Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paris Je T'aime

Originally Written and Posted at on 1/30/08 w/ Additional Edits.

Paris, one of the greatest cities of the world. Home of the arts, the Cinemateque, the Sorbonne, the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, and many more landmark sites including the people in all of its glory with its mix of models, actors, musicians, and artists eating on the sidewalk cafes eating crepes, French bread, and drink wine. It's a glorious place that for those who want to go will be dreaming about by even saying they've been there but not physically. Yet, for those who still dream about going to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, how can they understand the experience the city? Well, there's a film made by some of the world's greatest directors as they're joined by some of the world's finest actors in an anthology film entitled Paris, Je T'aime (Paris, I Love You).

Paris, Je T'aime is an anthology film featuring 18 short films about various people in the different sections of the city. Based on an idea by Tristan Carne and conceptualized by Emmanuel Benbihy who along with Frederic Auburtin directed the transition sequences between each short. The film is an exploration of the city through different stories from the perspective of its eclectic group of directors that include Joel & Ethan Coen, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Payne, Tom Tykwer, Olivier Assayas, Wes Craven, Gurinder Chadha, Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alfonso Cuaron, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Sylvain Chomet, Isabel Coixet, Bruno Podalydes, and Nobuhiro Suwa.

Featuring an all-star cast that include Fanny Ardant, Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gerard Depardieu, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Barbet Schroder, Bob Hoskins, Steve Buscemi, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Gaspard Ulliel, Rufus Sewell, Emily Mortimer, Li Xin, Sergio Castellitto, Gena Rowlands, Miranda Richardson, Ben Gazarra, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, and many more. Paris, Je T'aime is a fascinating, enchanting film that will make anyone fall in love with Paris that they want to take a trip to one of the greatest cities in the world.

Montmarte (written & directed by Bruno Podalydes) is the story of a man (Bruno Podalydes) trying to find a parking space through the crowded sidewalk in the city as he finds one where he listens to classical music. Refusing to leave his space, he watches everything around where he then finds a woman (Florence Muller) fainting on his car as he tries to take care of her and then puts her in the back of his car as he tries to comfort her. Quais de Seine (directed by Gurinder Chadha & written by Chadha & Paul Mayeda Berges) is about a young man (Cyril Decours) who is hanging out with a couple of friends taunting women on the Seine River as he catches the eye of a beautiful, Muslim woman (Leila Bekhti) whom he befriends as she leaves for prayer at a nearby mosque as he waits for her. In Le Marais (written & directed by Gus Van Sant), a male customer named Gaspard (Gaspard Ulliel) is with Marianne Faithfull as he finds himself attracted to a young man (Elias McConnell) as he talks to him about soulmates despite the fact that this young man barely understands him.

In Tuileres (written & directed by Joel & Ethan Coen), a tourist (Steve Buscemi) is waiting in the Tuileres station, he reads a book about Paris where he breaks an unspoken rule about eye contact where he catches the eye of a young woman (Julie Bataille) only to anger her boyfriend (Axel Keiner) where he finds himself in trouble while getting hit with spitballs from a child. Loin du 16e (written & directed by Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas) tells the story of a young woman (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who leaves her baby behind at a daycare as she sings him a lullaby. After leaving her child, she takes a long journey from one side of the city to another as she works as a nanny for a rich woman to take care of her baby. Porte de Choisy (directed by Christopher Doyle & written by Doyle, Gabrielle Keng, & Kathy Li) involves a beauty products salesman (Barbet Schroder) whose meeting with a salon owner (Li Xin) nearly proves to be disastrous until the look he gives her proves to be a hit with her customers.

Bastille (written & directed by Isabelle Coixet) tells the story of a man (Sergio Castellitto) who decides to leave his wife (Miranda Richardson) for a younger woman (Leonor Watling) until his wife tells him some news that makes him rethink his decision as it's told in a third-person narration. Place des Victoires (written & directed by Nobuhiro Suwa) features a woman (Juliette Binoche) still coping with the death of her young son (Martin Combes) as her grief is suddenly comforted by a mysterious yet magical cowboy (Willem Dafoe). Tour Eiffel (written & directed by Sylvain Chomet) is told by a little boy (Dylan Gomong) of how his mime parents (Paul Putner & Yolande Moreau) meet and fell in love. Parc Monceau (written & directed by Alfonso Cuaron) is about an old man (Nick Nolte) who decides to meet a young woman (Ludivine Sagnier) based on an arrangement for a man named Gaspard as they talk about their own troubles in one continuous shot.

