October 29, 2009

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New York, I Love You (R)
The Big Apple gets the short-story treatment in New York, I Love You, an American version of the multi-story, multi-director Paris, Je T’Aime project.

Paris, Je T’Aime, which was set in the City of Light but had plenty of American directors and actors, was bigger, bolder and more diverse than this survey of a pleasantly unspectacular day in New York City. There are about 10 segments with transitions where characters from one short story drip over into another. We get young lovers, old lovers, flirts, voyeurs, artists and here and there some comedy.

The most compelling thing about short films can also be the most tiring — because you’re telling a very brief story, style can matter more than characters or plot. In the recent set of shorts I watched for the New Hampshire Film Festival, style as much as the story itself drew me to some shorts more than others. Even in a situation like this where all the little films share some common themes and locations, the style and rhythm of them can draw you in — as in a fairy tale with Julie Christie and Shia LaBeouf, a bit of conversation and dreaming between Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan and a charming teen comedy with Anton Yelchin and Olivia Thirlby. The movie’s standout is particularly inviting — I felt like I could stay with the bickering yet deeply in love couple played by Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman for an entire movie’s worth of “you’re shuffling your feet” and “why are you walking so fast.”

This style-as-star scenario can also push you away — most actively in a hipper-than-thou piece with Ethan Hawke and Maggie Q or in the segment which features Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen. Both of these feel false and a little too cool, leaving you briefly with the feeling that maybe short films are something that like Twitter, Jagermeister shots and skinny jeans should really only be done by the young. (And this movie’s New York is, with only a few exceptions, populated by the quite young.)

But don’t worry, the feeling passes. And that’s the best part of this charming little look at New York: good, bad or forgettable, no piece overstays its welcome. B

Rated R for language and sexual content. Directed and written by a variety of people from a concept by Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carné, New York, I Love You is an hour and 52 minutes long and is distributed by Vivendi Entertainment.