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"Paris J T'aime"
Dirs: Various

Patricia Ducey

Paris, je t’aime (Paris, I Love You) is an anthology film, the brainchild of producers Benbihy and Ossard, in an homage to their native city. Originally, 20 films were commissioned, one dedicated to each of the 20 Paris arrondissements (districts) but two were eventually dropped from the offering for artistic reasons, leading to a tiff between the two producers. From imdb, we learn that producer Benbihy refused to attend the film’s 2006 opening at Cannes “in solidarity with two directors whose segment had been cut by his co-Producer Claudie Ossard. Went to eat at MacDonald's instead.” How Gallic! But the resulting 18 are enough; if one falls flat, another will soon be along.

The films stars a dazzling array of actors from Fannie Ardant to Elijah Wood and directors from the Coen brothers to Alfonso Curon—a truly global effort. Each of the 18 top directors scripted a five-minute short starring Paris “in a way never imagined,” as the publicity avers. But, truth be told, these films are very much how we have always imagined Paris—and why I found them so delightful. Shot through a gauzy filter of romance and melancholy, they celebrate the lives of the bourgeoisie as movingly as the Impressionist painters over a century ago. A five-minute movie leaves no room for mistakes or fluff, and some of the final results are more grand student film than blockbuster, for instance, Richard LaGravanese’s overly talky story, starring Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant as two middle-aged lovers.

The most successful vignette for me, written and directed by Japanese director Nobuhiro Suwa, stars Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe in an affecting tale of love and loss, and the healing power of art. The Coen brothers spin a humorous tale starring Steve Buscemi as a tourist who flouts some sage advice of his urban Paris guidebook, with funny and disastrous results. A grown up Elijah Wood, who still looks like an otherworldly creature, stars as the object of affection to one beautiful but deadly denizen of the eternal Parisian night, who is otherworldly in her own right. Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara re-team after too long for a look at the wreckage left after a once passionate marriage cools, and are ably directed by Gerard Depardieu and Frederic Auburtin. And the wonderful poet of the ordinary, Alexander Payne, caps the anthology with the one-woman performance by Margo Martindale, known for her character parts in many TV shows, as she experiences her moment of synchronicity in a bucolic Paris park.

Young love and lost love, of course, always spell Paris to veteran filmgoers, and what better place to nurse the sweet sadness of a broken heart than a Montmarte cafe? Amelie, An American in Paris, Diva—a score of films have etched a Paris into our hearts like a Manet cityscape. Summer is the perfect time to reawaken this enchanting vision once more.

-- Patricia Ducey

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