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Paris je t'aime

A whirlwind tour of 18 arrondissements in 120 minutes
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  May 23, 2007
2.5 2.5 Stars
inside_jaime
IN THE CITY OF LIGHTS: Paris herself rarely gets to shine.

Talk about a whirlwind tour: the concept for this anthology was a short film representing each of Paris’s 20 arrondissements, from the Jardins des Tuileries (#1) to the Cimitière du Père Lachaise (#20). Only 18 made the final cut (the efforts for the 11th and 15th didn’t, it seems, fit in), but at just two hours, it’s a dizzying and not entirely satisfying love letter. Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuarón, Olivier Assayas, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Gérard Depardieu, and Alexander Payne are among the directors; the stars include Steve Buscemi, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Nick Nolte, Ludivine Sagnier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardant, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Ben Gazzara, and Gena Rowlands. A young Parisien hits it off with an Arab girl in “Quais de Seine”; two men who don’t speak the same language hit it off in Van Sant’s “Le Marais”; a tourist (Buscemi) has a truly brief Métro encounter in the Coens’ “Tuileries”; a man ditches his wife just as she’s about to tell him she has terminal cancer in “Bastille”; mimes rule in “Tour Eiffel” and vampires in “Quartier de la Madeleine.” Wes Craven is a vampire victim in that last one, but his episode is “Père Lachaise,” where Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell get relationship help from Alexander Payne as the shade of Oscar Wilde. In Payne’s own segment, the last, “14e arrondissement,” Margo Martindale is a Denver-letter-carrier tourist with atrocious French and an affecting reaction to the city; it’s one of the few moments in the film where Paris herself gets to shine.
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