PARIS, JE T’AIME (twenty different filmmakers, Emmanuel Benbihy, 2006)

I cannot imagine, nor do I wish to imagine, anyone’s not cherishing this rich, funny, heartrending entertainment. Paris, je t’aime consists of eighteen short films, each by a different filmmaker or pair of filmmakers, each located in a different district or section of the City of Lights. It is a single film, however, a unified work of art, with each short film contributing to the development of the same theme: in a modern urban environment, people of various ages, shapes and backgrounds hankering after connectedness, whether to express their heart’s desire or assuage loneliness, or sacrificing such an instance of connection, whether out of mortal fear or economic necessity. Some of the episodes are naturalistic; others, fantastic; others, something in between. Emmanuel Benbihy is responsible for the overall concept and gorgeous transitions, and among the filmmakers contributing to this cinematic feast are Olivier Assayas, Gurinda Chadha, Ethan and Joel Coen, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Vincenzo Natali, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa and Gus Van Sant.
     Juliette Binoche plays a woman freshly coping with the loss of her little boy in “Place des Victoires,” directed by Suwa.
     Craven’s “Père-Lachaise” finds an engaged couple visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave. The woman isn’t entirely committed to her fiancé; she wishes he were funny sometimes. This is cover for her wish that he be a little gay (his being more than a little this would defeat the purpose), which is to say, sufficiently “together” to embrace that side of his personality. Wilde’s ghost rises to tutor him.
     “Quais de Seine,” beautifully crafted by Chadha, seems to be going in a Romeo and Juliet-direction as a white boy pursues a Muslim girl and her grandfather intercedes as the latter two emerge from a mosque; but the thing takes a surprising and delightful turn.
     Natali’s nighttime “Quartier de la Madeleine” swooningly records on a blood-drenched street a man’s attraction to a prowling female vampire—an ironical, improbably funny episode.
     Steve Buscemi gives perhaps the best performance, as a tourist who stares in Le Métro when he should be averting his eyes, in “Tuileries,” by the Coen brothers, who are hilarious here.
     Van Sant’s contribution, “Le Marais,” finds heartthrob Gaspard Ulliel, his eyes barely findable amidst an unkempt growth of hair, declaring a stranger, a French-challenged American tourist, his soul-mate. It is another of Van Sant’s hommages to Hitchcock.
     Here and there an episode, like Van Sant’s, is brilliant. But the film deepens as a result of nearly all its episodes, becoming a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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