Paris, Je T'Aime
For this portmanteau work, 21 directors from around the world have contributed five-minute shorts, which are set in 18 of Paris’ administrative districts. The project was intended as a cinematic valentine to the French capital, with the theme of love linking the various segments. There’s an array of styles and moods on display, and a cosmopolitan line-up of acting talent, including Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllnehaaal, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands and Ludivine Sagnier. Yet, as so often with omnibus films, the results are very hit-and-miss, and along with the seemingly arbitrary running order, the brevity of each film makes it harder to savour the more compelling sections.
On a positive note Brazilian filmmakers Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas contribute a poignant account of an immigrant mother in a poor suburb who leaves her own baby each day to work as a nanny in a more affluent district.
South African writer/director Oliver Schmitz shows, with a deft use of flashbacks, the fate of a Nigerian musician after he is stabbed. Cassavetes fans will relish Rowlands and Gazzara paired as a couple discussing their divorce in a film directed by the former. The Coen brothers deliver a blackly entertaining tale of a tourist (Buscemi), who makes eye contact with the wrong people on the Metro.
Disappointments include a tedious riff on vampires (Vincenzo Natali), a cloying yarn about mime-artists (Sylvain Chomet), and Nobuhiro Suwa’s overblown foray into the imagination of grieving mother. Still, there is the pleasure of Alexander Payne’s final contribution, which compassionately details the epiphany of a middle-aged US postal worker on a visit to Paris.