June 28, 2007

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Paris, Je T’aime (R)
Twenty-two directors and 25 writers bring us 18 short films (each around five minutes long) about life and love in Paris in Paris, Je T’aime, an interesting and occasionally charming if somewhat wearying experiment.

Interesting?

• The Coen brothers’ short wherein Steve Buscemi plays a minor role in a couple’s argument (and is both punched and kissed) in the metro.

• Wes Caven’s short about a couple (Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer) fighting near the grave of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne).

• Gerard Depardieu and Frédéric Auburtin’s older couple (Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazarra) coming to terms with their divorce.

Charming?

• Bruno Palydés’ tale of an anxious driver and a fainting young woman.

• Gurinder Chadha’s romance between a teenage boy and a hijab-wearing girl.

• Sylvain Chomet’s story of how a boy’s mime-parents met.

• Alexander Payne’s wonderfully sad recounting of a middle-aged single American woman (Margo Martindale) and her lonely but invigorating trip to Paris, told in full-on About Schmidt-ness.

Also, Juliet Binoche plays a mother distraught over the death of her son and Elijah Wood plays a tourist seduced/transformed by a fetching vampire. A blind man and his girlfriend grow apart; a couple comes together just as one of them dies; a much older man walks with a woman who seems worn out by her attention to an unseen male. The performances are all solid. Some are good, some are obviously light work for the actors. The movie seems, even in its most serious moments, to emphasize fun, sweetness or, like the title suggests, the effervescence of love.

Some of the shorts here are less interesting than others. But if you’re bored or annoyed or embarrassed by the stories, if they’re too French or too American — I think Alexander Payne’s conscious outsider was the best use of Americans in this French setting — you’re in luck because long before any of the shorts really becomes unbearable it’s over.

Paris, Je T’aime is like tapas — a little humor, a little drama, a little vampires. Just enough to give you a taste of what the director is doing, but not so much as to overload you. B

Rated R for language and brief drug use. Paris, Je T’aime is two hours long and is distributed in limited release by First Look Pictures. The segments in the movie are directed by Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Gérard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podlydés, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant. Segments were written by Bruno Podalydés, Paul Mayeda Berges, Chadha, Van Sant, the Coen brothers, Salles, Thomas, Doyle, Gabrielle Keng, Kathy Li, Coixet, Suwa, Sylvain Chomet, Cuaron, Assayas, Schmitz, Richard LaGravenese, Natali, Craven, Tykwer, Gena Rowlands and Payne. Transitions are written and directed by Emmanuel Benbihy and the idea for the film came from Tristan Carné.

It is currently playing at Wilton Town Hall Theatre and is finishing a run at the Screening Room in Newburyport, Mass., and is playing in the Boston area