Paris, Je T’aime
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Paris, Je T’aime

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There are few cities in the world as associated with love and romance as Paris. The city of lights is the setting for some of the most well known passionate films in history. Like most other cities Paris is divided in boroughs called arrondissements. There are 20 such divisions in Paris each one with its one unique flavor. You can walk a few streets and go from a quaint little neighborhood and wind up in an upscale locale. A few more blocks might take you an artistic neighborhood or one that is more down trodden. Numbered in a rough spiral starting at Seine River the combination of neighborhood and romance is the perfect place to set the film ‘Paris, Je T’aime’. Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carné came up with one of the imaginative ideas for a romance film ever. The original plan was to come up with some twenty directors and a group of actors for twenty casts and create a short vignette for each of the districts. Two fell through in pre-production so the final film has only eighteen but that is more than enough. What is assembled here is a collection of very short films featuring some of the best talent on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This is just about a mini-film festival in one movie.

Fittingly the film begins with a shot of the city of Paris in all its glory. Fireworks are bursting in the air and the Paris Eiffel is lit up with brilliant little lights.

Montmartre (Arrondissement 18).

Written and directed and featuring Bruno Podalydès as a man unable to find love. He is about to give up when a woman, Florence Muller is walking near his car and passes out. He goes to help her and while she is still unconscious he places her in his car.

Quais de Seine (Arrondissement 5)

Written by Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha, directed by Gurinder Chadha. Hanging out near the river bank a young man, François (Cyril Descours) is watching the girls with his friends. They are somewhat rude in the comments made to the young women passing by, especially if their thongs happen to be visible. Much to his own surprise François winds up having a conversation with a young Muslim woman, Zarka (Leïla Bekhti) when she is rudely tripped to the ground.

Le Marais (Arrondissement 4)

Directed and written by Gus Van Sant. Gaspard (Gaspard Ulliel) has a crush on, Elle 9 Elias McConnell), a young woman who works for a local print shop. He tries everything he can to convince her that they belong together.

Tuileries (Arrondissement 1)

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. An American tourist, (Steve Buscemi) is minding his own business waiting for a train at the metro. He reads in a travel guide how this district is known for its museums and for love. Obviously alone it does depress him somewhat. Across the tracks he locks eyes with a young woman Julie Bataille who is making out with a young man (Axel Kiener) lying across her lap. The man turns to see the tourist staring at then and starts to holler at him. Embolden by the two train tracks between them the tourist shouts back.

Loin du 16e (Arrondissement 16)

Written and directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas. Ana (Catalina Sandino Moreno) has recently become a mother. She sits in a hospital day care center singing a Spanish lullaby to her infant. She is a nanny and later sings the same song to the children of her employers.

Porte de Choisy (Arrondissement 13)

Written by Gabrielle Keng, Kathy Li and Christopher Doyle; directed by Christopher Doyle. Monsieur Henny (Barbet Schroeder) works as a cosmetics salesman. One of his stops during the day is a little salon in Chinatown. There he meets up with Madame Li (Li Xin) who is more than reluctant to make a deal. He winds up is a strange and colorful world of fashion.

Bastille (Arrondissement 12)

Written and directed by Isabel Coixet. A man (Sergio Castellitto) finds himself in the eternal dilemma, caught between his wife (Miranda Richardson) and his mistress (Leonor Watling), an air line hostess. He invites his wife to a favorite restaurant with the intension of telling her that he is leaving her.

Place des Victoires (Arrondissement 2)

Written and directed by Nobuhiro Suwa. Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) is a woman who has just lost her son (Hippolyte Girardot). She remembers that just before he died she assured him that cowboys, his favorite, still exist. One night she is awakened by some noise in the streets. She goes down and finds a cowboy (Willem Dafoe) on horseback. He asks her if she has the courage to follow him and soon she sees her son again.

Tour Eiffel (Arrondissement 7)

Written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. A boy (Dylan Gomong) tells the story of how his parents, (Paul Putner and Yolande Moreau) fell in love and got married.

Parc Monceau (Arrondissement 17) Parc Monceau

Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Vincent (Nick Nolte), an American, has been estranged for many years from his daughter Claire (Ludivine Sagnier). He comes to Paris in hopes to reconcile with her.

Quartier des Enfants Rouges (Arrondissement 3)

Written and directed by Olivier Assayas. Liz (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is an American actress working on a role in Paris. She is trying to obtain some particularly potent hashish. To than end she finds herself with a dealer (Lionel Dray).

Place des fêtes (Arrondissement 14)

Written and directed by Oliver Schmitz. African man, Hassan (Seydou Boro) is lying on the street being cared for by a beautiful EMT, Sophie (Aïssa Maïga). He is enamored by her looks and manner and tries to get her to go out for coffee with him.

Pigalle (Arrondissement 9)

Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. Bob Leander (Bob Hoskins) and his girlfriend Fanny Forestier (Fanny Ardant) wind up play acting an argument for a prostitute as a means to put a spark back in their relationship.

Quartier de la Madeleine (Arrondissement 8)

Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali. A young American tourist (Elijah Wood) is backpacking his way through Europe. He finds himself failing in love with a beautiful vampire (Olga Kurylenko).

Père-Lachaise (Arrondissement 20)

Written and directed by Wes Craven. This tale takes a decidedly supernatural slant as Frances (Emily Mortimer) is visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery. She has just broken up with her boyfriend and has been feeling down. She has just broken up with her finance William (Rufus Sewell). At the cemetery he gets advice from a strange source, the ghost of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne).

Faubourg Saint-Denis (Arrondissement 10)

Written and directed by Tom Tykwer. Thomas (Melchior Beslon) is blind who is advising a young actress, Francine (Natalie Portman) how to improve her performances at auditions.

Quartier Latin (Arrondissement 6)

Written by Gena Rowlands; directed by Gérard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin. Just before their divorce is finalized Ben (Ben Gazzara) and Gena (Gena Rowlands) meet at a bar owned by Gérard Depardieu for a final drink together.

14e arrondissement (Arrondissement 14)

Written and directed by Alexander Payne. An American woman, Carol ((Margo Martindale) tries to express her feelings for Paris in French.

The scope of this project is incredible. The variation of the themes and presentation has something for literally every taste. There are funny moments, endearing ones and some that will touch you heart. Each director is given free reign to makes love story the way they want to so every segment has the stamp of its created firmly upon it. You will, of course, find some stories better than others but the variety here will make sure there will be a favorite in there. As always, First Look Home Entertainment finds little gems like this and brings them to DVD. Unless you have a local art house you most likely would not have had a chance to see this. Now, thanks to their dedication to the art of cinema First Look brings one of the most imaginable and innovative films I have seen in a long while to your home. Get this and watch it with someone you love.

Posted 10/15/07

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