Dirs: see credits below. Fr-Liech-Switz. 2006. 120mins.
That largelyunloved genre, the portmanteau film, no doubt works best in specialised slots -such as that of the opener in the Un Certain Regardsection at Cannes. Fitting the bill as a light, generally celebratory sectioncurtain-raiser, Paris JeT'Aime is a postcard-like, sometimes genuinelycharming, whistle-stop city tour, undertaken by 18 international directors ordirecting duos.
Undemandingand touristic as it sometimes is, it neverthelesssqueezes new visual and conceptual juice out of Europe's most over-filmed city.While the sum total is largely disposable, the collection has fewer out-and-outclunkers than customarily expected from such all-star packages - and eachsegment is so brief that there's never time to get bored.
Ahyper-prestigious cast should make this far more marketable than mostanthologies, especially with Paris fever currently being stoked by the moredubious views of the city on offer in TheDa Vinci Code.
Labelledas "Un Film Collectif", the film - presumablyinspired by the 1965 nouvelle vague showcase Paris Vu Par' - collects love stories set in different areas of thecity.
Somecontributors have other things on their minds than just love, albeit nothingtoo radical to upset the generally cosy applecart. Oliver Schmitz's tragicvignette is of a city that remains hostile to immigrants; GurinderChadha offers a good-naturedly didactic plea formulticultural understanding; and Walter Salles andDaniela Thomas tell a concise tale of haves and have-nots, with Catalina Sandina Moreno as a young Latino single mother.
Amongthe out-and-out comedies, the Coen brothers' briskanecdote features Steve Buscemi as a confused touristgetting into a mess on a Metro platform: it's enjoyable, albeit revealing arather odd US conception of French emotional excesses.
AnimatorSylvain Chomet's hyper-stylised venture into liveaction - with a few digital tweaks - will be the one to polarise audiences.Playing knowingly with Gallic cliches, this tale of awhite-face mime will be a hit with lovers of Chomet'sBelleville Rendezvous, but will repelanyone averse to self-conscious highly-wrought cartoonishartifice.
Thereare, inevitably, a few egregious duds. Tom Tykwer'sspeeded-up romance tries way too hard to impress; Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant are bizarrely matched as a middle-aged couple tryingto reignite their passion in Pigalle, in Richard Lagravenese's tired effort. And, although it's set in Père-Lachaise cemetery, Wes Craven's segment is not horrorat all, but the soppiest of the lot, about an English couple whose marriage issaved by the ghostly intervention of Oscar Wilde.
Thebest comes at the end: Frederic Auburtin and GerardDepardieu reunite Ben Gazzara and GenaRowlands as an elderly couple meeting to discusstheir divorce, though they're clearly made for each other. The actors' almosttelepathic interplay expertly extracts all the tenderness and tragicomedy fromtheir characters.
Finally,Alexander Payne casts Margo Martindale as a lonely American visitor; hervoice-over narrative, in comically wretched French, initially seems to make hera figure of fun, but her final ambivalent epiphany beautifully puts a seal onthe film as a love letter to the city.
A brief coda, reuniting some of the characters, signs off anhonourable, ambitious miscellany that, at the very least, reminds us thatthere's more to Paris than the mysteries of the Louvrepyramid.
Gus van Sant
Joel & Ethan Coen
Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas
Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu
Pirol Film Production
La Fabrique des Films
Burkhard von Schenk
Various: from an original idea by Tristan Carne
Catalina Sandina Moreno