Here’s a tip off for you all. This is presuming you’re part of a romantic couple (or even a not-so-romantic couple; it’s fine, it’ll probably do you more favours anyway). There’s a film I saw a while ago, which I’d like to recommend. I keep seeing it for sale on DVD, and I’m taking this as a sign from the universe that I probably should watch it again. Either that or on second viewing it’ll reveal itself to be a smug, pretentious insult to my sensitivities. Or a cloying overly sentimental gush fest that will have me struggling to keep back my cynical Disney fearing vomit. Actually, as it’s a collection of stories it could be both. But, let me put my cynicism to one side and introduce what I think could well be a good film to see again (or maybe the first time in your case). Perhaps a film more suited to Valentine’s Day, granted, but you know, in my current state of singledom I do occasionally need reminding that there were a few years past involving a woman, and watching this again might put me in the frame of mind to entertain another! All positive stuff I hear you cry, and what film could have brought forth this optimism so close to Christmas?
Ok, so it’s still November (at the time of writing), and I’m hoping at this point that you’re not media controlled zombies who go all “festive” at the sight of a Coke advert. Besides, this film will perhaps have you feeling that elusive spirit of Christmas more than half a dozen insipid TV holiday films (if you’re British, you’ll probably find them on Channel Five in a few weeks time. You have been warned.)
So what film am I actually trying to push your way? It’s a film with a powerful theme- romantic love and all its possibilities, filmed and set in arguably the most romantic of all cities. The film is Paris, j t’aime. A clichéd location perhaps, but it never feels so here. The two hours take us through 18 segments, each helmed by a different director. Some of the names familiar to the average cinema goer will be Gus Van Sant, Ethan and Joel Coen, Wes Craven (who delivers the most wonderfully surprising part of all) and Gerard Depardieu. Elsewhere Tom Tykwer directs perhaps the most spiritually and thematically complex segment, beautifully disrupting time and expectations. Isabel Coixet also directs one of the other highlights, “Bastille”.
Incidentally, each segment concerns itself with a different district of the French capital.
The mostly French ensemble cast also features many American and British performers such as Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Willem Dafoe, Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Steve Bushemi, Marianne Faithfull and Gena Rowlands. Of the French performers, Juliette Binoche is perhaps the best known, but doesn’t play to type. Either way, no one delivers a bad performance. On the contrary, they are all good.
It’d take too long to list and review all 18 stories, but while some are weaker than others, the whole of Paris, j t’aime is such an engaging experiment it can’t help but impress with all the ideas presented. Plus the film as a whole reaffirms ones faith in the possibilities of romance and love; if you needed it reaffirming in the first place. Sometimes bittersweet, and often full of darker truths about ourselves, this is overall a positive and optimistic view of people’s lives. Even the cheating husband who decides to look after his dying wife is given a new chance to embrace the deeper meaning of life: “In pretending to be a man in love, he became a man in love”.
A wonderfully quirky and sublime collection of small films, I recommend this to just about anybody with a heart and a brain. It wasn’t to be found on general release in the UK when I saw it, more’s the pity, because it’s a French film and the promotion would have probably been half hearted (although, I’d like to think I’d be wrong about that). So basically you might have missed it when it came out in 2007. I did find it screening across the country though, on the ‘art circuit’. Now it’s on DVD, and readily available. Incidentally, I saw it at Manchester’s Cornerhouse. But whichever city you’re in, it’ll feel like Paris for two hours, or at least the Paris we would like to know.
Go and see it with the one you love, or hell, at least someone you like. Even better, go and see it alone, and it might make you remember that greatest truth; that loving yourself is the most important love of all, from which all other great loves come. For that message alone, this is a wonderful film.