(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.
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.