Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Paris, Je T’Aime: Grade A

Paris, Je T’Aime (2006). Mostly French (subtitled).

A plethora of actors, known and unknown, including Steve Buscemi, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emily Mortimer, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara , Natalie Portman, Gerard Depardieu. Directors include Sylvain Chomet, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Gerard Depardieu, Wes Craven, and many others.

Twenty-one short stories five to eight minutes long, each portray a romantic relationship unfolding somewhere in Paris. I was boggled by the scope of creativity. Each piece is a jewel; not a lump of coal in the bunch, but the range of ideas, cinematic styles, themes, settings, and music, is just stunning. Some stories are direct: boy and girl fall in love in Paris, the end. Those depend on fine acting and moviemaking for their punch. Several are subtle and surprising and you have to pause the video and think about them for a minute. A couple are wildly surrealistic, making little sense other than to indulge a riot of images and sounds. Some are sentimental and affecting. Others are obvious but witty or creative, such as the romance between two vampires. My least favorite was the wordless romance between two mimes. All segments are of exceptionally good quality, and with fine acting. The one with Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands was a little off, because the skeletal Gazzarra had slurred speech and looked like he was recovering from a near-fatal illness. It’s nice to see that he is still alive, but his was the only performance that detracted. Rowlands held him up though. This is a wonderful movie, something for everybody, and everything for the person who loves cinema.

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