“…and then one day, you kissed me.”

It was only minutes into Paris Je t’aime (2007) when I realized that my mind had subconsciously set up a resolute framework in which I subsequently evaluated the rest of the film, and more of less the question proved to be something along the lines of: “when given a few minutes can a world-famous director distinguish her/himself from a talented film student?” Perhaps it was because I found the film’s first segment to be nearly unwatchable (I echo Michael Sicinski’s ‘s statement that “I never, ever want to watch a feature film by Bruno Podalydes”), but thankfully the film gamely recovers from the opening low point. I was in a generous mood the day I watched it, and found most of the contributions ranking somewhere between good to very good, with the inevitable clunkers mercifully kept to a minimum. Many of the shorts do indeed display many of the themes, topics and general tone we associate with a given filmmaker—East/West clash from Gurinder Chadha, entrancing, slightly eccentric, patently-French humor from Sylvian Chomet, an overwhelming Asian influence on Christopher Doyle, etc, etc.—and “the successful ones” probably has more to do with individual tastes than anything else (do you prefer the social realism, or the whimsy?). For my part, I thought Gus Van Sant nails the restless, vaguely uneasy energy of a could-be homosexual encounter, while Oliver Assayas’s brooding, chic bleakness carries more resonance than I originally accredited to it, and there’s a kinetic thrill in Tom Tykwer’s fractured fairytale. And as somebody who had pretty much given up on Alexander Payne, the perfectly-modulated catharsis that cuts through the initial condescension took me completely by surprise, ending the film on an unexpected high note. My personal favorite segment was also the biggest surprise—I wasn’t expecting something so literate, funny and slyly sexy from Wes Craven (and Emily Mortimer is quickly becoming an actress I’d watch in anything). I suppose it’s inevitable that the mosaic approach never builds to a unified vision of any kind, though I think the film’s chief beauty arises from all the messy contradictions found in all the individual little epiphanies and moments and slices of subjective reality.

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10 thoughts on ““…and then one day, you kissed me.”

  1. –I’m glad you like Emily Mortimer. I got very interested in her after I saw her in BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (2003, Stephen Fry, A+). She really shines in this movie, though I think Fenella Woolgar is the one who steals many scenes in it. Emily Mortimer is also great in DEAR FRANKIE (2004, Shona Auerbach, A)

    –You are the first person that I know who loves Wes Craven’s segment.

    –To tell you the truth, I like Bruno Podalydes’ segment, though not as much as many other segments. And I really love one film directed by Bruno Podalydes. It is DIEU SEUL ME VOIT (ONLY GOD SEES ME) (1998, Bruno Podalydes, A), which is a romantic comedy. What I like very much in DIEU SEUL ME VOIT is that it seems to have some political aspects, which is hard to find in other romantic comedies. In this film, the hero has three lovers—a nurse, a documentary director (Jeanne Balibar), and a policewoman. These three women have to answer the same question about Cuba, and these three gave different answers. I don’t think I truly understand the political subtext in ONLY GOD SEES ME, but at least this film made me think a lot about the political subtext after seeing it, instead of just making me feel good and then disappearing from my mind very soon like other romantic comedies. I don’t know if I can convince you to change your mind about not watching Bruno Podalydes’ films, but at least I have tried.

    These are the segments in PARIS, I LOVE YOU (A) in my preferential order:

    1.14TH ARRONDISSEMENT (Alexander Payne, A+)

    This segment also surprises me a lot. I like SIDEWAYS (2004, A+), but feel so-so about ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002, Alexander Payne, B+). However, I love this segment ten times more than SIDEWAYS. This segment is quite funny and touching. The character played by Margo Martindale in this segment reminds me of the heroine of SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989, Lewis Gilbert, A+), because both of them are middle-aged women traveling alone, and their travel might lead to their self-liberation.

    2. LOIN DU 16EME (Walter Salles, A+)

    This segment makes me feel very sad.

    3. LES MARAIS (Gus Van Sant, A+)

    4. QUARTIER DE LA MADELEINE (Vincenzo Natali, A+)

    5. PLACE DES FETES (Oliver Schmitz, A+)

    This segment also makes me feel very sad.

    6. QUARTIER DES ENFANTS ROUGES (Olivier Assayas, A+)

    7. TUILERIES (Joel & Ethan Cohen, A+/A)

    8. TOUR EIFFEL (Sylvain Chomet, A+/A)

    9. QUARTIER LATIN (Gerard Depardieu + Frederic Aubertin, A)

    10. QUAIS DE SEINE (Gurinder Chadha, A)

    11. PERE-LACHAISE (Wes Craven, A)

    12. PARC MONCEAU (Alfonso Cuaron, A)

    13. MONTMARTRE (Bruno Podalydes, A/A-)

    14. PORTE DE CHOISY (Christopher Doyle, A-)

    15. FAUBOURG SAINT-DENIS (Tom Tykwer, A-)

    16. PLACE DE VICTOIRES (Nobuhiro Suwa, A-)

    17. PIGALLE (Richard LaGravenese, A-)

    18. BASTILLE (Isabel Coixet, B+)

    I’m quite surprised, in a negative way, with Suwa and Coixet’s segments, because I like their feature films very much. I saw 2 DUO (1997, Nobuhiro Suwa, A+) and MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (2003, Isabel Coixet, A+). Both these films touch me strongly, while their short segments cannot.

