Paris, je t’aime (Various, 2006)


Steve Buscemi (Tourist), Juliette Binoche (Suzanne), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Liz), Natalie Portman (Francine), Bob Hoskins (Bob) et al. Screenplays by Gus Van Sant, Joel & Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuarón et al. Directed by Gus Van Sant, Joel & Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuarón et al. Rating: 15. Running time: 120 minutes.

A strangely enjoyable compilation of around 15 vignettes, Paris, je t’aime doesn’t even give us what could be called short stories, instead providing us only with flashes of detail from the lives of its plethora of Parisians. Some are actually French, but a lot are British, American, African or Asian. Some of their scenes are solely for clear-cut laughter (especially Joel and Ethan Coen’s contribution – would we expect anything less?), whilst others try and fool us and thus win a sly smile (Cuaron’s effort in particular springs to mind). Most, though, do what the city is infamous for: romance. Love is here with multiple manifestations, and yet most notably, given the film’s title, never is it expressed explicitly until the very end for the city itself. If any of the auteurs here are in awe of the French capital, they’re being very refined about it. It can only be assumed they’re allowing its delightful narrow streets packed with cafés and restaurants to speak for themselves.

Of course this feels uneven, and some of its contributions are bizarrely out of flow with the holistic feel of the film. But when the filmmakers state from the outset they’re combining the views of 22 directors into one film about a city as diverse as Paris, you’d be pretty nuts to reject it on these grounds, however tempting that criticism sometimes feels. But those times were definitely a rarity. Most of this is delightful, and at a minimum never not original.

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