Movie Review: Paris, je t’aime

I saw New York, I Love You way before I saw its French inspiration. And to be fair, I loved it. However, now that I have seen Paris, je t’aime, I want to re-watch New York.

Collection of 18 short stories, each representing a different arrondissements of Paris, the film is a delightful mix of highs and lows, smiles and tears, hopes and dreams. Each short story is directed by a different person, and thankfully, they do not connect in the anthology style made popular by Amores Perros.

The stories are distinct, and reflect the mood of the arrondissments it’s shot in. Each story fades into the new one, and before one has time to reminisce, one is gripped in the new one. Interestingly, there is not a single story that will leave one unaffected.

The film starts with a story by Bruno Podalydès, which sees a man waiting for his parking space and wondering how every passing woman is taken and then within minutes, events conspire to have an interesting woman on his car’s backseat.

While one is marveling the depth of emotions conveyed through this tiny film, the next one opens with a bunch of teen-aged boys hanging by the ocean, catcalling every passing woman. One of the boys notices a shy Muslim girl sitting beside them, and then he ends up walking down the street with her grand-dad. This film is directed by the duo Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha, and is one of my favorite stories.

The third film is by Gus Van Sant, and is true to his style. It opens with an elderly American woman and a French man walking into a print shop. While the lady is busy with the business, the man hangs around and finds himself instantly attracted to a worker. As he tries to strike up a conversation in vein, he is assured that this shy man is his soul mate. But unable to get any response, he leaves after giving his telephone number. But was the soul mate shy or just new in France?

The next film by Joel and Ethan Coen completely changes the mood as it starts in a metro station, where an American tourist is observing his surroundings while reading the tourist guide. He appears to be hoping to find love in Paris. However, what he finds is a bizarre couple who punish him for breaking the fundamental rule of avoiding eye contact with strangers. And yes, the American tourist is played my the wide-eyed Steve Buscemi!

Next up is my THE favorite story of the 18, directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas. A young woman walks into a gloomy hostel-like building carrying a baby at wee hours of the morning, she puts him down in a crib, and sings a Spanish lullaby (the tune of which has captured my heart) and then hurriedly leaves. We see her going through a long commute via a bus, a metro, a different train and then walking into a mansion in a posh area, where she works as maid. The film ends with the young woman singing the same lullaby to her employer’s baby. The emotions conveyed by the actor’s eyes, face, and hands (yes, hands!) broke my heart.

The sixth story is directed by Christopher Doyle, and is about a beauty products salesman who discovers China Town for the first time. I did not care much about this story, but the visuals stayed with me, nonetheless.

Another one to touch my heart was by Isabel Coixet. A middle-aged man watches his wife from inside a cafe, as she walks over in a red trench coat that he detests. He is planning to tell her that it isn’t working out any more and he is love with a much younger girl. But then the wife walks in and breaks down while telling him that she is terminally ill. It changes everything, and the lost love is rekindled. So much, that when the wife dies, the husband falls into an emotional comma.

Next up is Nobuhiro Suwa’s tiny tale of a mother grieving over her dead boy who loved cowboys. Short and bitterly sweet.

Sylvain Chomet’s mime tale is about a little boy with a HUGE school bag and cutest specs, whose parents are mime artists. Another one I wouldn’t have cared much for but the visuals blew me off.

Alfonso Cuarón’s story tickled me pink. We see an elderly man walking down the street with a young girl who complains to him about how Gaspard is binding her and she needs to break free. She constantly talks of Gaspard would not approve of her arrangement with this older man, but she does not care as she has needs too. The movie is shot in a continuous shot and has the most delightful end.

Olivier Assayas’s tale shows the instantaneous connection an American actress forms with her hash dealer, and how both do not act in time. Interesting but not a favorite.

Next is Oliver Schmitz’s heart wrenching story of an immigrant dying of a stab wound and his paramedic, who also happens to be his crush. She realizes and remembers a minute too late. Amazingly shot.

Then there is Richard LaGravenese’s story that shows us an elderly couple in a role-play to save their marriage. Another bitter-sweet one.

Vincenzo Natali’s story was a surprise in this package. It is story of young backpacker, Elijah Wood, falling in love with a vampire. I thought it was silly until the last two minutes, and then I thought it was brilliant. Wonderful imagery.

Next is Wes Craven’s story shot in a cemetery. A tourist couple argue over minor things while touring Paris a month before their wedding. One thing leads to another, and the girl decides to break up but then, Oscar Wilde comes to their rescue.

Another fascinating story by Tom Tykwer, where a blind chap mistakingly believes that his girlfriend, Natalie Portman, has broken up with him. He revisits their entire relationship, its development and decay, in the most fetching series of images and words.

Gérard Depardieu’s short tale in penultimate. It sees an aging couple meeting in a bar a day before they officially divorce. Their reminiscing and bantering is real despite the oddest situation.

Alexander Payne’s story is the last, where we see an American postmistress touring Paris, practicing her French, and reflecting on her life. A perfect end, if you ask me.

The stories together show us different glimpses of Parisian life and relationships. The most fascinating thing is the way every story melts into the next one, and the mood is always extremely different. The last shot of every film somehow is the first shot of the next story, although the location is different. It is like cinematic magic.

Another thing that I loved was the vast spread of the stories in terms of language and races. It depicts the cosmopolitan nature of Paris truly, I suppose, which sees people from every part of the world coming together. While, some plots are not as brilliant as others, every single story leaves a mark on the viewer. What more could one ask, non?

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One Response to “Movie Review: Paris, je t’aime”

  1. rechristened Says:

    Just the type of movie that would make my weekend. Thanks for the recommendation.

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