Generally omnibus films are a mixed blessing since so many uneven talents tend to contribute. In the case of Paris je t'aime , these vignettes of various areas of Paris are so short (21 directors are involved) that the bad ones quickly vanish—in fact, the good does outweigh the mediocre.
In particular, the Coen Brothers provide a delightfully fish-out-of-water comedy in the Tuileries Metro Station with Steve Buscemi as a baffled American tourist under siege. Alfonso Cuaron adds a wistfully comic touch to the meeting of an older American (Nick Nolte) and a beautiful young Frenchwoman (Ludivine Sagnier). Some aim for the outlandish (and miss the mark), like Christopher Doyle's surreal tale of a meeting between a traveling salesman and an Asian dominatrix boss of a beauty salon. Wes Craven meanwhile shows a surprising touch for short-form romantic comedy in Pere Lachaise cemetery as Rufus Sewell tries to outwit his fiancee's (Emily Mortimer) obsession with Oscar Wilde. Tom Tykwer ( Run Lola Run ) plays imaginatively with the short form itself in his story set in Faubourg Saint-Denis, where a beautiful American actress (Natalie Portman) ends her relationship with a blind French composer.
Vincenzo Natali's vampire story in the Quartier de la Madeleine gets burdened by stylistic overkill, while Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' story of a young immigrant mother who cares for two babies has you scratching your head. South African director Olvier Schmitz's tale of a brief encounter between a street musician and young beautiful medic in Place de Fetes is a beauty. Alexander Payne's mordantly funny postcard of a tourist discovering her love of Paris in the 14th arrondissement is pure perfection. If you've ever been to Paris, the picture's varied takes on the City of Lights is seeped in reverie. If you haven't, Paris je t'aime serves as a enticing invitation.
Distributor: First Look
Cast: Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fanny Ardant, Elijah Wood, Nick Nolte, Bob Hoskins, Juliette Binoche, Emily Mortimer, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Rufus Sewell, Barbet Schroeder, Ludivine Sagnier, Gena Rowlands, Miranda Richardson and Steve Buscemi
Directors/Screenwriters: The Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Alexander Payne and Olivier Assayas
Producers: Claudie Ossard and Emmanuel Benbihy
Genre: Comedy drama; English- and French-language, subtitled
Rating: R for language and brief drug use
Running time: 116 min.
Release date: May 4, 2007 NY