I’m running somewhat behind on my list of ‘movies I want to watch’, such as Paris, je t’aime which was released back in 2006. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to watch this film, especially given that it features a few of my favourites – Joel & Ethan Coen, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Juliette Binoche and Natalie Portman.
Doing the almost-unthinkable, I recently decided to commit to watching this film on free-to-air TV (something which I rarely have the patience for these days). Just in case you don’t already know the premise of this film, basically Paris, je t’aime is made up of eighteen short films (featuring a total of 21 directors and a massive ensemble cast) set in different arrondissements of Paris.
Much like I’m a fan of printed short stories, I’m also pretty partial to interwoven collections of short films. So it’s fair to say I had particularly high expectations in watching this movie based both on my love of the format and of the involved directors and cast members. In any collection of art you’re always going to get some level of inconsistency across the pieces and this is probably more due to the subjectivity of art appreciation rather than any reflection of the quality of the individual pieces. So it’s reasonable to say that some of the stories I loved and some I didn’t love so much. However after watching the entire movie and reflecting for a while, I would have to say that I did enjoy the complete collection of stories as a whole, it just took me a little while to come to that conclusion. I often find that to be the case with character-based films, it can take some time (and some thought) before I peel the layers away and get to the core.
In saying that, I did mention I had some particular favourites and they would be:
- Quais de Seine (director Gurinder Chadha) – A young man hanging out with his two particularly immature friends who try to gain attention from all the passing women. He is drawn to a young Muslim woman and a new friendship is born.
- Le Marais (director Gus Van Sant) – A print shop client finds himself instantly attracted to a young man working there. He very eloquently professes his feelings to him, without realising the worker speaks very little French. It does appear that some communications are able to overcome the difficulties of language barriers.
- Tuileries (directors Joel & Ethan Coen) – Against the advice of his tourist guidebook, an American tourist becomes involved in a conflict between a young French couple on the Paris Metro.
- Loin du 16e (writer-directors Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas) – A young woman makes an early start to her day, firstly dropping off her baby at daycare before travelling a long distance to act as a nanny for another child.
- Place des fêtes (Director Oliver Schmitz) – It is revealed that a wounded Nigerian man being assisted by a female paramedic had previously fallen in love at first sight with her, even though she is unable to remember him.
But my absolute favourite is the final story ‘14e arrondissement‘, which is told from the perspective of Carol (Margo Martindale), a letter carrier from Denver who is visiting Paris on her first European holiday. There was something particularly beautiful and achingly ‘real’ about Carol’s story, and so it was her thoughts and views of Paris out of all the others which made me love Paris all over again.