Movies are often called a love letter to the city in which they’re set. But usually, that geographical admiration is underneath a more standard narrative. Characters go through the motions of a romantic comedy with the backdrop of a city constantly there, trying everything together. Paris, je táime takes the concept a little more literally. Translated as Paris, I Love, this collection of 20 odd short films by an impressive roster of A-list directors and actors never lets a story stick around long enough to get in the way of that city’s love letter.
Of all of the directors given the reigns to a part of this anthology, the contributions by the Coen Brothers and Alexander Payne were the two I was looking forward to the most. And they both deliver. But the fact that the both tell stories about being American outsiders in the City of Lights makes me worry that my own cinematic tastes are a little too pedestrian and mainstream American. The Coen’s entry is them at their quirky, silly, slight best, as silent tourist Steve Buscemi reads his guide book a little too slowly to avoid a confrontation on a metro platform.
But it’s Payne’s entry to Paris, je táime that really grabbed me. With stilled, phonetic narration, Margot Martendale tells the story of the trip to Paris she’d been planning and saving for her whole life. There’s something about her awkward, but so sincere attempt at the French language, that makes this story of a post-middle aged American postal worker looking back on her life with the perspective gained by this new adventure, that made it by far the most effective story on offer.
The rest of Paris, je táime has its ups and downs, but gets a little monotonous. With so many directors and writers, and every story clocking in at just a few minutes each, monotony should one thing that’s never an issue with an anthology movie like this. The problem is, with the restriction of just a few minutes, too many of the writers and directors go to the same well. Apparently, when given just a few minutes of screen time and the mandate of dedicating that time to a city famous for romance, nine of ten writers will go for some sort of melancholy and/or regret.
The good news is, that anthology nature does keep it moving quick enough to get too bogged down. Even if the themes are often similar, the ever changing cast and visual direction means it’s hard to get bored.