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Paris, je t'aime is about the plurality of cinema in one mythic location: Paris, the City of Love. Twenty filmmakers have five minutes each; the audience must weave a single narrative out of twenty moments. The 20 moments are fused by transitional interstitial sequences and also via the introduction and epilogue. Each transition begins with the last shot of the previous film and ends with the first shot of the following film, extending the enchantment and the emotion of the previous segment, preparing the audience for a surprise, and providing a cohesive atmosphere. There's a reappearing mysterious character who is a witness to the Parisian life. A common theme of Paris and love fuses all. Written by
In the segment 'Père-Lachaise,' when William (Rufus Sewell) confronts Frances (Emily Mortimer), his coat is buttoned to the neck. The camera cuts to Frances, and back to William, his coat now open. The next time William appears, his coat is buttoned-up again. William (apparently) hasn't moved at all. See more »
[In voice-over narration]
By acting like a man in love, he became a man in love again.
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You are in the collective hands of 18 masters sit back and enjoy the ride
I was lucky enough to attend a screening in Stockholm for this elegantly expressed, enjoyable, and thought-provoking film. With romance as the heaviest weapon in its arsenal, Paris je t'aime boldly plunges into love in Paris, navigating the different forms in eighteen separate "quartiers" but without pouting Parisiennes and saccharine formulas. Its goldmine undoubtedly stems from frustration on the directors' parts frustration over only having 5-10 minutes of screen time thereby you are only presented with the best and most assured direction from each party.
Debating whether or not I should review all 18 segments, I reached the conclusion that it would be merely redundant and long-winded. Instead simply rest assured that each director graces the film with their eccentric styles and skills, and certainly you'll find your favourite. Although Gus Van Sant cannot resist the temptation to be introspective, his LES MARAIS is one of the better contributions, even sneaking in a well-placed Kurt Cobain reference. The Coen brothers recreate one of the more accessible segments in Paris, a scene with a muted but emotionally transparent Steve Buscemi, deadpan humour and clever camera angles that surely generated the most laughter in my theatre, and perhaps rightly so.
In this way, all story lines are exquisitely unique filtered through the minds of different directors but the one that deviates the most from the rest is Vincenzo Natali's QUARTIER DE LA MADELEINE, a dark horror-Gothic love starring Elijah Wood as a lost tourist in the backstreets of Paris in the night who meets a vampiress. With a black-and-white format but blood-red colour contrast that seems to incongruously bleed off screen, it nearly becomes a pastiche of Sin City a refreshing eerie and visual turn in an otherwise fairly grounded film.
Yet my single favourite segment was FAUBOURG SAINT-DENIS by Tom Tykwer but I think I was conditioned to think so, given that I went in the theatre with him as my favourite and nudged my friend in the side saying "finally, that's my favourite director here". Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Tykwer delivers a lovely segment in which a blind boy picks up the phone, and hears from his girlfriend (Portman - for once not annoying) that she breaks up with him, and he reflects on their relationship. As is Tywker's style, the story is dizzyingly fast-paced, kinetic and repetitive, featuring screaming and running (Lola Rennt) making it the most adrenaline-pumping segment in Paris je t'aime and possibly also the most touching once Tywker starts wielding his most powerful tool music.
To fill the negative account, clearly not all directors manage as touching as Tywker, Van Sant, Cohens, Coixet and Dépardieu. Sylvain Chomet scrapes the bottom of the pile by carving out a truly disposable segment in which a little boy retells the story of how his parents met. They are two lonely mimes. This part is so in-your-face French and desperately quirky that it is insulting to international viewers. Suwa also directs a poor and fluffy segment with an unusually haggard-looking Juliette Binoche whom mourns the loss of her son. Nothing else happens. Finally, the wrap-up and interweaving of the 18 stories in the end feels somewhat rushed and half-hearted.
Yet Paris je t'aime truly spoils you with quality, for all the other stories are well-crafted with crisp acting and amusing writing. It is certainly one of the highlights of 2006 (not saying much, I suppose) and a very personal film in the sense that it is unavoidable to pick a favourite and a least favourite. Highly recommended both to mainstream of "pretentious" (heh) audiences.
8 out 10
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