Paris Je T'Aime (directed by various filmmakers including Olivier Assayas, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Chistopher Doyle and Nobuhiro Suwa): There have been nearly as many cinematic love letters written to Paris as there have been to New York, but that doesn't mean that moviemakers aren't still falling hard for the city of lights. 21 directors made 18 short films for the new omnibus movie Paris Je T'Aime which comes to New York theaters this Friday. While some of the installments are stronger than others, watching Paris Je T'Aime will surely make even the most jaded Manhattanite want to pack their beret for a Parisian getaway tout de suite.
The movie has a total running time of 2 hours so each short, named after a different area of the city like Montmartre or Le Marais, are only roughly 6 minutes long. It becomes clear quite quickly that it was tough for some of the participants to make something really memorable is so little screen time. The best segments of the movie are the ones done with a strong narrative hook and in a style distinctive of that particular director. For instance, Joel and Ethan Coen's called Tuileries stars one of their regular actors Steve Buscemi and is shot through with dark humor and sight gags. Or course, Gus Van Sant's section includes two hot young male actors eying each other and Tom "Run Lola Run" Tykwer's installment has lots of flashy editing. These tropes aren't anything so new from these directors, but they're engaging none the less. Two of the best segments are a voice-over laden one called Bastille from Spanish director Isabel Coixet (who made the Sarah Polley movie My Life Without Me) and Alexander Payne's closing chapter 14ème Arrondisement about a midwestern woman visiting Paris for the first time. Both shorts beautifully capture the joy and the sadness inherent in this gorgeous French city. They're poignant without being maudlin, and can't help but make you smile.
Other movies hitting theaters this weekend include the newest installment of the Sam Raimi comic book franchise Spider-Man 3, Curtis Hanson's gambling romance Lucky You, the directorial debut from Canadian actress Sarah Polley starring Julie Christie Away From Her and Adrienne Shelly's Sundance favorite Waitress with Keri Russell.
[Pictured: Natalie Portman and Melchior Belson in Tom Tykwer's section Faubourg Saint-Denis from Paris Je T'Aime.]