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Paris, Je T’Aime

aka - Paris, I Love You
France 2006
Directed by
Various directors
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars

Paris, Je T'Aime

Paris, Je T’Aime is an interestingly diverse assortment of short films by 18 writer/directors on varieties of love possible in Paris's arrondissements. European directors use some American actors, American directors use some European actors, a horror director does romance, actors reveal hidden linguistic talents… it’s all the delightful topsy-turvy you may expect from the City of Light but some of it has a dark edge.

Fortunately, I don’t recall it having any ageing middle-aged men sweeping beautiful young women off their feet. In fact, the love here almost always feels real in all its myriad, even if unlikely, forms. The lonely man and the fainting woman, the paramedic and the victim, the young mother and child, the tourist and the vampire. Each is set in a named Parisian neighbourhood, and for those that know these streets well, perhaps there is an extra layer of meaning. However, apart from the occasional landmark, the film seems to illuminate people far more than the place. Yet it does not often capture a unique quality of the French, but more the diversity of human nature as the world crowds into one city.

The standout films have an emphasis on language, and its ability or failure to connect people. Alexander Payne closes the film strongly, with an almost Gus Van Sant-like story of a middle-aged American woman narrating her trip to Paris in heavily accented French. Van Sant himself departs a little in style in his story of a Parisian man falling in love at first sight with a silent shop assistant and serenading him with a long narrative of introduction before leaving his card and departing – not realizing the young man doesn’t speak French. The Coen brothers delight with an opening shot of Steve Buscemi observing an incomprehensible exchange between two lovers at the station, before he is reluctantly involved in their theatre. Tom Tykwer is another director to capture his trademark feature film style within a few minutes with a rapid time-lapsed story of a blind Parisian man falling in love with Natalie Portman.

Paris, Je T’Aime is a film that’s hard to assess without damning with faint praise. Some segments are outstanding, almost all are of some interest or entertainment, and at least one is just annoyingly baffling (Christopher Doyle presents a fetish oddity with a hair product salesman and female Asian martial artists). Perhaps it was the concept more than the quality that made it the opener for Un Certain Regard at the 2006 Cannes festival. As a collection of great directors and actors, the general gist is pleasant, at times fabulous, but uneven. 

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