Paris Je t'Aime is an omnibus film where 18 (originally 20) directors from around the world were asked to make short films that serve as a love letter to Paris, the City of Lights and Romance.
Over the past few months, my friend, the lovely Krystle Chow of theCicak had told me repeatedly about how awesome this film is. I could only sigh in resignation, valiantly trying to shake away the overwhelming feeling of envy I had for her. After all, she saw the film in a film festival, the film was only traveling in international festival circuits, and then shown in limited screens (just arthouse theaters). It seemed highly unlikely that I would get the DVD of this film over here in Malaysia. (if I were still in Perth, there might be a slight chance that this would be available at the Murdoch University library someday, unfortunately, I'm not in Perth anymore)
Yet it was actually screening in Singapore! So, knowing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I immediately bought the ticket and dashed into the cinema (thank you, Orchard Cineleisure!), I could barely contain my excitement.
Of course, that wasn't all. Two days later, returning from Singapore, I managed to get myself a copy of the DVD when I was in Johor. I was shocked (I don't expect many casual Malaysian DVD buyers would give a damn about the film... although to be fair, not many are aware of its existence).
Anyway, I highly recommend this film. Being an anthology film, it's obviously pretty uneven, some not that amazing, but some are pretty mind-blowing, it's like sitting through a short film festival, kinda brings back memories of Sony Tropfest. Ahhh...
Anyway, I'll rank the segments based on my own preferences. (Put up some of the segments that were uploaded on Youtube by some people, go watch it before it's taken down)
1. PIGALLE – Richard LaGravenese
I was surprised how immensely moved I was by this segment. A tale of a middle-aged couple (Fanny Ardant and Bob Hoskins) who were once in love, trying hard to rekindle their romance. Ending made me choke up (even during the second time I watched it on DVD). Kinda corny, but sweet! The film is pretty simple and understated, relies entirely on the two lead performances. Besides that, it even made me go off and download the MP3 of 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' by the Casinos right after this. This isn't technically the best segment in the film, but it touched me most.
Kiss me each morning for a million years
Hold me each evening by your side
Tell me you'll love me for a million years
Then if it don't work out
Then if it don't work out
Then you can tell me goodbye
- Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, The Casinos (1967)
(Richard LaGravenese had written the screenplays for The Fisher King, The Bridges of Madison County
2. BASTILLE – Isabel Coixet
A man decides to leave his wife for his mistress, but changes his mind when he finds out she's terminally ill. By acting like a man in love again, he becomes a man in love again. It sounds mawkish and melodramatic, but the film is handled in a humorous and bittersweet manner. It was amazing how many things the director could tell in so short a time. Good lesson for me.
(Isabel Coixet's most well-known film, I think, is My Life Without Me, which I've never watched because, well, it's also about a dying woman, and I'm incapable of handling such depressing fare :()
3. 14TH ARRONDISSEMENT – Alexander Payne
Alexander Payne is one of my favourite directors, and major influence (though most who had seen my stuff will probably stare at this statement in disbelief). Sideways... sigh...
But anyway, this film is like a condensed version of his films. A lonely American tourist wandering in Paris. Both funny and sad, pondering about loneliness and mortality. The ending was actually more moving the second time I watched it. I think if I watch this again, it might actually end up on the top spot. Margo Martindale is fantastic here (... I can't even believe she was the one who played Hilary Swank's selfish mother in Million Dollar Baby, damn, she's one hell of an actress!!!!!!!)
(Once again, you people MUST watch either Sideways, About Schmidt or Election... Alexander Payne rawks!)
4. PARC MONCEAU - Alfonso Cuaron
This segment was amazing, to me, because it was done with only one long tracking shot of a middle-aged American man (Nick Nolte) and a young French woman, walking down the streets at night, discussing about this man who suddenly came into the woman's life. Really funny twist in the end. Nothing deep, but loved the punchline. Hahaha!
(If you still haven't watched Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (my review here)... you ought to be ashamed of yourself)
5. PLACE DES FÊTES - Oliver Schmitz
A new paramedic (Aissa Maiga) learns how fleeting love can be while treating a stab victim (Seydou Boro). Does pull some heartstrings, but a bit too overwhelming for my tastes towards the end. Although yeah, brief encounters can sometimes be pretty sad. I am sometimes haunted by memories of those hot babes I saw at shopping malls.
In a certain hotel, halfway up the stairs, he happened to pass her. In the afternoon her face seemed moonlit. Following her with his eyes (they hadn't even a nodding acquaintance) he felt a loneliness such as he'd never known...(Never seen anything by Schmitz before)
- 'Moon'Ryunosuke Akutagawa
6. TUILERIES - Coen Brothers
An American tourist waiting for the train in a Metro station looks to the people around him generating a series of funny situations when his looks are not well interpreted. This one rocks because... well, STEVE BUSCEMI played the tourist.
