© Ray Wong
Ah, Paris, the City of Light. The City of Love. A few dozen directors contribute their short stories, all of which set in Paris, to draw a picture of what Paris is all about.
The film is divided into about 20 short segments, each seemingly unrelated to others, with the exception that the stories are set in Paris. In Tuileries, for examples, an American tourist (Steve Buscemi) gets himself into a bit of trouble when he makes eye contact with a pretty French girl. In Place des Victoires, Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) is a grieving mother looking for solace. In Quartier des Enfants Rouges, Liz (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is an American actress looking for a fix. In Pigalle, Bob Leander (Bob Hoskins) is trying to reignite a fire between his wife (Fanny Ardant) and him.
In Quartier de la Madeleine, a tourist (Elijah Wood) is being attacked by a vampire (Olga Kurylenko). In Pere-Lachaise, William (Rufus Sewell) is about to lose his fiance Frances (Emily Mortimer) if not for the ghost of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne). In Faubourg Saint-Denis, an American actress (Natalie Portman) hooks up with a blind man (Melchior Besion) in a turbulent relationship.
Each of these unrelated stories are named after a Parisian neighborhood in which they happen, and they have a common theme: Love. Sometimes the love is forced, sometimes lost. Sometimes it's simulated, and sometimes awakened. Sometimes it's misunderstood, and sometimes it withers. Sometimes it's mundane and sometimes fantastical. Some of these stories have a beginning, middle and end, maybe even a twist. Sometimes, it's just a slice of life, a vignette of circumstances and feelings.
Given the various talents involved in this film anthology, the writing can be uneven sometimes, ranging from bizarre to profound. But each segment gives us a glimpse of humanity, whether it's mundane or desperate.
The actors all do wonderful work here. American audiences are going to be delighted by the familiar faces such as Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi, or Bob Hoskins. But the French and British actors such as Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu or Miranda Richardson. The unfamiliar cast, too, adds magic to the production. Their performances are by and large real, nuanced, and heartfelt.
The directors get to work their magic in small chunks as well. For example, Wes Craven, known for his blood-lusting horror, turns in a rather sweet examination of couple-hood. The Coen brothers, on the other hand, are true to form in delivering a biting satire starring the hapless Steve Buscemi. Alfonso Cuaron loosens up to give us a wonderful little nugget starring Nick Nolte. And the list goes on.
While there's no real plot, no obvious story arcs, and sometimes it may not even make sense. And yet, individually each presents something interesting and unique. And on the whole, they give us something to think and smile about.
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Rufus Sewell, Emily Mortimer, Alexander Payne, Natalie Portman, Gerard Depardieu, Gena Rowlands, Wes Craven
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gerard Depardieu, Alexander Payne, Walter Salles, Gus Van Sant, etc.
Writers: Gus Van Sant, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Walter Salles, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Craven, et el.
Distributor: First Look International
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use, sensuality
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 7
Total –7.8 out of 10