Review: Paris Je T’aime

In Paris Je T’aime, 18 renowned directors contribute star-studded vignettes about amour, each set in a different Parisian neighborhood.

Paris Je T’aime
Photo: First Look International

Paris is the city of lights but also of love, and in Paris Je T’aime, 18 renowned directors contribute star-studded vignettes about amour, each set in a different metropolitan neighborhood. Typical of such compilations, results tend to vary wildly, though despite roughly an even number of slight successes and minor misfires, the bad nonetheless tends to outweigh the good courtesy of a few preachy and/or ugly episodes that spoil the otherwise light, affectionate mood. Held together by gorgeous cityscapes, the shorts are all rooted in the relationship between two people, as well as between those couples and their urban milieu. Most fine are those that strive to capture the swooningly romantic, mysterious atmosphere that’s endeared so many to France’s capital, such as Bruno Podalydès’s droll Monmartre and Frédéric Auburtin and Géraerd Depardiu’s twilight-lovely Quartier Latin (which enticingly reunites Ben Gazzara with Gena Rowlands), or conversely, those that opt for playful, fanciful humor, as do the Coen brothers’ hilarious Metro-as-hell Tuileries and Sylvain Chomet’s mime-centric Tour Eiffel. Gurinder Chadha and Walter Salles, on the other hand, take the social-commentary route, with Chadha delivering an anti-G-string, pro-hijab lecture that’s as laughably faux-feminist as was her Bend It Like Beckham, and Salles (with Daniela Thomas) offering up an embarrassingly glib portrait of economic inequality via the plight of a nanny who sings the same lullaby (with opposite amounts of warmth) to her own as well as her rich employer’s infant. These facile treatises, however are at least free of the nasty condescension that infects Alexander Payne’s 14ème Arrondissement, which provides the About Schmidt auteur with another opportunity to callously mock overweight, dim Middle Americans, here embodied by a lonely U.S. tourist whose awkwardly-accented French narration is milked for derisive humor. A generous critic might try to conclude that Payne’s segment is, in fact, intended to reflect a virulent strain of Gallic anti-Americanism. Regardless, it’s a bitter piece of dessert with which to conclude Paris Je T’aime’s assortment of trifles, and certainly not in the same class as Olivier Assayas’s sumptuously cagey hashish odyssey Quartier des Enfants Rouges, or cinematographer par excellence Christopher Doyle’s Porte de Choisy, which thrums with the type of sexy, stylish, silly energy that Parisian dreams are made of.

 Cast: Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Sergio Castellitto, Willem Dafoe, Gérard Depardieu, Marianne Faithfull, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Margo Martindale, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Natalie Portman, Miranda Richardson, Gena Rowlands, Ludivine Sagnier, Rufus Sewell, Gaspard Ulliel, Elijah Wood  Director: Various  Distributor: First Look International  Running Time: 120 min  Rating: R  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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