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Paris, je t'aime

Eighteen talented directors and writers, twice as many accomplished actors, and a mutual love of Paris blend together in Paris Je T'aime for a fascinating, multi-faceted glimpse into the lives and loves of the diverse people living in the City of Lights.


How many stories are there in one big city? In this unique vision of Paris, there are 18 different ones, each averaging about five minutes. The short films are related only by the theme of love and the setting. Visiting most of the different arrondissments (neighborhoods) of that sometimes elegant, sometimes tawdry locale, the short stories range across the board. Beginning with the chance meeting of two lonely people, moving through stories of crazy lovers, missed opportunities, romantic beginnings, parents' relationships with their children, and the dissolution of a marriage, each one has its own unique vision, point of view, and cinematic style. But despite so many individual styles and voices, the 18 wildly diverse tales deftly blend the magnificent city of Paris with the commonality of the human condition and combine to form a cohesive and extremely satisfying whole.


With so many of the world's most talented actors taking part in these short films, there are a plethora of terrific performances to choose from in Paris Je T'aime . Leila Bekhti shines in "Quais de Seine" as a shy young Muslim teen befriended by a handsome French boy, while Steve Buscemi uses his bug-eyed looks to perfection in "Tuileries," a comic segment created by Joel and Ethan Coen. Catalina Sandino Moreno brings an aching reality to a young mother's life dilemma in "Loin du 16éme," while Juliette Binoche's older mom's agony is heartbreaking in "Place des Victoires." Miranda Richardson is luminous as a dying wife in "Bastille," and Natalie Portman's natural charm ignites the screen in "Faubourg Saint-Denis" as the girlfriend of a blind man. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell, Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardant, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, and Margo Martindale all elevate their segments with fine acting as well, but Nick Nolte seems to stumble through his. That minor glitch is just that--a blip in an otherwise seamlessly concocted series of well-acted vignettes.


A who's who of contemporary cinema from around the world, the eighteen directors (who for the most part also wrote their segments) of Paris Je T'aime prove their formidable talents here. By limiting each to only five minutes to tell their story, producers Emmanuel Benbihy and Claude Ossard (who began the project in 2002) forced each one to distill the essence of their idea into a compact tale, with admirable results. From well-known names like the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alexander Payne to lesser-known auteurs (at least in America, that is) such as Tom Tykwer, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, Frederic Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu, Olivier Assayas, Gurinder Chadha, Isabel Coixet, Sylvain Chomet, Nobuhiro Suwa, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Bruno Podalydes, and Olivier Schmitz--the work across the board in the film is exemplary. At turns poignant, comical, lusty, and emotional, it's a collection that will undoubtedly leave you with a longing to be in Paris, especially with someone you love.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.