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Jun 21, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Paris, je t'aime

I can hear the naysayers already.

"Paris?? You better be talkin' 'bout Paris, Texas, cause I hate the French."

"Love stories? I'm not into "love story" movies. Thanks, anyway."
"A movie set in Paris about love stories? Hell no! And I hate subtitles."

Well, your loss, if that's your thinking. Paris, je t'aime is easily one of the best movies of the year. With good reason, too - after all, this anthology of 18 short films, each set in one of Paris' arrondissements, counts some of the best actors and directors in the business amongst its participants. This is a demonstration in what movies are (or should be) all about - a range of emotions, terrific acting, a wide array of styles, good stories - it's got it all.

To avoid this turning into a book (which it might end up being anyway, but stay with me here), I won't give a complete rundown of all 18, but here are some notes for each, given in the order they appear onscreen, with the title and director noted (with help from Wikipedia):

* Montmartre - Directed by Bruno Podalydès, starring Podalydès and Florence Muller
A slow start featuring a lone
ly man and some serendipity. Not great, not bad.

* Quais de Seine
- Directed by Gurinder Chadha, starring Leïla Bekhti and Cyril Descours
A quiet teen meets a girl from a different background, and possibly opens his eyes a bit. A tad syrupy, but not bad nonetheless.

* Le Marais - Directed by Gus Van Sant, starring Gaspard Ulliel, Elias McConnell and Marianne Faithfull
Van Sant starts this off slow, but a twist at the end makes it.

* Tuileries - Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, starring Steve Buscemi, Axel Kiener and Julie Bataille
One of the two or three best. I won't ruin it, but let's just say that it's Steve Buscemi like you've never seen him before. Funny as hell, and gets you itching for vintage Coen brothers.

*Loin du 16e
- Directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, starring Catalina Sandino Moreno
Contains by far the least amount of story compared to the rest, but is still poignant. Think of it as more of a detour. A bit depressing as well.

* Porte de Choisy
- Directed by Christopher Doyle, starring Barbet Schroeder and Li Xin
Odd. Bizarre. Strange. You name it, this one is weird - in a bad way.

* Bastille - Directed by Isabel Coixet, starring Sergio Castellitto, Miranda Richardson and Leonor Watling
Middle ground here, as this short tells the tale of an adulterous husband who changes his stripes.

* Place des Victoires - Directed by Nobuhiro Suwa, starring Juliette Binoche, Hippolyte Girardot and Willem Dafoe
One of the two saddest in the film. Dafoe's appearance is a bit disconcerting, but still welcome. Those with kids will be hit hard by this one.

* Tour Eiffel
- Directed by Sylvain Chomet, starring Paul Putner and Yolande Moreau
Mime alert! Don't be too scared, though - this one's pretty funny, and the little kid is cute as hell.

* Parc Monceau - Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, starring Nick Nolte and Ludivine Sagnier
I was really disappointed by this one as I'm a big Cuarón fan. It's not terrible, but I would have thought his would have been amongst the best. Nick Nolte is borderline impossible to understand, in French or English - he's fully turned into Gary Busey at this point.

* Quartier des Enfants Rouges
- Directed by Olivier Assayas, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lionel Dray
Maggie speaks French well (at least it sounds that way to my far-from-fluent ears). This one has promise, but kind of dies at the end. Not great overall.

* Place des fêtes - Directed by Oliver Schmitz, starring Aïssa Maïga and Seydou Boro
Absolutely heartbreaking. It almost got a little misty in the theater here (but not quite). One of my favorites, despite how sad it is.

* Pigalle
- Directed by Richard LaGravenese, starring Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant
Bob Hoskins always makes things interesting - you never know what type of character he's going to play, as he can just as easily go from comic to terrifying killer. Here, he's a frustrated would-be Viagra consumer trying to seduce his special ladyfriend.

* Quartier de la Madeleine
- Directed by Vincenzo Natali, starring Elijah Wood and Olga Kurylenko
The second-worst of the bunch, as Elijah Wood falls for a Parisian vampire. This one is all style and no story, and the style is a bit off-kilter at times (pay attention to the way she moves). Some cool elements, but overall a loser.

* Père-Lachaise
- Directed by Wes Craven, starring Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell and Alexander Payne
When you see Craven's name pop up, you might think of a certain genre, but the old dog has some tricks up his sleeve. Two recognizable Brits in a cemetary make this one of the better entries, and Sewell shows he has a sense of humor after all.

* Faubourg Saint-Denis - Directed by Tom Tykwer, starring Melchior Beslon and Natalie Portman
From the director of one of my favorite films (Run Lola Run) comes my favorite short on display. A blind Parisian meets an American actress, they click, she moves to Paris, she screams, he studies for his exams, she acts...

You'll get it. Tykwer took full advantage of the screen time given.

* Quartier Latin - Directed by Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin, starring Ben Gazzara, Rowlands and Depardieu
Two old timers (Gazzara is 76, Rowlands just turned 77) show us how it's done in a terrifically written scene. Depardieu directs and even pops in - guess you couldn't have this movie without him.

* 14e arrondissement
- Directed by Alexander Payne, starring Margo Martindale
Payne brings his familiar style (Election, About Schmidt) to this story of an American tourist discovering herself on a vacation to the City of Lights. I won't spoil this for you, but it's up there with the Tykwer and Coen brothers entries as the standouts. High comedy, especially if you've ever taken a French class.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You're the best...around!"

3 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Paris, je t'aime"

Anonymous said...

Alright, I would watch this for the directors alone.

However, this film isn't carried anywhere near me. I guess it doesn't have enough CGI.

Guess it's a rental for me. Great review.

Bixby said...

Nice Review. I'll have to check this out. I just went to Paris a couple of months ago and just reading the review makes me want to go back.

Steve said...

My wife made it sound like a chick movie, so I was totally dreading it. Glad I went now, damn good movie!