Quartier de Enfants Rouge (written & directed by Olivier Assayas) features an American actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who befriends a dealer (Lionel Dray) as she procures some strong hashish she needed before going to work on a costume drama. Place des Fetes (written & directed by Oliver Schmitz) features a wounded man (Seydou Boro) who is trying to talk to a woman (Aissa Maiga) whom he had met and fallen for some time ago as he tried to find her and ask her for a cup of coffee. Pigalle (written & directed by Richard LaGravenese) features an aging couple (Bob Hoskins & Fanny Ardant) trying to reinvigorate their marriage and love life as they contend with aging and their upcoming doom. In Quartier de la Madeleine (written & directed by Vincenzo Natali), a backpacking tourist (Elijah Wood) is walking late at night when he catches a vampiress (Olga Kurylenko) biting someone as she catches him as he falls in love with her.

Pere-Lachaise (written & directed by Wes Craven) features a soon-to-be-married couple (Rufus Sewell & Emily Mortimer) visiting famous grave sites as the woman is upset by her lover's lack of humor while they catch the grave of Oscar Wilde where during a tense moment, the man finds inspiration from the ghost of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne). Faubourg Saint-Denis (written & directed by Tom Tykwer) tells the story of a blind man (Melchior Beslon) who receives a call from his actress-girlfriend (Natalie Portman) about a break-up as he recalls the memories of their love life and their decline. Quartier Latin (directed by Gerard Depardieu & Frederic Auburtin & written by Gena Rowlands) tells the story of an old couple (Gena Rowlands & Ben Gazarra) set to divorce as they talk about their life for one last drink on the day before they officially separate. In 14e Arrondissement (written & directed by Alexander Payne), an American tourist (Margo Martindale) takes a trip to Paris and in rough French, where she goes through the sites of the city and wonders about the city and herself.

Essentially, the film is about Paris and the stories of love surrounding the place through its characters and interactions with the city or something. In many ways, it's a joyous collection of shorts from some of the world's greatest directors in this cinematic tour guide in the City of Lights. For some directors like Alexander Payne, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, and the Coen Brothers, it's an opportunity to take a story each told in five minutes and use it to emphasize their themes and such. Payne's story of an American tourist telling her story in rough French emphasizes the director's mix of melancholia and humor as it's told wonderfully. The Coen Brothers segment with regular Steve Buscemi is a funny take on the don'ts at a subway. Gus Van Sant's segment will remind audiences of his early work like Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho revels in the director's themes of gay love and disappointments. Then there's Gurinder Chadha's poignant tale of a young man falling for a young Muslim woman as he is captivated by her beauty. That short is another emphasis on Chadha's worldly view on Muslims and their mystical beauty.

The shorts of these directors along with the shorts of Sylvain Chomet, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Nobuhiro Suwa, and Vincenzo Natali are the real highlights among the 18 shorts shown on film. Chomet, who is known as an animated film director, brings a delightful story told through mimes as it's truly one of the most entertaining. Tom Tykwer's short about a declining relationship told from one's memory is engrossed in the German auteur's unique style of fast-forward editing, sharp camera work, and electronic music as it emphasizes some of the film's emotional moments. Wes Craven's short is a surprise of sorts from the director who is known for horror and thrillers as he brings a wonderful take on romantic comedy with help from Alexander Payne as Oscar Wilde. Nobuhiro Suwa's emotional story of loss reminds audiences of Juliette Binoche's work from Krzystof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Bleu with a wonderful appearance from Willem Dafoe as a cowboy in a strange, fantasy sequence.

