Like guests at a neighborhood block party all instructed to bring one dish, as we discovered in the first internationally created compilation movie crafted by multiple directors-- Paris, je t'aime--some extraordinary recipes left us wanting more and other dishes inspired us to quickly distract our palette with the next one.
The same can definitely be said for the second installment in producer Emmanuel Bebihy's Cities of Love franchise, New York, I Love You, which feels structurally more Altman and Jarmusch-inspired than its predecessor.
Although the plot-lines skew remarkably young and with very few exceptions towards the white, well-to-do and heterosexual arty New York resident, overall the quality of the vignettes is superior and more approachable than the previous work, making me therefore prefer New York to Paris simply from a repeat-worthy viewer standpoint.
While the absence of diversity is troubling indeed considering the city in which the film is set, I appreciated the way the filmmakers took the standard rules of a two day shoot plus one week edit for seven minutes of screen time to bring us some deliciously clever slices of life worthy of short fiction.
As witnessed in this sumptuous Blu-ray, the beauty of Central Park and the glamour of Fashion Week runways comprise its overall glossy aesthetic, with the exception of a few that chose intriguing cinematographic approaches to heighten the plot.
Substantively speaking, again there are precious few that will hit us hard on the level of a few of Paris's best but overall, this one was far more compelling and watchable from start to stop without the need of some filmmakers to beat us over the head with magic realism or absurdism to make emphatic points.
Repeatedly and to strong effect, it opts for a neat trick in coincidence and surprising character reveal. The clever device can be found in our winning opening con-man three-hander with Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson, and Hayden Christiansen or in the duo from Yvan Atal inspired by the seductive lure of a match linking outsider smokers in a city that doesn't welcome them in the film's best dialogue-driven works with Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q, Robin Wright-Penn and Chris Cooper.
Although all films were independently developed by the directors who either wrote their own work or hired a screenwriter and employed their own team, it's amazing to see the creativity that emerges like in a few truly inspired romantic tales that surprise, a la Shunji Iwai's introduction to Orlando Bloom as a musician who's eager to discover whom his literary muse is on the other end of the phone.
When Christina Ricci is finally revealed as the one urging him to read Russian classics, it makes it even more thrilling when the content of such books feel brought to life later in one of the film's standouts courtesy of Shekhar Kapur's contribution, penned by Anthony Minghella.
An ethereal wonder in its depiction, Kapur's short plays like a sensuous classic novel given an Eastern European twist with Shia LeBeouf's hunchback hotel bellboy and Julie Christie's Parisian opera star, it's the closest New York gets to the same existential questioning found in Paris.
Special attention must also be paid to Mira Nair's clever tale of a startling moment of love across cultural lines when Natalie Portman's worldly engaged devout Jewish jewel buyer lets her guard down in a transaction with Indian merchant Irrfan Khan.
Yet overall we're fond of more overt and efficient storytelling which works immensely well in between the others as we catch in Terminal screenwriter Jeff Nathanson's play on teen movies for Brett Ratner's surprisingly nostalgic, sentimental and semi-autobiographical charmer about a scorned senior (Anton Yelchin) whose girlfriend (Blake Lively) dumped him right before the prom.
The only inclusion to use traditional narration, nonetheless Ratner beautifully offers us another side to him as a filmmaker with a nice twist as Yelchin is fixed up with pharmacist James Caan's daughter Olivia Thirlby who just so happens to be in a wheelchair.
Allen Hughes is the other filmmaker unafraid of voice-over in the film's most erotic helping that puts the sex in this particular city to a nonetheless authentic and relatable effect as two thirty-something opposites Drea De Matteo and Bradley Cooper privately go over what should've been an odd, unlikely one-night stand. Of course, as soon as they begin analyzing it, they realize that against all odds and like its named Last Tango in Paris inspiration, they're genuinely pulled together with magnetic force.
Intriguingly and much to its cohesive benefit, in the newest Cities of Love venture, some characters overlap, going in and out of other vignettes, which makes it a bit more satisfying and less disjointed from a viewer perspective. And while again you're sure to find yourself both attracted and impervious to the charms of some vignettes, it's a gorgeous ode to love that makes the most out of the cityscape.However, it's doubly appealing when it goes beyond the iconic tourist attraction landmarks and into the lives of those whom we normally wouldn't be invited to explore.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.