2006; Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, Alexander Payne, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gurinder Chadha, Olivier Assayas, Walter Salles, Sylvain Chomet, Tom Tykwer, nine others
With Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Sergio Castellito, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Gena Rowlands, Ludivine Sagnier, Rufus Sewell, Leonor Watling, many others
First Look Home Entertainment
Available Nov. 13; List Price
Love comes in many sizes and guises, many snapshots of emotion. It might be the love of two strangers colliding on the street; of a woman for her dead child; the rediscovered devotion of a man thinking of leaving his wife; an engaged couple testing their bond in P¸re Lachaise cemetery; of a couple long separated and replaying their cutting banter one last time. There are 18 varieties of amour in the omnibus film Paris, je t'aime, each episode set in a different arrondissement (neighborhood). The movie is about the love of cinema and of the city that gave it birth and was the location and inspiration for many of its masterpieces.
Wouldn't you like to see, in one sitting, the new films from the directors of Fargo, Sideways, Scream, Y tu mama tambien, Bend It Like Beckham, Irma Vep, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Triplets of Belleville and Run, Lola, Run? (For those of you who don't frequent art houses, we speak of Joel and Ethan Coen, Alexander Payne, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gurinder Chadha, Olivier Assayas, Walter Salles, Sylvain Chomet and Tom Tykwer.) Wouldn't it to lovely to bathe briefly in the radiance of the actors and actress listed above? Of course, star quality doesn't guarantee a film's quality, but in Paris, je t'aime the good episodes are very good, and the bad ones will be over in a few mins. Here are three favorites:
1st arrondissement. The Coen brothers crunch their black comedy into a black hole of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Buscemi, whose Coen-nections cover five features, from Miller's Crossing to The Big Lebowski, plays a tourist reading a guidebook in the Paris Metro. "Never make eye contact," the book advises. But it's too late; he has inadvertently done just that with a woman on the opposite platform. Her beau takes offense, and Buscemi finds himself the injured party in a bout of romantic gamesmanship. Nasty, natty fun.
14th arrondissement. In the Payne sketch, Margo Martindale is a Denver mail carrier on a Paris holiday. Wandering alone through parks in the city whose language she has tried to master (the narration is in hilarious fractured French the kind we speak in restaurants and shops here), she comes to understand the fragile gift of solitude in a big, beautiful city.
19th arrondissement. Just when we were wondering if there were any non-whites in Paris, Oliver Schmitz provided a little epic of the African diaspora in France. In his last moments of life, a wounded man from Lagos is tended by a sympathetic paramedic, also African. Flashbacks paint a tragic few years in a few moments: a job lost, a guitar stolen, a knife in the gut, all given meaning by one sweet brief encounter in a parking garage.
On the second disc you get a making-of short for each segment. Paris familiars will wonder why there are two fewer episodes than arrondissements. That's because the producers left two contributions on the cutting-room floor, thus stoking the kind of furor the French love more than a Poilane baguette. Just to see what the fuss was about, I wish the two little films had been included here. It would be like visiting a salon de refus'es.