.
Some of the stories are a little odd — for example, the love affair between two mimes and a young man [Elijah Wood] who is so attracted to a beautiful vampiress that he offers himself up as a victim.
However, for each of these there are stunningly subtle human stories, like that of a nanny (Catalina Sandina Moreno) who has to leave her own infant behind to care for the child of a rich absentee mother or one final meeting between an older, divorcing couple (Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands). There are also some surprisingly funny pieces, like Steve Buscemi as a tourist who inadvertently gets intimately mixed up in a French couple’s argument.
At the end of the film, some of the characters who appeared throughout are shown to have some connections with others who were from other stories. It’s a nice touch, but honestly kind of unnecessary. These stories don’t need any real connections, other than the basic connection of them being unique human stories from people sharing life with others in a specific place.
Plus, the scenery in nearly every story is absolutely stunning. What more can you ask?
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 1, 2007.