Paris Je t’Aime

Review by Jane Freebury

Although it sometimes overplays its hand, this is an ode to an iconic city which says most visitors find some romance at least. The French tourist bureau will be happy with this confection, though Paris hardly needs any help as Europe’s top destination.

It explores every aspect of love, every stage of love between men and women of different races and creeds, between parents and children, and even the undead.

Eighteen different international writer/directors – names like Walter Salles, Alfonso Cuaron and Tom Tykwer – have each created a five-minute story. Only one of the directors who has contributed to this omnibus feature is a local, Gerard Depardieu, though his Gallic perspective is tempered with a screenplay by Gena Rowlands.

As Gena and Ben, she and Ben Gazzara play a couple long estranged. He has flown in to ask her to sign divorce papers so he can re-marry and they trade a few gentle insults while Depardieu’s patron slides a glass of wine under their nose.

Just as salty is the exchange between Fanny and Bob, Fanny Ardant and Bob Hoskins who play a long-married couple too who visit the Pigalle to revive the libido, a visit with a twist.

The ‘piece de resistance’ is set in the Tuileries, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Steve Buscemi is only sitting on the metro bench minding his own business, when he locks eyes with a pair of lovers looking for fun at someone else’s expense.

Christopher Doyle’s flamboyant contribution is the least successful, so contrived it nearly sinks the project, though it is of course striking to watch. Instead of his proxy Asian perspective, a contribution from a Japanese, Korean or Chinese writer/director would have been interesting.

Wes Craven has set his piece in Pere Lachaise cemetery at Oscar Wilde’s tomb, which has become covered in red lipstick kisses since I last saw it.

It’s spot the stars as they drift past on screen. Marianne Faithfull flits by, Willem Dafoe rides in and out on a horse and Nick Nolte is mostly captured in long shot though his bad French accent is heard loud and clear.

If the overall coherence is defeated by an unevenness in some of the different stories, it’s still very pleasurable.

3.5 stars