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4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Paris, Je T'aime
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Brought To You By The French Auteurism Board"
4 stars

Every few years, someone gets the bright idea of recruiting a number of directors to make a series of short films that all use the same basic topic as a leaping-off point and compiling the results into one feature film. In the case of “Paris, je t’aime,” producer Emmanuel Benbihy has recruited 18 world-renowned filmmakers, assigned each one a different neighborhood in the City of Lights and asked them to come up with a five-minute-long short relating to the subject of love. Almost inevitably, the results are a mixed bag–there are a couple of unquestioned triumphs, a couple of unmitigated disasters and the rest fall somewhere in between the two extremes–but it winds up being somewhat more satisfying in the end than many films of this type.

Some of the tales are sweet–Gurinder Chadha gives us a look at a French teenager whose afternoon of catcalling pretty girls along the Seine is interrupted by the arrival of a beautiful Muslim girl, Sylvain Chomet (the creator of “The Triplets of Belleville,” working in live-action here) presents us with a hilarious segment involving a small boy telling the story of how his mime parents met and fell in love while sharing the same jail cell and Tom Tykwer uses the fast-forward approach he utilized in “Run Lola Run” to illustrate a young blind man (Melchior Beslon) reliving his entire relationship with a struggling American actress (Natalie Portman) when he is convinced that the entire thing is over. Some of the tales are dark–Isabel Coixet tells the tale of a philanderer (Sergio Castellitto) who is about to tell his wife (Miranda Richardson) that he is leaving her when she trumps him with a bombshell of her own, Oliver Schmitz gives us an encounter between a stabbing victim and the rescue worker desperately trying to save his life and Nobuhiro Suwa’s entry offers the sight of a grief-stricken mother (Juliette Binoche) learning to let go of her recently-deceased child with the help of phantom cowboy Willem Dafoe. Some of them are just plain strange– Wes Craven gives us an engaged couple (Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer) whose relationship takes a new turn after a visit to Oscar Wilde’s grave, Richard La Gravenese presents a meeting in a weird sex club between two people (Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant) in which there is more going on than meets the eye and Vincenzo Natali goes for the jugular with a vignette about an American tourist (Elijah Wood) who becomes transfixed by the gorgeous woman (Olga Kurylenko) that he spots on a dark street in the Quartier de la Madeline–so gorgeous, in fact, that he is unconcerned by the fact that she appears to be a vampire.

There are a couple of draggy segments here and there from some of the more high-profile filmmakers. Gus Van Sant’s contribution, in which one handsome young man (Gaspard Ulliel) pours his heart out to another (Elias McConnell) under the assumption that he is the strong, silent type, sounds like a good idea but neither of the two actors are especially compelling. The segment from Olivier Assayas, in which an American actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in town shooting a costume drama develops a crush on her drug dealer (Lionel Dray) starts off strong but then quickly fizzles out. The most inexplicable of the bunch comes from legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle–while it is certainly visually lush, I couldn’t begin to tell you what the point of his segment (something involving Barbet Schroeder as a hair-care product salesman and Li Xin as a kickboxing hairstylist) was supposed to be and I am not entirely certain that he could either if you asked him.

Happily, “Paris, je t’aime” makes up for these rough patches with a few truly excellent segments. Alfonso Cuaron, apparently testing out the techniques that he would go on to utilize in “Children of Men,” gives us a one-shot wonder in which Nick Nolte and Ludivine Sagnier walk down a crowded street while involved in a deep conversation whose true meaning can only be figured out in the truly surprising final moments. Alexander Payne (who makes a surprising cameo in the Wes Craven segment) gives us a quietly funny and ultimately moving monologue from a middle-aged American woman (Margo Martindale) musing on both her recent vacation to France and her entire life in general. The highlight of the entire production, however, is the hilarious bit from Joel and Ethan Coen in which tourist Steve Buscemi is harassed by a belligerent and insanely jealous Frenchman, the Frenchman’s hot-to-trot girlfriend, a decidedly unhelpful guidebook and a little kid with a peashooter while waiting at a metro stop for his train to arrive–this one is so chock-full of the Coen’s typical dark humor and visual panache that it almost feels like an entire movie in and of itself.

Obviously, “Paris, je t’aime” is more of a novelty than anything else–a series of small snacks instead of a truly satisfying meal–and even as auteur-based cinematic celebrations of Paris in current release go, it doesn’t begin to hold a candle to the glories of Luc Besson’s magnificent “Angel-A.” That said, as anthology films go, this one is better than average because the high points are pretty high indeed and the low points, for the most part, aren’t that bad. Cinephiles and Francophiles are likely to adore it but even the average moviegoer looking for something to see this weekend that doesn’t involve pirates or ogres will probably find enough of the segments worthwhile to justify the admission price.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15153&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/25/07 00:01:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/06/10 brian Very tricky format, very well done. 4 stars
3/06/09 Anonymous. a unique little movie :] 4 stars
5/30/07 Jim Brandt Lived for a year in Paris. This recreated that. Thanks to the talent involved. 5 stars
4/22/07 BertRito A great piece of work. So many great little stories. Go see it. 4 stars
11/27/06 Anaj You don´t have to love Paris but you will fall in love with this movie, for sure. 5 stars
11/16/06 Elizabeth M. Each segment of this film plays with a different emotion. A definite must-see. 5 stars
9/12/06 wheelchair guy see it more than once; there's something new to discover each time 5 stars
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  04-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2007



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