Saturday, 6 October 2007

Paris, Je T'Aime

Paris, Je T'Aime
Montmartre
Quais De Seine
Le Marais
Tuileries
Loin Du 16e
Porte De Choisy
Bastille
Place Des Victoires
Tour Eiffel
Parc Monceau
Quartier Des Enfants Rouges
Place Des Fetes
Pigalle
Quartier De La Madeleine
Pere-Lachaise
Faubourg Saint-Denis
Quartier Latin
14e Arrondissement
Paris, Je T'Aime is an anthology in which eighteen Paris arrondissements are each represented by a different eponymous short film:

Montmartre
(a man sees a woman faint in the street, and invites her to rest in his car; directed by Bruno Podalydes)

Quais De Seine
(ignoring his aggressive friends, a young man begins a friendship with a young Muslim woman; directed by Gurinder Chadha)

Le Marais
(a designer's assistant is attracted to a printer, though cannot communicate with him; directed by Gus van Sant)

Tuileries
(a tourist inadvertantly provokes a minor conflict; directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

Loin Du 16e
(a woman takes care of her employer's baby, after leaving her own baby in daycare; directed Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas)

Porte De Choisy
(a foreign salesman visits a strange hair salon; directed by Christopher Doyle)

Bastille
(a man is planning to leave his wife, though he changes his mind when she reveals her terminal illness; directed by Isabel Coixet)

Place Des Victoires
(a mother grieving for her dead son is reunited with him; directed by Nobhiro Suwa)

Tour Eiffel
(two mime artists fall in love; directed by Sylvain Chomet)

Parc Monceau
(a difficult conversation between father and daughter; directed by Alfonso Cuaron)

Quartier Des Enfants Rouges
(an actress develops a crush on her drug dealer; directed by Olivier Assayas)

Place Des Fetes
(a dying man is comforted by a paramedic; directed by Oliver Schmitz)

Pigalle
(a middle-aged couple role-play in a brothel; directed by Richard La Gravenese)

Quartier De La Madeleine
(a backpacker falls in love with a vampire; directed by Vincenzo Natali)

Pere-Lachaise
(two fiancees argue in front of Oscar Wilde's grave; directed by Wes Craven)

Faubourg Saint-Denis
(a young blind man remembers his relationship with an actress; directed by Tom Tykwer)

Quartier Latin
(a married couple meet for a drink to discuss their divorce; directed by Gerard Depardieu and Frederic Auburtin)

14e Arrondissement
(a tourist describes her impressions of the city; directed Alexander Payne)

The films are linked by postcard-style footage of Paris, and the entire anthology is, of course, a love letter to the city. The opening, with fireworks over the city's skyline, closely resembles that of Manhattan.

Montmartre and Quais De Seine both involve a man coming to the aid of a woman who falls over, leading to possible relationships between them; the two films don't really benefit from their juxtaposition. Le Marais also features a chance encounter with romantic potential (this time between two men who speak different languages), though, like the earlier segments, the outcome is not revealed.

Tuileries, set entirely in a Metro station, stars the great Steve Buscemi as a tourist who looks in the wrong direction and suffers the consequences. Hilariously, the precise insults shouted at him are translated in his otherwise cliched guidebook.

Loin Du 16e is not particularly involving. Porte De Choisy, clearly influenced by Doyle's experiences as a cinematographer for Wong Kar-Wai, tries too hard to be exotic. Bastille is simple yet sweet. The ending of Place Des Victoires, a fantasy in which a cowboy on horseback leads a mother to her child's ghost, is too unrealistic to be emotionally involving. Quartier De La Madeleine seems out of place. The slapstick antics of the mimes in Tour Eiffel also leave me cold.

Parc Monceau, filmed in a single take, is much more credible, with a father and daughter bonding as they walk the streets of the district. Quartier Des Enfants Rouges is an equally observational story. The tender and sad Place Des Fetes is one of the highlights. Why it's followed by the ridiculous Pigalle is anyone's guess.

Pere-Lachaise is one of the few films to fully exploit the features of its chosen location. Faubourg Saint-Denis is another standout film, featuring rapid editing and realistic observations. Quartier Latin is not especially ambitious, though the actors are convincing.

The final segment, 14e Arrondissement, is one of the greatest. It's a totally believable, naturalistic portrait of a lonely tourist who, in the film's final line, feels happy and sad at the same time.

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