Movie Review: Paris, Je T’aime
By: Kacie Versaci
Who doesn’t love Paris? The lights, the food, the shopping, the…love. Paris, Je T’aime gives us eighteen views of just that — the love of, or in, Paris. It’s a fantastic concept — eighteen talented directors each create a vignette representing a neighborhood of the city while illustrating different sides of love.
First, a small word of advice: This is not Love Actually, so it will be a waste of your time to try and find the deus ex machina; there is little to no connection between the stories. It might seem a little daunting at first, but trust me, the pieces bleed seamlessly into one another, and each will capture your attention for different reasons.
Now that that’s out of the way, onto what Paris Je T’aime is: a beautifully shot showcase of human connection, a smorgesbord of relationships — from mother and child, and husband and wife, to tourist and vampire and woman to Oscar Wilde’s ghost. It’s sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny as hell, other times down right strange.
The vignettes are sparkling at best, forgettable at worst. The crème-de-la-crème are all little snippets of auteurism and share this: They present old, tired relationship tales in new ways. “Bastille,” directed by Isabel Coixet, tells the story of a man (Sergio Castellitto) about to leave his wife (Miranda Richardson), only to find out she has terminal cancer. So, in caring for her, he rekindles his feelings for her, as told through a novel-like, The Wonder Years style narration: “In pretending to be a man in love,” he says, “he became a man in love.”
“Tour Eiffel” (directed by Sylvain Chomen) is a simple boy-mime meets girl-mime, boy-mime marries girl-mime, and mime couple has a son. Unusual story aside, the highly stylized palette and motions make this segment especially stand out. Tom Twyker’s “Faubourg Saint-Denis” gives a gorgeous rendering of the development of a relationship between a blind college student (Melchior Beslon) and an aspiring American actress (Natalie Portman) using repetition, montage and haunting filming effects.
“Place des Fêtes,” directed by Oliver Schmitz, is the most painful of the eighteen — a down-on-his-luck parking garage custodian and a medical student (unknowns Seydou Boro and Aïssa Maïga) have a brief, but quietly heart-breaking encounter.
There are only two sore thumbs in the whole piece: Christopher Doyle’s “Porte de Choisy” and Vincenzo Natali’s “Quarteir de la Madeleine.” Neither is bad, but they stick out. “Porte de Choisy” looks like a cross between a shampoo commercial and Kill Bill, and despite the lack of a direct narrative, is breath-taking aesthetically — the vibrant colors, choreographed movements and incongruous imagery: a Buddhist Monk paces through a bowling alley, Chinese women teeter in a beauty pageant dressed in technicolored traditional garments, a frail young lady punches through a glass door…just to name a few.
“Quarier de la Madeleine” is a silent tableau, starring Elijah Wood as a bumbling tourist lost in a back alley who stumbles upon a goth-queen vampire. It’s a comic book come-to-life, in the same vein as Sin City or 300. Filmed in dazzling black and white (except the cartoon-ish bright red blood), this one seems a little strange next to the more complicated pieces, but at the very least it a visual treat.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as a druggie-turned-actress is the most disappointing of the bunch, as there is nothing too remarkable about the story or the overall look, save for Miss Gyllenhaal. Gus Van Sant’s almost reeks of Gus Van Santedness: A chanced meeting between two young men, the dangling ending and wonderful lingering long, track shots. And Wes Craven’s surprising contribution, “Père-Lachaise,” is a delightful mini-comedy about a romance teetering on the edge of turmoil, a far cry from his usual slashers and thrillers.
Clichéd as it sounds, the movie has something for everyone. The final vignette, “14ème Arrondissement,” (Alexander Payne) easily sums up the feelings Paris, Je T’aime will give you: “I felt both happiness and sadness,” says Carol, a lonely American Tourist, in her Denver-tinged French. “At that moment, I fell in love with Paris.” Ah, l’amour.