Paris Je T'aime

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18 films, 20 directors, one city. Here’s how it goes: the looser the theme, the more erratic this sort of portmanteau-picture usually is, and, as themes go, the entire French capital is about as baggy as the shorts of an American tourist checking out paintings in the Loo-verer. It’s no shock then that this collection of films about love in the City of the Light, each written and directed by a different filmmaker from Tom Tykwer to Walter Salles, is a hit-and-miss affair that offers more pains than delights. The producers originally wanted one film for each of the city’s 20 arrondissements, but when two contributions fell short, they instead titled each of the films according to its neighbourhood-setting, so giving us Gus Van Sant’s ‘Le Marais’, Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Quais de Seine’ etc, each packaged with saccharine linking-shots of fireworks and the Eiffel Tower. The saving grace is that each director has crafted a city-story in their own image rather than adopting a tourist’s view; the let-down is that the quality is so haphazard.

Which segments succeed? Of several American contributions, Steve Buscemi as a nervy tourist on the Metro in the Coen brothers’ ‘Tuileries’ is a hoot, while Alexander Payne’s ‘14th Arrondissement’ is a sweet subversion of the stereotype of the visitor to Europe. Other hits include Oliver Schmitz’s moving snippet of an injured immigrant looking for help and Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin’s capturing of a tender conversation between almost-divorcees played by Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara. The misses range from the excruciating – Sylvain Chomet’s mime artist and Chris Doyle’s Chinatown tale – to those too reliant on gags and punchlines such as the contributions from Van Sant and Alfonso Cuarón. Isn’t it telling that so few French directors joined the party? With the Olympics coming, a similar spin on London must be looming.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday June 29 2007
Duration: 121 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Cast: Ben Gazzara
Gena Rowlands
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Steve Buscemi
Fanny Ardant
Juliette Binoche
Sergio Castellitto
Willem Dafoe
Gérard Depardieu
Marianne Faithfull
Bob Hoskins
Margo Martindale
Emily Mortimer
Nick Nolte
Catalina Sandino Moreno
Natalie Portman
Miranda Richardson
Ludivine Sagnier
Rufus Sewell
Gaspard Ulliel
Elijah Wood

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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francois henderson

i don't agree. i loved it. some of the shorts were a little obscure, but they were snapshots of a story unfinished that left you wondering, why should there always be an ending? to me, the films felt like an impressionists canvas, make of them what you will. i liked the obscure, the absurd, and the intenseness of them, sometimes with a serious theme, sometimes funny and absurd. it's refreshlingly different from your usual hollywood fish n chips.