  2. –As you know I like to make lists. So in this case I make a list of omnibus films.

    MY FAVORITE OMNIBUS FILMS

    1.ID SWISS (1999)
    This is a film about the multinational aspect of Switzerland. Two from seven segments stand out: MIXED UP by Nadia Fares, and TRAIN FANTOME by Thomas Thuemena. MIXED UP is a surreal, poetic film about North African women in Switzerland, while TRAIN FANTOME is a documentary which dares to ask the question “Is it possible that there can be a war between French-speaking Swiss and German-speaking Swiss?” To my surprise, some interviewees answer “Yes”.

    2.TALES OF TERROR (2004, Japan)
    Many people hate this horror film which consists of 8 segments, but I really love this film, especially the two segments directed by Kosuke Suzuki. These two segments really defy explanation.

    3.TUBE TALES (1999)
    This film consists of eleven segments concerning subway trains. My two most favorite are the ones directed by Ewan McGregor and Charles McDougall.

    4.11’09”01 – SEPTEMBER 11 (2002)
    My two most favorite segments are the ones directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Claude Lelouch.

    5.EROTIQUE (1994, Lizzie Borden, Clara Law, Ana Maria Magalhaes, Monika Treut, A+)

    6.ABOUT LOVE (2005, Ten Shimoyama (A-), Yee Chin-yen (A+), Zhang Yibai (A))

    7.SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1968, Roger Vadim (A-), Louis Malle (A), Federico Fellini (A))

    8.TALES OF KISH (1999, Abolfazl Jalili, Naser Taghvai, Mohsen Makhmalbaf)

    9. EGG (This is a Thai omnibus film consisting of 7 segments, including the one directed by Michael Shaowanasai)

    10.TSUNAMI (This is a Thai omnibus film consisting of 13 segments. My most favorite are the ones directed by Sompot Chidgasornpongse, Sonthaya Subyen, and Pramote Sangsorn.)

    MY WISH LIST FOR OMNIBUS FILMS

    1.THE HEIRESS (1982, Viviane Berthommier, Daniele Dubroux, Marie-Christine Questerbert, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Ula Stoeckl, Jutta Brueckner)

    2.DANISH GIRLS SHOW EVERYTHING (1996, directed by 18 directors, including Mani Kaul, Dusan Makavejev, Monika Treut, Zhang Yuan, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, Mika Kaurismaki)

    3.LOST AND FOUND (2005, Stefan Arsenijevic, Nadejda Koseva, Mait Laas, Kornel Mundruczo, Cristian Mungiu, Jasmila Zbanic)

    4.STATE OF THE NATION: AUSTRIA IN SIX CHAPTERS (2002, Barbara Albert, Michael Glawogger, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Sturminger)

    5.VISIONS OF EUROPE (2004, directed by 26 directors, including Fatih Akin, Barbara Albert, Sharunas Bartas, Christoffer Boe, Constantine Giannaris, Theo van Gogh, Peter Greenaway, Aki Kaurismaki, Damjan Kozole, Bela Tarr, and Jan Troell)

  3. MY IMAGINARY OMNIBUS FILMS

    DANISH BOYS SHOW EVERYTHING

    Directed by

    1.Tony Ayres (Australia)
    2.Francois Ozon (France)
    3.Gael Morel (France)
    4.Sebastien Lifshitz (France)
    5.Rosa von Praunheim (Germany)
    6.Hisayasu Sato (Japan)
    7.Joao Pedro Rodrigues (Portugal)
    8.Roystan Tan (Singapore)
    9.Ventura Pons (Spain)
    10.Lukas Moodysson (Sweden)
    11.Michael Shaowanasai (Thailand)
    12.Gregg Araki (USA)
    13.John Cameron Mitchell (USA)
    14.Gus van Sant (USA)
    15.Jonathan Caouette (USA)

  4. While watching this one today, I strongly disliked most of its segments. Most of them just seem to go nowhere, ending even before they actually begun. My favorites (basically the only ones I actually liked) are those directed by Tom Tykwer (the only one I enjoyed from the very first until the very last scene), Isabel Coixet (Sergio Castellito never fails to impress me, though what impressed me the most about this one was that Coixet decided that the whole segment would be narrated), Gurinder Chadha (simple, yet very emotional and beautifully shot), Alexander Payne (a very personal segment) and Vincenzo Natali (very stylish). Of all the other segments, I guess the Wes Craven one does stand out, thanks to – as you mentioned – Mortimer’s charming performance, but I also wouldn’t miss a chance to praise Rufus Sewell at least a bit.

  5. Oh, and I obviously forgot to mention Olivier Assayas’ segment. I expected some kind of a conclusion to it, which – as we have seen – never came, but generally, it was rather good.

