I love Paris. Having spent only 2 days in 2004 in the City of Lights is definitely insufficient, and sitting through this tapestry, a series of 18 shorts each helmed by diverse filmmakers, was pure bliss as they each create a story set around the 18 neighbourhoods of Paris itself, bringing back memories of the sights and sounds, each very distinct with their own style and narrative structure, but all focused on that central theme of Love.
The gimmick here would of course be recognizable names in the cast. The list is impressive - Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising), Steve Buscemi, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell, Natalie Portman, Gerard Depardieu, and even Jack Flowers himself Ben Gazzara (Saint Jack)! Whew! And the list of filmmakers is no less formidable, with Olivier Assayas, The Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Gus Van Sant, with Wes Craven and Alexander Payne also lending themselves to cameos.
Not all shorts will be your cup of tea though, but I can bet there will be some which will definitely be on your favourites list. I liked them all for one reason or another, so I shall list down some notables. I enjoyed the mime sequence in Sylvain Chomet's Tour Eiffel, as the feel good story made it extremely easy to follow. The Coen Brothers' Tuileries was hilarious, especially with Steve Buscemi as the star, while Loin du 16eme (by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, starring Maria Full of Grace's Catalina Sandino Moreno) was simple yet very heartfelt, and Quais de Seine looked at love transcending religion and culture.
Some shorts totally rely on technique, with stories ranging from the fantastical, like Christopher Doyle's colourful and snazzy looking Porte de Choisy, and the gothic vampire tale, Quartier de la Madeleine by Vincenzo Natali, starring Frodo Baggins, I mean Elijah Wood (you know, it's hard to think of him in any other role, that hobbit kept getting back to mind) to Alfonso Cuaron's talkie with a twisty in Parc Monceau - for a moment you'll do that all-knowing nod, before he throws your thoughts totally out of the window, all done in one single camera motion. While Nick Nolte was easily recognizable here by his voice, I didn't realize it was Ludivine Sagnier starring opposite him.
While most had its setting in one locale, I particularly enjoyed Faubourg Saint Denis by Tom Tykwer, not because it stars Natalie Portman (yay!), but because it squeezed so much into so little time, compressing plenty of locales and timelines, and teasing you at the same time - this particular short warrants a rewatch to catch everything as they whizz by in double quick time. However, those that are based on one single location too can be as powerful, like Wes Craven's Pere-Lachaise, starring Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell, in a cemetery, or Gerard Depardieu's and Frederic Auburtin's Quartier Latin, set in a restaurant - the dialogue and repartee is to die for.
Given that this ode to Love didn't premiere here in time for Valentine's Day, make it a date with a loved one during the Lunar Valentine's instead. Wonderfully beautiful stuff for romantics.