reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Paris, the city of love, is probably high on your list of places you would like to visit on Valentine’s Day.
Alas, Paris is far away and for most of us the trip won’t happen just yet. But fear not, you can still visit the French capital without leaving your home by watching the quirky and enchanting ensemble 2006 movie Paris, je t’aime (I love you, Paris).
Paris, je t’aime consists of 18 five minutes short films, each one taking place in a different Parisian arrondissement (neighborhood). The 22 directors who created these shorts are Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel and Ethan Coen, Gérard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Nobuhiro Suwa, Alexander Payne, Tom Tykwer, Walter Salles and Gus Van Sant.
The theme of all of them is ‘love’, romantic love and motherly love, love lost and love regained, young love and everlasting love. And they all shared an underlying love for Paris, the city that is both the setting and an active protagonist of the stories.
Although most shorts are in French with English subtitles, some of the characters speak English. Some don’t speak at all, like the American tourist in my favorite short, Tuileries.
In Tuileries, an American tourist, Steve Buscemi, sits in the metro (subway) while reading his Paris guide. By ignoring the guide’s advice not to make eye contact, Steve’s character gets in a bizarre confrontation with a young couple he sees kissing on the opposite side of the tracks. Without words, Steve’s face and bulging eyes perfectly convey his character’s predicament to comical effect.
In Quartier de la Madeleine, another tourist (Elijah Wood) falls in love with a vampiress. To keep with the retro look of a silent film, it’s filmed in black and white, but for the brilliant red of blood.
An American is also the protagonist of the last short, 14e arrondissement (XIVe arrondissement). It’s the story of Carol, a middle aged woman, a letter carrier from Colorado, who, in her heavily accented, halting French narrates in voice over how she fell in love with Paris.
A sweet, touching ending to an impressive film.
Click here to watch the trailer.