Release date: June 29, 2007 (United Kingdom)
Directors: Gérard Depardieu, Gus Van Sant, Tom Tykwer, more
Film series: Cities of Love film series
Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, Tom Tykwer, Wes Craven, more
Music composed by: Tom Tykwer, Pierre Adenot, Reinhold Heil,Johnny Klimek, Michael Andrews, Marie Sabbah.
Running time: 120mins
Starring: Natalie Portman, Juliette Binoche, Willam Defoe, Steve Buscemi, Elijah Wood and many many more.
Wow. Well…? What to say about this movie? Firstly, it took me by surprise, it really did. When I first heard the premise, 18 shorts in 18 “arrondissements” each following a different story, it felt like a movie that would lack interest and lack impact. I was wrong. How can you form a connection to a movie in which the characters are with you for such a short amount of time, one in which there is “no story”? The answer, by making the city the character, by making the city the story. What I initially expected to be one of the films biggest weaknesses became one of its biggest strengths. The characters aren’t in our lives for very long but they act as a pixel on a screen, a brush stroke on paper, a stitch in a greater tapestry. When these stitches come together they form something much larger. Each stitch is needed to form the final piece but this film does a great job of ensuring not one stitch becomes more important than the other. Not only are the characters needed but each segment is too. Each segment brings it’s own director with their own story and their own experiences. Despite fitting into this larger tapestry each director maintains their own individual style (see the Coen brothers short with Steve Buscemi, clearly stylistically and emotionally Coen Brothers). The shorts tie together a patchwork painting of Paris. A patchwork ode to the city of lights, love and culture.
When discussing anthology movies one surely has to bring up Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. With Pulp Fiction every viewer will have their own personal favourite scene and Paris, Je T’aime is absolutely no different. I think the best way of portraying the feel of this movie is to talk about some of the individual shorts, from the brilliant, to the bizarre, and back around to the bizarrely brilliant. In case you’re worried I’m about to give away the best scenes fear not, these are just a few selected at random.
Tuileries (Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Coen panache hits you straight away. We see Steve Buscemi bewildered by the Paris metro and the culture he finds himself in. Guided only by his trusty hand book he tries to take in his surroundings but just after reading the section explaining “eye contact is to be avoided” he makes the dreaded eye contact with a girl making out with her boyfriend. Cue an angry aggressive boyfriend spitting venom in what, to our protagonist tourist, might as well be paseltongue. With humorous effect Buscemi is positively bewildered at French culture. Where, eye contact is rude and intrusive but making out like there’s no tomorrow is perfectly acceptable. Paris, the city for passionate love and culture like no other.
Tour Eiffel (Sylvain Chomet)
“Jean-Claude, tell us where your parents met each other.” “In prison” “In prison? Alright. Tell me about them.” “My dad was sad because he didn’t have a woman and he spent each morning alone in his house.”
His dad? A mime. The result? A wonderful silent short about a mime searching Paris for something to fill the void in his life, only to find it where he least expected it. This short falls firmly under the bizarrely brilliant category. Confusing and bewildering it still manages to be powerful and emotional. No matter how unique you may feel, you can always find likeminded individuals to share your life and passions with. Paris, the city for all of us.
14th Arrondissement (Alexander Payne)
“That was the moment I fell in love with Paris, and Paris fell in love with me.” This patchwork in the tapestry of Paris explores the city through the eyes of an American tourist, Carol. In French spoken with a very American accent, we hear Carol tell her story of Paris. We follow her through the streets and parks of Paris and she takes us on a journey through her thoughts and feelings. It’s in those thoughts and feelings, conjured up by this wonderful city, that the lonely tourist finds herself at home. Paris, a beautiful city for those who explore life alone.
There are many more brilliant scenes, some read like poetry, others play like music, the one thing they have in common is the love they portray for French culture, for French multiculturalism and for the inclusive nature of Paris. No matter what race, age or religion; no matter what sexuality or marital status, everyone is connected. Paris unifies us all. A message made even more poignant by recent events.
This film is funny, it's emotional and in no small feat it's greater than the sum of its parts.
Paris, Je t’aime.