Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydes, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, and Gus Van Sant.
In this grand cinematic mix tape of sorts, consisting of eighteen short films set in the city of love, viewers are ushered into neighborhoods and streets of Paris filled with stories not often seen on film. An official selection at both the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival and starring some of our most talented performers, most of the credit is due to the gifted international group of more than twenty directors who contributed their own vignettes and ruminations that never overstay their welcome, lasting only a few minutes each. While admittedly compilation films do often suffer from a lack of a cohesive structure or theme and a few of the segments are clunkers, it’s a positively entertaining work that will play even better on a second viewing at home when one can skip over some of the less than stellar chapters. Although some of the tales by the Coen brothers, Natali, Coixet, Suwa, Doyle don’t seem to fit in with the rest and take away from the overall magic, when the standouts appear they elevate the film into the realm of perfection. While much has been written about Alexander Payne’s humorous tale about an American postal worker on vacation in Paris and it is definitely one of the lighter moments, I found I was most touched by some of the subtle pieces that dealt with racial tensions and romantic relationships. By far, my two favorite pieces were the heartbreaking tales of ethnic issues including Loin du 16’eme by Salles & Thomas and Schimtz’s haunting Place des Fetes. While I was dazzled by the technical brilliance of Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer’s tale of young love starring Natalie Portman, tales of older love by Richard LaGravenese and the duo of Frederic Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu with its homage to the auteur Cassavetes seemed to resonate even more. Another piece that’s still echoing through my mind nearly a week later was completed by Alfonso Cuaron with an inventive short starring Nick Nolte (above) that was filmed in a continuous single shot as the characters walk down a Parisian street with the subtext of the dialogue saying one thing until we are faced with a rather comedic conclusion that reminds us never to jump to conclusions. Although it’s impossible to touch on all of the works and the ones by the rest did delight, the film is one that’s best when shared with loved ones in order for you to discuss the richness and relish in the craftsmanship of the ultimate spectacle—although life in Paris is not always filmed with rose colored glasses, Paris je T’aime’s admirable goal to get at the real Paris and the directors' own experiences does shine through.