Paris Je T'aime. Movie review by Ester Molayeme.
Some of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers are brought together in Paris Je T’Aime, a collection of 18 vignettes, 5-minutes or less each, depicting 18 of the 20 neighborhoods of Paris, the city of love.
Varied casual encounters sensitive to culture and ethnicity, portray Paris as a melting pot, changing, but connected by the sentimentality of love. There is love that is found, renewed, faded, lost, and love needing some spice.
A man struggling for a parking space finds a woman fainting beside his car. A female paramedic comes to the rescue of a man she realized she knew. An immigrant mother leaves her own child at the nursery to be a nanny to another child. A traveling salesman is received with an unusual welcome by a salon owner. A husband renewed his love for his wife. A mother mourns her dead son. These are a few of the clever stories comprising Paris Je T’Aime, and include blind love, mime love, and an intense vampire love.
Countries represented by the distinguished team of directors are France, United Kingdom, USA, Brazil, Hong-Kong, Australia, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Germany and Canada. Participating directors are Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant.
Stellar talent include Willem Dafoe, Natalie Portman, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fanny Ardant, Elijah Wood, Nick Nolte, Bob Hoskins, Juliette Binoche, Emily Mortimer, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Rufus Sewell, Barbet Schroeder, Ludivine Sagnier, Gena Rowlands, Miranda Richardson and Steve Buscemi, Marianne Faithfull, with admirably delivered performances, and a nice tribute to a magnificent city.
The Pigalle district, states Richard LaGravenese “gave me the idea to write something that is bittersweet, both funny and serious. A story about how men and women speak different languages when it comes to sex and love.”
Assigned with Père Lachaise, director Wes Craven tells the story of a couple who, before their wedding, visits a cemetery. The couple has a disagreement. At Oscar Wilde’s grave the fiancé gets some advice on regaining the love of his fiancée. Craven found the Père Lachaise cemetery to be “a wonderful place to feel happy” he explains, “because you are on top of the ground not under it. It’s a perfect setting for a film that aims to provide multiple perspectives on life.”
Written by Gena Rowlands, and directed by Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Quartier Latin tells the story of a couple that meets the night before signing their divorce papers. Tension brings old wounds to the surface, and though sadly they now must move on, they both feel they will always be deeply connected.
In 14ème Arrondissement (14th neighborhood) director Alexander Payne, admits “I really did not want to tell the story of an American in Paris, but somehow that story chose me.” The segment is about Carol, a very independent middle aged woman, who has been studying French for two years preparing for her dream vacation to Paris. During her visit there, she is able to reflect on her life, and find contentment within herself.
Based on an original idea by Tristan Carné Paris Je T’Aime was produced by Claudie Ossard and Emmanuel Benbihy, and co-produced by Burkhard Von Schenk. With mostly French and European crew members, the tight shooting schedule gave each segment two or three filming days, working with an approximate budget of 10 million Euros.
Since its premiere at Cannes in 2006, in Un Certain Regard, Paris Je T’Aime has played at several international festivals including Toronto, Moscow, and Copenhagen.
The vignettes were sorted out by producer Emmanuel Benbihy, Frédéric Auburtin, and Simon Jacquet. “We tried to tease out the emotional, dramatic, and thematic elements from each short, and see where the films had things in common,” says Auburtin. “We wanted to place each segment to show it off to the best possible advantage, and above all, to respect the emotional progression of the film as a whole.”
One of the funniest vignettes is Tuileries, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (USA), illustrating a quiet and an all to himself American tourist (Steve Buscemi) at a subway station. While reading a tourist guidebook on French etiquette, he unintentionally looks at a French couple (Julie Bataille and Axel Kiener) facing him at the opposite platform.
Very amusing is also Tour Eiffel, written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, where a mime finds love in the most unusual of places, in jail.
Different dimensions of love, in all its forms, are illustrated in the stories of Paris Je T’Aime, and show seldom seen Paris sections through these international directors’ own personal angle. The movie is complemented by beautiful cinematography and music.
“This group of directors from all over the world” says producer Claudie Ossard, “opened our eyes to Paris in a fresh way.”
Release Date: May 4, 2007 (NY); May 18 (Los Angeles)
Mostly in French with English subtitles