  6. celinejulie- As always, your lists provide much food for thought, as I have seen not a one of them. :) Doing some reading on Paris Je t’aime I across some writing on Paris vu par (1965) which I’d love to see, considering it has a kind of “wish list” of directors (Godard, Rohmer, Chabrol, Rouch, etc). Have you happened to have seen it?

    I really like your idea of “Danish Boys Show Everything”… but why Danish boys in particular?

    -jesse

  7. radovan- Thanks for dropping by… I’ve been meaning to thank you for the sweet message you left on my MySpace page.

    I can see why Paris Je t’aime wouldn’t work for somebody… I was in an admittedly good and generous mood when I saw it. You seem to be very geneerous to Coixet (most people seem to really strong dislike it… I was rather indifferent), but I’m glad you liked Chadha’s which I think people generally underrate.

    And yes, I should have mentioned Sewell–I watched the segment on YouTube again and Sewell is just as good as Mortimer, it’s just when I write these capsule many things I’d like to potentially say end up being cut. Oh well.

    Are you writing anywhere in English these days?

    -jesse

  8. –I haven’t seen PARIS VU PAR…(1965), but I have seen a segment of PARIS SEEN BY…TWENTY YEARS AFTER (1984). The segment I saw is called I’M HUNGRY, I’M COLD, directed by Chantal Akerman, and starring Maria de Medeiros and Pascale Salkin as two poor lesbians wandering the streets of Paris, struggling so hard to survive. What is very impressive about this short film is that the dialogues between the two girls are not spoken in a realistic way, but are spoken like poetry. I really love this film. I think Zach Campbell (Elusive Lucidity) also saw this one. The other five directors participating in PARIS SEEN BY…TWENTY YEARS AFTER are Bernard Dubois, Philippe Garrel, Frederic Mitterand, Vincent Nordon, and Philippe Venault.

    –Why Danish boys in particular? It’s because Nicolaj Coster-Waldau is from Denmark. I think he is one of the most desirable actors. He is in WIMBLEDON (A-), FIREWALL (A-/B+), ENIGMA (A), BENT (A+) and THE BOUNCER. Nikolaj Lie Kaas, another handsome actor, is also from Denmark. He is in RECONSTRUCTION (A+), MURK, ADAM’S APPLE, BROTHERS, and OPEN HEARTS.

    Hahaha. Just kidding. The real reason for DANISH BOYS SHOW EVERYTHING is just because I want to mock the real omnibus film DANISH GIRLS SHOW EVERYTHING (1996).

    If you don’t prefer Danish boys, I think maybe the film project should be changed to BOYS AROUND THE WORLD SHOW EVERYTHING. And maybe these five directors can be added to the film project:

    16.Isaac Julien (UK)

    17.Onir (INDIA)

    18.Constantine Giannaris GREECE)

    19.Cui Zi’en (CHINA)

    20.Bruce La Bruce (Canada)

    –I think Gurinder Chadha’s segment in PARIS I LOVE YOU is very romantic and lovely, while reflecting social problems at the same time. I think this short film should be shown together with YASEMIN (1988, Hark Bohm, West Germany, A-/B+) and AE FOND KISS (2004, Ken Loach, A+), because all these films share more or less the same theme. Gurinder Chadha’s film is the most optimistic one among these three, though.

    –Bangkok, my city, also has an omnibus film made for it 7 years ago. It’s called BANGKOK 2000 FRAMES. In this project, many Thai filmmakers were asked to make a film about Bangkok using only 2000 frames from a film reel. I can’t remember many segments in this film, but my most favorite segment is called BANGKOK BEAUTY. It is directed by Wisit Sasanatieng (TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER). In the first shot of this film, viewers will see a plastic bag dancing in the wind on the street, very similar to that famous shot from the film AMERICAN BEAUTY. But a few seconds later, the camera will zoom out from that plastic bag, and the viewers will see plenty of plastic bags also dancing in the wind on the street of Bangkok. The film is very funny. Bangkok is really a dirty city.

    –I just would like to add a little thought on omnibus films. I think what is interesting about omnibus films is that many ones were made to respond to catastrophes, mishaps, or injustice. This kind of project shows the unity of many filmmakers in fighting for a good cause. For example:

    1.TSUNAMI

    2.NANG SAMANCHAN (It is a Thai omnibus film consisting of 12 segments. The purpose of this film is to find a peaceful way to solve the problem of the violence in the South of Thailand.)

    3.11’09”01 – SEPTEMBER 11

    4.GERMANY IN AUTUMN (1978, 11 directors including Alexander Kluge, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Edgar Reitz, Bernhard Sinkel, Volker Schlondorff)

    5.FAR FROM VIETNAM (1967, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda, Jean-Luc Godard). The purpose of this film is to show sympathy for the North Vietnamese army. I think the directors in this project can be called THE DREAM TEAM.

    6.ALLERZIELEN (2005, many Dutch directors including Eddy Terstall and Mijke de Jong). The purpose of this film is to respond to the murder of Theo van Gogh.

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