Taking an omnibus approach to the City of Light, Paris, je t'aime is a scrapbook of stories about both the French capitol and the complexities of love.
Comprised of 18 short films, the movie offers snapshots of a complex and complicated city and emotion. Be it a young man feeling the first small stirrings for a devout Muslim girl along the banks of the Seine or a long-separated couple (played with veteran grandeur by Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara) coming together to tie up loose ends, each film offers an aspect of love and Paris itself.
Different filmmakers took a turn with each segment, with directors as diverse as horror maestro Wes Craven (Scream ), oddball auteurs the Coen brothers (Fargo ) and French visualist Sylvain Chomet (The Triplettes of Bellville ) looking at love Paris-style.
As is to be expected with such a movie, the quality of stories veers wildly.
While some, such as the Coens' darkly comic tale of reconciliation set in the Paris Metro and Isabelle Coixet's tragic tale of love's last days are masterpieces in miniature, others don't fare as well. A story of bereavement starring Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe (as a spectral cowboy, of all things) fails to ignite, as does a mercifully short segment featuring Elijah Wood as a tourist who catches a vampire's fancy.
The films that do succeed, which outnumber the less-effective segments by about 2-to-1, seem to work because they are simple stories about people that could have as easily taken place in Milwaukee rather than Montmartre.
That's not to say Paris isn't part of the equation. As is so often the case with films shot there, Paris serves as a silent conspirator and uncredited character in all 18 movies. There's a visual identity to the city that extends well beyond obvious landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, evident in every frame.
The effect is a visual sense of continuity that, although the films are wildly disparate in terms of style and story, coherently connects each tale.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.