Lowdown: A collection of short films taking place in contemporary Paris.
As a veteran blogger recently to embrace Twitter I can testify just how different it is to blog on a subject as opposed to twitting on it. With Twitter you’re not allowed to delve into philosophical discussions or develop your argument; you’re allowed the punch line alone, so you better punch hard and effectively. Easier said than done!
The same applies when comparing feature films to short films, or, for that matter, books to short stories. My loyalties are firmly on the lengthy side of the business, as evidenced by my favorite films being rather on the longer side of things and as per my reading preferences. 2006’s Paris, je t'aime tries to work its way around these difficulties by packaging a collection of short films created by different directors into a single long film and attempting to connect the ingredients through a common theme. Question is, does it manage to pull the trick off?
Each of Paris, je t'aime's films is taken by a different director. Together, they all take place in modern day Paris. There is some further specialization involved: with each short film is entitled after the Parisian quarter it is associated with.
The next thing you notice is the star power is involved in the effort overall. These come in the shape of both directors and actors, with some of the famous names including the Coen brothers, Gérard Depardieu, Gus Van Sant and Steve Buscemi. You got it right: it’s all famous names but it’s all people who like to be (or want to be perceived to be) at the fringes of mainstream.
So, does it work? Well, if you ask me (and given that you’re reading this, you are), it’s not only that Paris, je t'aime doesn’t work; it fails miserably. It’s one of those films where the collection of hot names raises the stench of a lot of hot air.
I'll start with the short films themselves. Some are good; most are incoherent arty-farty crap that would appeal to New Age aficionados but completely overtook this brain. Some are just plain silly, like those that are built around English speaking characters being unable to tell the French speaking ones they don't understand French. Come on! And sure, the short films are all taking place in Paris, but I found very little in them that is actually Parisian and couldn’t take place elsewhere. I even find very little in the collection of them all that couldn’t take place elsewhere. And what’s with the artificial division of films between quarters? Aside from giving you some indication of the geography or some information about the film you’re about to watch (in the sense of immediately associating the upcoming Pigalle short film with seedy character), they add nothing.
I understand the need to create a film celebrating the spirit of Paris, but I don’t think Paris, je t'aime does a particularly good job of it. Watching it was proving to be such a torment I had the distinct feeling I should turn my TV off and do something more constructive with my time instead, like dig a hole in my garden (or, given today's news of Malcolm McLaren's death, listen to his lovely album Paris). I didn’t give up on the film, though, because I really wanted to give it a chance: I wanted to see if there is some sort of a redemption at the end. It’s not the first time I watch a bad film, but in most of those cases what keeps me going is the need to see how it all ends; given the way Paris, je t'aime is made, a conventional wrap up is impossible, so I was curious to see what type of a sealing would be provided by the film. At the end I can testify there is no proper ending to look for; I was left stuck with my misery.
Best short film: A mother leaves the baby she loves at a rather bleak childcare facility so she could babysit a rich yet seemingly indifferent woman’s baby. It’s one of the few films in the collection that actually make a coherent statement.
Worst short film: Elijah Wood has a vampire experience close to the old opera house. I’m sure there is a lot of symbolism and lots of other words finishing with –ism in that short film, but I didn’t get any.
Overall: I really couldn’t stand the ordeal but I’ll give it the benefit of doubt due to the hard task at hand. 1.5 out of 5 stars.