Paris je t'aime

What do you get when you ask 21 directors to create 18 shorts (six directors worked in pairs) about the City of Lights? In the case of "Paris je t'aime" (which translates as "Paris I Love You") the answer is a uniquely charming and consistently entertaining film anthology.

Each short unfolds in a different Paris neighborhood, united only by the broad concept of love. Although the stories are diverse enough to give the film a welcome sense of unpredictability they're also expertly arranged into a cohesive and engaging whole.

Eight of the shorts are worth singling out as true highlights. "Bend It Like Beckham" director Gurinder Chadha's "Quais de Seine" is a sweet tale of young cross-cultural love. "Fargo" masterminds the Coen Brothers supply "Tuileries," starring Steve Buscemi as an American tourist in the Paris subway.

"The Motorcycle Diaries" helmer Walter Salles teams with frequent collaborator Daniela Thomas for "Loin du 16ème," a brief but tart peak into the life of an immigrant mother ("Maria Full of Grace" Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno). "The Triplets of Belleville" filmmaker Sylvain Chomet contributes "Tour Eiffel," a comedy that actually manages to make mimes funny.

"Cube" director Vincenzo Natali's "Quartier de la Madeleine" stars Elijah Wood as a young man who encounters a vampire. Tom Tykwer's "Faubourg Saint-Denis," starring Natalie Portman, re-creates some of the frenetic energy of his international hit "Run Lola Run."

Longtime friends Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara play a formerly married couple who playfully goad each other in Frédéric Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu's sharply written "Quartier Latin." Finally, and most remarkably, "Sideways" maestro Alexander Payne delivers "14ème Arrondissement," a witty, transcendent portrait of a Denver postal worker (Margo Martindale, "Million Dollar Baby") on vacation.

With Alfonso Cuarón, Gus Van Sant and Wes Craven (in a surprisingly light romantic comedy change of pace) also on the directing roster and Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Juliette Binoche and Bob Hoskins also appearing, the result is a captivating collection that lives up to its title.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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