Paris, je t'aime
Great city, great love.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
So exclaims a middle-aged letter carrier from Denver, who in an only-in-Paris epiphany realizes she has fallen in love with the city and the city with her. Love in other words in Paris is synonymous with being alive. Even the British wit Oscar Wilde is buried there, never more alive than resting among the equally romantic French.
The eighteen short features in Paris, je t'aime are so lyrically evocative of the great city that any synopsis of even one is like knowing beforehand when and with whom you will fall in love when you first visit the city. These moments just shouldn't be known ahead of its time. Suffice it to say, directors such as Gus Van Sant,the Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Tom Tywker, and Wes Craven gently and unobtrusively (Well, maybe not Craven or Tywker, strangers to the understatement) direct vignettes titled after famous districts in the city of love such as Montmartre, Bastille, and Le Marais.
The actors are a cross-section of international stars from Juliette Binoche and Catalina Sandino Marino to Ben Gazzara and Steve Buscemi. The stories are as different as each of the famous places and actors but tied together by the romantic vicissitudes of love. You need not ever have been to Paris to delight in the delicate short-story nature of each film, but if you have, you'll get the city back, as Rick told Ilsa, and then you'll always have it.
The power of this movie is the power of all movies, even those with multiple directors, that address the binding we feel in the presence of a great city and great love. A lyric in the song playing over the end credits crystallizes for me the human quality of Paris, je t'aime:
"All we know is we're all in the dance."
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com