PARIS JE T'AIME
A collection of 18 short stories, each inspired by a Paris arrondissement (district), each made by an internationally renowned director with acclaimed actors. The stories range from love at first sight to divorce a la mode, from babies to dying, from naturalism to surrealism, from comedy to tragedy.
Review by Louise Keller:
Most of us have an ongoing love affair with Paris and I am no exception. I spent my honeymoon there, and could never tire of the city synonymous with love. Hence it is a no brainer that the title Paris, Je T'Aime will appeal to a huge range of people. Snapshots about people in Paris is the premise for this collection of 18 short films from several directors, who offer topics as varied as multiculturalism, love, death, vampires and divorce. Directors like The Coen Brothers, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Gus van Sant and Alexander Payne each select one of the Paris' famous arrondissements as backdrop for their story and an eclectic group of actors including Maggie Gyllenhall, Juliette Binoche, Fanny Ardant, Bob Hoskins, Steve Buscemi, Natalie Portman and Gerard Depardieu make appearances, often when you least expect them. The stories are not connected, and while the film may not totally deliver what the title promises, it's an interesting and mostly engaging journey in a city with boundless charms.
The biggest surprise is the diversity in the stories. I especially enjoyed Joel and Ethan Coen's comedy set in the Tuileries, in which Steve Buscemi's gauche American tourist stands in the Metro's subway, waiting for his train. As he is reading his guide book, he notices the young French couple kissing on the platform opposite. His innocent gaze prompts chaos, resulting in an argument, a confrontation, an unexpected kiss and a reconciliation. Another favourite is Gerard Depardieu's encounter between an about to be divorced married couple played by Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazarra. They meet in a bistro and the barbs fly, but more importantly, truths about relationships are digested. Then there is Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress who is buying a fix from the local drug dealer, newlyweds Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer who visit Oscar Wilde's grave and sort out their differences - and many more. Tom Tykwer's unusual tale about an actress who calls her blind boyfriend to call their relationship off, is haunting as it traces their relationship.
Some stories work better than others, and overall the two hour running time feels a little long. But there are many joys, including of course, the unsurpassed city of Paris herself, in whose charms we can effortlessly succumb, be it during the day or under the twinkling lights of night.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This is a very French cinematic concept, sometimes charming, sometimes obtuse, sometimes irritating and often risky - just like the French themselves, although the directors are not all French. Indeed, most are not, and some are making films in English, others in French. Some in both.
The first story, by Bruno Podalydès, is set in Montmartre, and is a fine example of a short: a lonely man parks his car in a busy, narrow side street, contemplating his loneliness in a conversation with himself, while watching passers by. One woman faints beside his car, and he jumps out to assist. She's soon recovering in the back seat, and he's offering her a lift to her destination. This cameo works well as a typical Paris story, complete with its anti-hero and warmly engaging female. It's one of the best.
The film ends in the 14th arrondissement, from Alexander Payne, as a middle aged American female tourist narrates her story in (horribly accented) French she has just learnt. It is amusing and moving, a humanistic insight.
Between the top and the tail, there are shorts of varying success, but the producers' claim that these all revolve around the theme of romance is not always evident. Not that this matters, but don't expect 18 love stories. Christopher Doyle, for example, is amusingly bizarre in his chaotic style; Tom Tykwer surprises us with a blind boy meets actress girl story of unusual resonances; Wes Craven surprises us by taking us to a cemetery but not inside the graves; and Vincenzo Natali does surprising things with (and to) a young man who comes across a vampire one night in cobbled backstreets.
It's an interesting experiment, but it's too patchy, too haphazard to be a cohesive feature length movie. On the other hand, it showcases some great talent unhindered by normal commercial constraints.
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PARIS JE T'AIME (M15+)
CAST: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Juliette Binoche, Fanny Ardant, Steve Buscemi, Marianne Faithfull, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Rufus Sewell, Gena Rowland, Gerard Depardieu.
PRODUCER: Emmanuel Benbihy, Claudie Ossard,
DIRECTOR: Olivier Assayas, Frederic Aubertin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Sylvain Chomet, Isable Coixet, The Coen Brothers, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Gus van Sant, Vincenzo Natali, Alfonso Cuaron, Tom Tykwer, Alexander Payne, Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Bruno Podalydes, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa
SCRIPT: Tristan Carne, Emmanuel Benbihy (feature film idea)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bettina von den Steinen
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 19, 2007