Paris Je T’aime. Yawn…
Over the years, the magic of Paris has inspired many artists, filmmakers among them. Eighteen of these filmmakers have returned the favor, crafting a short film omnibus that aspires to celebrate the romance and magic of Paris. Alas- with a few exceptions, most of these filmmakers have failed.
While it stands as an interesting experiment, Paris Je T’aime is a bit of a fiasco. Boasting an obviously large budget- judging by the sharp production values and international cast, the film does little to capture the magic of Paris, and rather comes off as a pretentious bore.
Originally, the film was supposed to consist of twenty segments, each representing one of the city’s arrondissements. Eventually two segments directed by Christopher Boe and Raphael Nadjari were dropped. The following eighteen segments appear in the finished film:
Montmartre- written and directed by Bruno Podalydès. A lonely and bitter Parisian man strikes up a conversation with a young woman who’s fainted near his car. The segment is pleasant enough, but like the film as a whole, leaves little impression on the viewer.
Quais de Seine- directed by Gurinder Chadha. A young man becomes infatuated with a young Muslim woman, who defies stereotypes and proves herself to be a headstrong, independent woman. One of the better segments in the film- although probably too short to do the story justice.
Le Marais-written and directed by Gus Van Sant. A young man (Gaspard Ulliel) becomes infatuated with another young man, and tries to convince the seemingly indifferent object of his affections that the two are soul mates. Gus Van Sant brings a lot of style to this segment, which nonetheless moves a little too fast for it’s own good.
Tuileries- written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Steve Buscemi plays an American tourist who runs afoul of a sinister young couple in the Parisian metro. Easily the best segment- thanks to mainly to Buscemi’s impeccable comic timing.
Loin du 16e- directed by Walter Salles. Catalina Sandino Moreno plays an impoverished young woman who sings a lullaby to her baby before leaving it to care for her rich employers baby on the other side of town- to whom she sings the same lullaby. Pretty good entry- the lullaby is a nice tune, and the story is nicely bittersweet.
Porte de Choisy- directed by Christopher Doyle. Barbet Schroeder plays a beauty products salesman who tries to peddle his products to a Chinatown salon. Visually stunning, but the film goes WAY over the top and did not work for this reviewer at all.
Bastille- written and directed by Isabel Coixet. A philandering husband must choose between his mistress and his terminally ill spouse. Charming, bittersweet entry.
Place des Victoires- written and directed by Nobuhiro Suwa. A mother (Juliette Binoche) is able to bid farewell to her dead son with the help of a mystical cowboy (Willem Dafoe). Meh- could have been better than it ended up being, although Binoche and Dafoe are great.
Tour Eiffel- written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. A young boy recounts how his parents, both mimes, met and fell in love. I HATED this story- but then again I hate mimes, so there you go…
Parc Monceau- written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Nick Nolte plays an older man who accompanies a younger woman to a meeting with a mysterious third person. Shot in one single take- although Children of Men this is not, and I did not care for the cutesy poo ending.
Quartier des Enfants Rouges- written and directed by Olivier Assayas. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays an American actress who tries to score some hash while on location. Even though it clocks in at under 5 minutes, this goes on way too long, and is impossibly pretentious.
Place des fêtes- written and directed by Oliver Schmitz. Extremely melodramatic tale of a young African man who asks a woman for coffee.
Pigalle- written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant play a middle aged couple that stage a bizarre argument for a prostitute. Hoskins is always worth watching, but this segment completely left me cold.
Quartier de la Madeleine- written and directed by Vincenzo Natali. Elijah Wood plays a young backpacker that falls in love with a vampire. Absolutely awful- should have been left on the cutting room floor. Easily the worst segment.
Père-Lachaise- written and directed by Wes Craven. Rufus Sewell gets some advice from the ghost of Oscar Wilde, when his fiancee (Emily Mortimer) dumps him. Sewell and Mortimer are a likable couple- and they keep this segment afloat.
Faubourg Saint-Denis- written and directed by Tom Tykwer. A Young blind man falls for a struggling actress (Natalie Portman). Well directed by Tykwer- this is one of the more charming sections of the film.
Quartier Latin- written by Gena Rowlands, directed by Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin. A soon to be divorced couple (Rowlands, and Ben Gazarra) meet for drinks at a bar run by Depardieu. Cassavetes fans will get a kick out of seeing Rowlands and Gazarra together again. I certainly did.
14e arrondissement- written and directed by Alexander Payne. A middle aged American tourist finds herself smitten with the magic of Paris. Good way to end the film- with Payne giving the film a nicely bittersweet coda.
Sadly, the screener copy I received from the studio did not feature any of the bonus features present on either the single disc or more elaborate 2 disc release. The video transfer was colorful and anamorphic: note that I gave the dvd zero stars. This only reflects on the copy of the film that was supplied to me- as I was not able to review the finished dvd.
While some installments are fairly good, the unevenness of the film proves that anthology films/short film collections make it difficult to recommend.