It's not easy making a movie with 18 different stories in it. Although 18 different international directors took the challenge, not everyone of them is good, some of them even boring. But in his entity, "Paris, je t'aime" is breathtaking, showing that, as "Love Actually" put it, 'love is all around', especially in the city of love. Here's a resumé (I'll try to make at as spoiler-free as possible) of the 18 different stories.
MONTMARTRE - kind of a dull opening sequence, nothing really special about it. A man finds a parking spot, and sees a lot of odd couples walking by, wondering why he can't find a girl. And than, suddenly, a woman faints next to his car...
QUAIS DE SEINE - another dull sequence, about three teenage boys who are searching for some 'piece of ass', when suddenly a Muslim girl trips right in front of them, receiving help from one of the boys. Really basic, but with a sweet heart to it.
LES MARAIS - this was a huge disappointment! Although a love story between two boys with an artsy background could have been interesting by the great Van Sant. Eventually, everything that comes AFTER the monologue by Ulliel is good, everything before it is just annoying.
TUILERIES - an entertaining sequence by the Coen brothers. Buscemi - without even saying one word - is mesmerizing and the whole sequence is just hilarious. This one kept me hooked until the very end, and this one also gets you truly hooked to the movie.
LOIN DU 16IEME - a beautiful story too, even if the execution is poor, the heart is there. It's the story of an Hispanic woman who drops her child off, early in the morning, to take care of another suburban baby. Beautiful.
PORTE DE CHOISY - this segment has got to be the strangest and weirdest from the whole movie. Some kind of shampoo salesman arrives in a Chinatown-lookalike place in Paris. If I understood it correctly, the story is about inner beauty, but I think I'm wrong.
BASTILLE - a truly wonderful sequence. A man meets with his wife at a restaurant, to break up with her, so that he can run off with his mistress. But the wife has some devastating news. Pretty basic, but truly sad and beautiful!
PLACE DES VICTOIRES - a sad sequence as well. Juliette Binoche plays a grieving mother. One night, she wakes up hearing her dead child. When she arrives at the location, a cowboy tells her she can give one last good-bye to her child. One of the best segments!
TOUR EIFFEL - two mimes who fall in love could have been great, but, even though it has some nice cinematic tricks, the story isn't intriguing and not funny at all.
PARC MONCEAU - a truly original and great sequence, one of the best of the movie! A young girl and an older man discuss their future and her fear for a certain man... Cuaron does a great directing job, and the actors are amazing!
QUARTIER DES ENFANTS ROUGES - an American actress (Gyllenhaal) falls in love with her drug dealer. a beautiful segment again, with a very sad ending.
PLACE DES FETES - a woman comes to a homeless man, he starts talking romantic to her... because she is the love of his life. Beautiful, sad, shocking, romantic,... Place des Fêtes will make everyone cry.
PIGALLE - a boring sequence between Ardant and Hoskins, who are looking for new thrills in their relationship... very unfunny and unromantic, Pigalle is a let-down.
QUARTIER DE LA MADELEINE - a dark horror-Gothic love starring Elijah Wood as a lost tourist in the backstreets of Paris in the night who meets a vampiress. With a black-and-white format but blood-red colour contrast that seems to incongruously bleed off screen, it nearly becomes a pastiche of Sin City – a refreshing eerie and visual turn in an otherwise fairly grounded film. bringing some diversity in the movie, QdlM is a relief. Dark, scary and oddly romantic, Madeleine is superb.
PERE-LACHAISE - another let-down segment. Directed by Wes Craven and with stars as Mortimer and Sewell, it could have been great, but Père-Lachaise is just ordinary, not original at all.
FAUBOURG SAINT-DENIS by Tom Tykwer but I think I was conditioned to think so, given that I downloaded the movie with him in mind as my favourite and nudged myself saying "finally, that's my favourite director here". Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Tykwer delivers a lovely segment in which a blind boy picks up the phone, and hears from his girlfriend (Portman - for once not annoying) that she breaks up with him, and he reflects on their relationship. As is Tywker's style, the story is dizzyingly fast-paced, kinetic and repetitive, featuring screaming and running (Lola Rennt) making it the most adrenaline-pumping segment in Paris je t'aime and possibly also the most touching once Tywker starts wielding his most powerful tool – music.
QUARTIER Latin - even though this segment has been co-directed by Depardieu and has such stars as Rowlands, Gazzara and Depardieu, this segment is a let-down too. Nothing happens, lack of chemistry between the actors.
14TH ARRONDISSEMENT - the last sequence is hilarious and sad at the same time. An American tells in her French class about her trip to Paris. Her French is truly terrible, but at the end of the segment, she realizes that Paris is so much more than meets the eye.With Feist on the background, "Paris, je t'aime" ends in a sweet tone, not letting me down at all, even though some segments bored the hell out of me, the entity of the movie is great! A true cinematic experience for young and old. Paris, je t'aime vraiment!
Yet Paris je t'aime truly spoils you with quality, for all the other stories are well-crafted with crisp acting and amusing writing. It is certainly one of the highlights of 2006 (not saying much, I suppose) and a very personal film in the sense that it is unavoidable to pick a favourite and a least favourite. Highly recommended both to mainstream of "pretentious" (heh) audiences.