Friday, March 16, 2007

Paris, je t'aime (Paris, I love you)

by Nick
There have been good romantic films, but most of them, especially the ever prevalent romcom's, feel like nothing. Fluff. So a series of short films about love in the so called "city of love" might be inviting extreme corniness, to not say tackiness if it's done as a marketing ploy by the city.

I don't know how this project was brought together, but the film, as a whole, works. It's eighteen segments, each one after the other, taking place and named after a different section of Paris, with love as a central theme in each. There are bad, tired, incomprehensible segments, and towards the end an attempt at a conclusion that is misjudged. But there are also some really, really good parts, and they comprise almost half of the film.

What is to love here, excepting the stories themselves, is the directors assembled, and seeing what they can do given free reins. You sit there and you notice certain things about some of the directors styles and affectations, some good things, some bad things.

(Click |LINK|, for fast spoiler-free reviews of some of the segments)

Overall, those willing to see a good romantic film (films?), go see it in May when it gets a limited run in the States. The good parts more than made up for the bad ones.

Like, I don't know who Oliver Schmitz is but his segment ("Place des Fêtes") might be the best one. An immigrant cleaner meets a woman he's been flirting with during unfortunate circumstances, flashbacks going back and forth. Perfectly comprised in time, in the end heartbreaking.

Gus Van Sants "Le Marais" feels most reminiscent of this 'vague' thing his work seems to be going through. Or, anyway, I didn't get it.

And I used to think Wes Craven was a victim of some kind of typecasting in directing horror films, but even here, when he wrote the thing, the supernatural makes an appearance. Self-typecasting?

And Vincenzo Natali's (Cube) segment "Quartier de la Madeleine", with Elijah Wood hunted by a vampire, illustrates a problem that the current wave of films with digitized palettes (like Sin City and 300) seem to suffer from. They're too cool, with a total lack of human commitment, striking one as soulless. Wes Craven cameos.

Sylvain Chomet's (Triplettes of Belleville) "Tour Eiffel", is perhaps the most commercial and stylized of the parts, but it's also the most enjoyable. It's an ingenious tale, practically a cartoon, of an Eiffel tower mime finding love, and made me laugh loud more than once.

The Coen Brothers' "Tuileries" has Steve Buscemi, who, if I recall correctly, doesn't say a word, getting involved in a humorous confrontation at the Paris underground.

Gurinder Chadha's (Bend It Like Beckham) "Quais de Seine" has a very sweet
interplay between two French teenagers, one a Muslim girl.

Isabel Coixet's (My Life Without Me) segment ("Le Bastille") is classic short film stuff, with Miranda Richardson in another near-silent (or non-French speaking, at least) role. None the less, it's effective, with one of those voice-over uses that only the French and English films seem to get away with (I think it's because Americans tend to overdramatize).

I loved Alfonso Cuaróns segment ("Parc Monceau") simply because it has Nick Nolte going on a ramble through the streets of Paris. Sometimes that's enough. Of course it's all one long take.

Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) "Faubourg Saint-Denis" with Natalie Portman, made me rewind and watch the whole segment again. It's another one of his hyper-spool-time-segments-whatyamayhaveits with a techno beat but, dammit, it works again. Even if Portman plays ditzy American girl, again.

Alexander Payne's "14th Arrondissement", is the last segment of the film, and has Margo Martindale (Swank's mother in Million Dollar Baby) as an American tourist with a horrible french pronounciation. Might be more enjoyable for those with some understanding of french.

There are others, but they were mostly forgettable, or just plain bad (Nobuhiro Sawa's "Place des Victoires" with Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe was especially horrible).


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