Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Paris je t'aime (2006)

It may seem obvious to remark that portmanteau films can only be as good as their component parts and that they seldom add up to a greater whole. This confection made up of 7 to 8 minute vignettes by 18 different directors, each set in a different district of Paris, does give a feel for the diversity and romance of the city, especially as each is linked with wonderful aeriel shots across the Parisian landscape. However, I feel obliged to say that some of these very short films contribute more to the whole than others -- which occasionally verge on the "I wonder what that was all about" reaction.

Employing some very well-known directors in French, English, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin with an international cast to die for, although both of these categories are top-heavy with American talent, it becomes something of a game to name-check the various actors as they appear. One of the more amusing segments filmed by the Coen Brothers is set in an underground station as a wordless Steve Buscemi displays the paranoia of a foreign tourist. A non-horror segment, albeit set in a cemetery, by genre specialist Wes Craven features the friendly ghost of Oscar Wilde. Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant play a mismatched pair of married theatrical types working out their hang-ups at a peep show. Horror of sorts can be found where Elijah Wood offers himself to vampire Olga Kuryenko to find eternal love. Gerard Depardieu in a sector which he co-directed appears as a bar owner in a minor role versus divorcing couple Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands. The most poignant film showed the death of knifed African musician as he is tended by the paramedic that he has worshiped from afar. Add to all of this appearances by Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Juliet Binoche, Willem Dafoe (in the smallest of cameos as a cowboy representing the death of a child), and a wealth of other stars. However, the last film is the one which worked best for me; it featured Margo Martindale -- a familiar face, but an unknown name -- as a visitor describing her love for the city in fairly fractured French. This segment which ends in a park overlooking the city proves that even a lonely tourist from Denver can find beauty and warmth in this city of dreams
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