Paris, Je T'aime Various Directors

Paris, Je T'aime Various Directors
(Directed by Bruno Podalydès, Gurinder Chadha, Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Coen, Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas, Christopher Doyle, Isabel Coixet, Nobuhiro Suwa, Sylvain Chomet, Alfonso Cuarón, Olivier Assayas, Oliver Schmitz, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Frédéric Auburtin, Gérard Depardieu, Alexander Payne)

"Paris is the romance capital of the world,” or at least that’s what they tell us. The truth of the matter is that while Paris is assumed to be the perfect setting for l’amour, that aspect of it may be exclusive to those that are already familiar with the city and its ethos.

For the American tourists in the shorts by the Coen Brothers ("Tuileries”) and Alexander Payne ("14ème”), or the immigrant nanny in the piece by Walter Salles and Daniella Thomas ("Loin Du 16ème”), or even the audiences of Paris Je T’aime, the city of love may only be cold and alienating — more of a distant tease of what others enjoy than a genuinely shared sensation.

This is precisely why the three aforementioned pieces, which consider the inconsistency between Paris’s inviting aesthetic and dishearteningly exclusive reality, stand out in a collection of shorts that primarily celebrate and cater to the preconceived romantic notions of the city. It also doesn’t hurt that "Tuileries” is boldly comical, "Loin Du 16ème” is deeply affecting and "14ème” is both.

Paris Je T’aime is a compilation of 18 films, each dedicated to a different district of the 20 that make up Paris. Contributions come from an eclectic ensemble of international talents (including directors Alfonso Cuarón, Gus Van Sant, Tom Tykwer and even Wes Craven, among others), featuring everything from a droll romance between prototypical Parisian mimes to a blossoming attraction with a Vampire to a devastated mother grieving over her dead child.

There are two problems with any collection of short films of this sort. For one, the more accomplished contributions are burdened with carrying the weight of those that don’t fit the bill. The other issue is that it takes about five minutes to become invested in any one set of characters, which is about the time that Paris Je’Taime gives you before it quickly shuffles to the next segment.

Yet it all becomes worthwhile, if only to experience the paeans of the Coens, Salles, and Payne. As far as film collections go, Paris Je T’aime stands out as a diverse, alluring and conceptually solid — if uneven — effort that remains as bittersweet as the city it evokes. (Maple)