Paris, je t’aime

Bottom Line: Assez plaisant.

Directed by: Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuaron, Bruno Podalydes, Christopher Doyle, Daniela Thomas, Emmanuel Benbihy, Ethan Coen, Frederic Auburtin, Gerard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Gus van Sant, Isabel Coixet, Joel Coen, Nobuhiro Suwa, Oliver Schmitz, Olivier Assayas, Richard LaGravenese, Sylvain Chomet, Tom Tykwer, Vincenzo Natali, Walter Salles, Wes Craven
Starring: Aissa Maiga, Alexander Payne, Barbet Schroeder, Ben Gazzara, Bob Hoskins, Bruno Podalydes, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Cyril Descours, Elias McConnell, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Fanny Ardant, Florence Muller, Gaspard Ulliel, Gena Rowlands, Juliette Binoche, Leila Bekhti, Leonor Watling, Lionel Dray, Ludivine Sagnier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Margo Martindale, Melchior Beslon, Miranda Richardson, Natalie Portman, Nick Nolte, Olga Kurylenko, Paul Putner, Rufus Sewell, Sergio Castellitto, Seydou Boro, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Yolande Moreau

Atmospheric, easygoing French romance is a collection of eighteen short films from twenty-two different filmmakers. Each story sets up in Paris and details a story about love (not always necessarily a conventional “love story”) that occurs in the city. Accumulated together, the small slices of life can act as mere plot points in a story of both the native Parisians and tourists alike, making this perhaps familiar to those who have visited Paris, familiar to those who have lived in that city, or those who are wishing to be there at some point in their lives.

The storytelling isn’t always the same here. Oui, every one of the shorts is stylistically odd, with naturally quirky characters, but every segment has a different director and screenwriter. These were brought together as one film by producer Emmanuel Benbihy, who also directed the transitional segments, so one would have to watch such a film expecting different perspectives. When PARIS, JE T’AIME, we comprehend love stories from perspectives that can be anything from frivolous, to poetic, to quiet, to grotesque, to dryly witty. Segments such as the Coen brothers’ “Tuileries” and Wes Craven’s “Père-Lachaise” are among the more brilliant, whereas those such as Sylvain Chomet’s “Tour Eiffel” and Christopher Doyle’s “Porte de Choisy” are instantly forgettable.

The one major disappointment about PARIS, JE T’AIME is the writing. Most of the directors wrote their segments as well; many of them–such as Alfonso Cuarón, the Coen brothers, and Alexander Payne–have had a decent history with films. You would think the film’s several scripts would succeed, therefore. Contrarily, it’s rare to find a real ending to any one of these films. A tourist running off to go speak with a French man who had just given him his number, claiming to be his “soul mate”. A woman looking up at the window as if she just realized something, while singing to her friend’s baby in Spanish. There’s many more of them that seem like climactic points in a plot, once the basic stories of those shorts are known. The only segment that seems to end well is the final segment. I’m relieved the entire film itself ends on a positive note. Furthermore, these characters (mainly tourists) alternate between French and English consistently. Are we to assume that all the American tourists in the film know French well enough to understand each other, even when the American viewers possibly watching the film may not know a single word of French? And what’s the reason as to why exactly they freely switch between one language and another? Is there one at all? So much of this film would have done better, had there been less short films of longer length, or even just one story of a tourist couple traveling in Paris that doesn’t meander through needless plot points. That said, PARIS, JE T’AIME is beautiful, despite its flaws, and sufficiently entertaining; however, there have been better love letters to Paris. May I suggest: last year’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS?

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7 thoughts on “Paris, je t’aime

  1. Not long ago I sat down to watch the American remake – New York, I Love You, and found it just to be a charmless collection of short stories. I thought the original French version might be different, but reading your review, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything much better. Apart from a different lot of directors.

    • Hmm…when you say the American remake/sequel/spinoff/reboot is a “charmless collection of short stories”, you’d actually be surprised how much charm these French films do have. I haven’t seen New York, I Love You, but I’m interested as to what it might be. Is it watchable or remotely enjoyable, or is it just plain bad?

  2. I love this compilation. So charming. There were a few boring, inconsequential shorts (that one with the Spanish-speaking nanny, mostly) but I enjoyed almost all the others. Besides, it has one of the best posters I’ve ever seen.

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