While a lot of the shorts are mostly told in a dramatic fashion, Vincenzo Natali's short features no dialogue and is a mix of horror, comedy, silent-film, and romance as it's one of the film's finest shorts with wonderful performances from Elijah Wood and Olga Kurylenko. Other shorts that are memorable include Olivier Assayas' short with Maggie Gyllenhaal that features a grainy-like camera work to emphasize her character's hazy state of mind through hashish. Renowned Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle explores his familiar world with Asians in a wonderful short with Barbet Schroder and Li Xin that is filled of humor and references to French actresses. Bruno Podalydes' short was a great opener to the film as it emphasizes the accidental meetings between man and woman. Isabel Coixet's short was also strong that showed a man's choice between one woman and another forces him to question his loyalties.

The Richard LaGravenese short with Fanny Ardant and Bob Hoskins is one filled with lots of humor that featured the French actress and British actor playing off each other through great comedic timing. Gerard Depardieu & Frederic Auburtin's short that featured Depardieu as a restaurant owner is a joy to watch that is also in a style reminiscent of John Cassavetes with a script by Gena Rowlands as she and Cassavetes associate Ben Gazarra do amazing work with Rowlands displaying herself gracefully in the short. Another strong short is Oliver Schmitz short featuring African actors in a story of love and desperation proving the film's diversity. Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas' short tells a great story with a wonderfully understated performance from Catalina Sandino Moreno though it's one story that is depressing.

With every anthology film, there's some great shorts and some really good ones. Then, there's those that don't do as well. This is in the case of the short by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, which is surprising considering his reputation for great films. The problem with his short that features Nick Nolte & Ludivine Sagnier is told through one, uncut, unedited, continuous shot. While on a technical level, it's a great idea yet the result is style over substance. The tracking shot is really a distraction as the story of this old man and young woman talking doesn't have a lot of depth. Nolte and Sagnier are fine actors but the material they're working with isn't very good and Cuaron's overwhelming emphasis on technical style over the story definitely causes a problem. It's the one short that doesn't work in some respects.

With some amazing technical work in the editing, different styles of cinematography with contributions from Eric Gautier and Bruno Dubonnel, and the music to convey the romanticism of Paris. The film flows easily as for most of the time, the film is well-paced with very few bumps while the overall aspect is entertaining. Yet, with directors bringing in their own style of storytelling as well as a vision. The result is truly mesmerizing. Even with a diverse cast of actors from legends like Fanny Ardant, Gena Rowlands, and Bob Hoskins to famed character actors like Steve Buscemi and Sergio Castellitto, to young talents like Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, and Gaspard Ulliel.

Paris, Je T'aime is an extraordinary short that is a must have for fans of anthology films. For anyone who loves the work of Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, the Coen Brothers, Gurinder Chadha, Tom Tykwer, and Alexander Payne will no doubt find shorts worthy of their rich filmography along with surprises from Sylvain Chomet, Nobuhiro Suwa, and Vincenzo Natali. For anyone who dreams of going to the City of Lights will no doubt enjoy this tour of one of the most beloved cities in the world. In the end, for anyone who wants to say they've been to Paris but not physically, Paris, Je T'aime is the film to go see.

Related: New York, I Love You - (Tsibilis, I Love You) - Rio, Eu Te Amo

(C) thevoid99 2011


Unknown said...

I love Paris, and admit that I've on occasion 'wandered' through it for hours using Google Maps' Street View. This is a wonderful compilation with some hits and misses and as a whole, miles above the New York sequel. I think mostly because of the overall all star talent level involved in this one.

Funnily I quite enjoyed the Cuaron short, but didn't care much for Doyle's entry. I guess there's something for everyone in here.

thevoid99 said...

My mother's favorite was the Doyle short. My dad's favorite was the Coen Brothers.

I do like this film a lot and yes, New York, I Love You from what I saw in scattered moments was terrible except for some odd reason, the Brett Ratner segment with Anton Yelchin and Olivia Thirlby.

I'll get around to that soon. Maybe next week as I'm planning to do another anthology film next week.

Anonymous said...

Some segments are better than others but the ones I remember the most were the Natalie Portman one, the Nick Nolte one that was all in one-shot which was really cool, and The Coen Brothers segment with Steve Buscemi basically saying nothing, just being Steve Buscemi. Good Review Steven!

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-Thanks. I do love the Tykwer and Coen Brothers short. Who couldn't enjoy Steve Buscemi in a silent performance?

I do like the technicality that Cuaron presented with his film but it felt more like a gimmick.

It's been a while since I've seen this though I do hope to revisit it again.