(The Coen Brothers are cooler than the Wachowski Brothers)
7. TOUR EIFFEL – Sylvain Chomet
Mimes freak me out, the humour also kinda freaked me out, since they involve, well, mimes, but I love the visuals in this one, especially towards the end. Soooo beautiful!
(Sylvain Chomet did the animated film, The Triplettes of Belleville. Haven't seen that though.)
8. PÈRE-LACHAISE - Wes Craven
Light and funny. Two lovers visit Oscar Wilde's tomb. Squabbles. Ghost of Oscar Wilde gets involved. Rufus Sewell in a rare non-asshole role, Emily Mortimer plays the fiancee, Alexander Payne as the ghost of Oscar Wilde.
(Didn't expect something like this from Wes Craven...)
9. QUARTIER DES ENFANTS ROUGES – Olivier Assayas
Story of an American actress and her crack dealer. It's a sort-of love story. It's ranked this high up because Maggie Gyllenhaal is badass.
(Olivier Assayas did Clean and Irma Yep with Maggie Cheung, neither films I've seen)
10. LES MARAIS – Gus Van SantA French young man meets a guy of the same age in some kind of art office, and tries to keep up a conversation with him. The other guy never says a word and the French guy ultimately reveals he's interested in him and gives him his phone number. Then... the ending's funny.
(I still haven't seen Gus Van Sant's Elephant even though my DVD's been lying nearby for years. I wish he'll make Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season)
11. QUARTIER LATIN – Gérard Depardieu and Frederic Auburtin
Old man and old woman (Gena Rowlands, who wrote the script for this) went to restaurant for the 'eve of their divorce'. Civil conversation turns to funnily sarcastic gibes. The ending felt... deep.
(I have nothing to say. )
12. QUARTIER DE LA – Vincenzo Natali
Elijah Wood as an American tourist who runs into a beautiful vampire late at night. Pretty out there.
(Nothing to say either)
13. FAUBOURG SAINT-DENIS – Tom Tykwer
From Tom Tykwer's site: 'A telephone rings. Thomas starts and feels for the receiver. He is blind. The loud voice of a woman sounds down the telephone. It is Francine, his girlfriend. She tells him she's going to leave him. The receiver drops back onto the cradle. In a storm of images, his thoughts race through memories from the time they met to the moments of greatest intimacy and the moments of the little mistakes which lead to people becoming estranged from one another. But Thomas gets another chance.'
Many people liked this, unfortunately, I couldn't. It's Tom Tywker pulling his visual tricks and acrobatics from Run Lola Run, but somehow, to me, the style overwhelmed the substance, and I felt a bit underwhelmed. Even with Nat Portman in it. Sigh...
(I like Run Lola Run as much as anyone else, but still wondering whether I should watch Perfume.)
14. QUAIS DE SEINE - Gurinder Chadha
Three boys are sitting near the river Seine, watching the hot babes who pass by. Then comes a Muslim girl who falls in front of them and they start laughing and making fun of it except one of the boys, François, who helps her. Basically about how racial and religious stereotyping are stupid. Reminds me of how annoyed I was early last year back in Perth when I was eating rice
with fork and spoon and this not very bright white chick sitting next to me gasped loudly and asked why I wasn't eating with chopsticks. Not being very good with chopsticks, I was only thinking of stabbing her nose with one.
(Gurinder Chadha did Bend It Like Beckham and Bride And Prejudice. Being an Indian director, I wonder why didn't she throw in a Bollywood musical sequence in this one? Oh, oops.)
15. MONTMARTRE – Bruno Podalydès
Minimalistic. Nice opening of the movie. Guy finally gets to park his car. Launches into a monologue about how he's unbelievably single, then a woman faints in front of his car. Makes me want to go to Paris and do the same thing.
(Bruno Podalydès wrote, directed and starred in this. Perhaps someday I should start starring in my own films instead of cameoing)
16. LOIN DU 16IEME - Walter Salles
This one's more socially conscious. Pretty sad and ironic. Depicts the gulf between the life of a poor immigrant servant (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and that of her bourgeoisie employer. Catalina Sandino Moreno is pretty, but this ain't my cup of tea.
(Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries made me want to BE Che Guevara, well, except for the whole getting assassinated part. Also, Central Market is pretty moving.)
17. PORTE DE CHOISY - Christopher Doyle
Some either love it for its incoherence surrealism, some think it's nonsense, some think it's too "WTF"-ish to generate an opinion. I think I may belong to the third group of person.
18. PLACE DE VICTOIRES – Nobuhiro Suwa
It has Juliette Binoche as a mom grieving over the death of her son. It has Willem Defoe as a mysterious cowboy gives her one last chance to say goodbye to her son. Yet it's too derivative for my liking. Perhaps I might rank it higher if I've never seen something like this before.
(Suwa seems like a Japanese who makes movies in France, hmm...)
Well, there you go, my opinions. Anyone else who had seen the film? Tell me what your fave segments are!