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May 30, 2007

Paris, Je T'Aime

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First Look International 35mm film

My first film back in Denver was seen at what use to be my neighborhood theater. Paris, Je T'Aime is a collection of eighteen vignettes from eighteen different filmmakers in eighteen different parts of Paris. More often than not, these very short films seem to tell more about the interests of the filmmakers than really saying something about Paris.

One of the more successful in blending both the personal and the pictorial was Gurinder Chadha. The meeting of two young Parisians, one of whom is a Muslim woman, repeats Chadha's feminist multi-culti themes of previous films. It may perhaps be too optimistic a view of changes in France, but it was the one film that did not show non-French Parisians as total outsiders or as exotics.

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Conversely, I was never certain what Vincenzo Natali's film about Elijah Wood's encounter with a beautiful female vampire had to do with Paris, other than as a setting which could have just as easily been Venice, Italy or Venice, California for that matter. Which is not to say it's a bad film, but the Paris location seemed besides the point. One would at least hope that this talented director would be given the opportunity to make the kind of solidly financed horror film that he deserves.

One of the other, better pieces was by Isabel Coixet, about a man about to leave his wife until he learns that she has a terminal illness. A homage to Francois Truffaut, Coixet has essentially reworked The Soft Skin's story, adding in music from Jules and Jim, and including first person narration, again as in Jules and Jim. Coixet's film seems to have less to do with Paris than with the memories of characters in French movies, that is to say, in the films by Truffaut.

There was an unintended laugh in seeing Margo Martindale portray a woman from Denver in a movie seen in Denver. Listening to Martindale's stilted French brought back memories of my own limited abilities and horrible American accent. Alexander Payne's sequence also reminded me of how odd, limiting and liberating it sometimes can be to be alone in a country where one does not speak the language. The films of Paris, Je T'Aime are so disparate at times that I'm not quite sure what the originators of the project had in mind. I can only assume that the eighteen filmmakers love Paris, but prefer to do so in their own way.

Posted by peter at May 30, 2007 09:40 PM


More often than not, these very short films seem to tell more about the interests of the filmmakers than really saying something about Paris.

That's exactly the problem with the film, and as a result many of them were time-wasters and space-fillers. I'd rather see four great shorts than dozens of mediocre ones. How could so many of them not "get" the assignment?

I agree with you about the Coixet piece -- it was the highlight of the film for me.

Posted by: Filmbrain at May 31, 2007 11:26 AM