Paris, Je T’aime
December 18, 2007
Olivier Assayas, Joel Coen, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gus Van Sant, ,
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Gerard Depardieu, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands, Elijah Wood, ,
The short film, much like the short story, is an artform unto itself. It takes a certain set of skills as a storyteller to be able to tell a tale succinctly. People who make commercials have even less time. Unfortunately, outside of television stations like IFC and Sundance, or DVD collections like this one, it is hard to track down and be able to watch short films. Paris, Je T’aime (2006) is a cinematic love letter to Paris, the City of Light. It is a hit-or-miss collection of short films directed by the diverse likes of the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, and Alexander Payne to name but just a few who contribute.
In Gurinder Chadha’s film, a young man helps a Muslim girl who has fallen and learns something about the opposite sex in a cute romantic tale. In Gus Van Sant’s short, two young men meet but only one understands French and talks of soul mates but, alas, the other doesn’t understand him.
Steve Buscemi plays a bewildered tourist waiting for the subway in the Coen brothers’ film and finds himself at the mercy of the locals. This one is filled with typically cheeky humour we’ve come to expect from the mischievous Coens. Wong Kar-Wai’s favourite cinematographer Christopher Doyle delivers an absurd tale of a hair products salesman trying to sell his wares to a very strange Vietnamese salon.
In another short, Juliette Binoche deals with the loss of her son (shades of her role in Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue). In her grief, she imagines he is still outside playing with his friends. He loved cowboys and she meets one (Dafoe) in the street. Alfonso Cuaron’s film features a touching conversation between a father (Nolte) and his daughter in the streets of Paris and ends on a whimsical note. Of note, Cuaron shot the entire short in one continuous take with no edits.
Olivier Assayas’ short has a very Steven Soderbergh vibe a la Out of Sight (1998) as Maggie Gyllenhaal plays an actress scoring drugs before a night of filming a period piece. In another film, Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant play a long-time couple rekindling the romance in a charming story.
In a very stylish one, and easily the strongest of the bunch, Elijah Wood plays a young man who falls under the thrall of a beautiful Gothic vampire woman in this clever, funny romance without any dialogue. Wes Craven breaks from his usual horror film fare for a short featuring a bickering couple played by Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell who are helped out by the ghost of Oscar Wilde.
Natalie Portman is an aspiring actress who befriends a young blind man who helps her get an audition in Tom Tykwer’s hyperactive romance. The short starts off strong but ends on a bafflingly ambiguous note. Finally, John Cassavetes veterans, Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands are reunited in a short co-directed by actor Gerard Depardieu (who also appears as a waiter) as a couple on the verge of divorce.
As with these kinds of collections, Paris, Je T’aime is a mixed bag but more often than not the quality of them is good and there is certainly plenty of talent in front of and behind the camera.