Danville Express

Living - June 8, 2007

Movie review: Paris, Je T-aime

Rating: R for language, sexuality and mature themes Run Time: 2 hours. In English and French with English subtitles

Like so many of its tricky ilk, this scattered pastiche of petite vignettes displays a frenetic charm that somehow manages to coalesce. With attitude to spare, 20 respected directors - including Joel and Ethan Coen, Gus Van Sant and Alfonso Cuaron - craft 18 blithe snippets of what it means to live and love in the City of Lights.

Their interpretations are wildly diverse yet never lacking allure. Looking for love in all the wrong places, a hapless romantic falls for a strange woman who faints alongside his parked car. A cheeky teen is uncommonly captivated by a fiery Muslim girl whose head is perpetually covered by a somber hijab.

There are those who are tortured by the world's most profound emotion. Observing lovers at play and war, an innocent tourist is caught up in a dangerous roundelay at a lonely Metro stop. A mother consumed by grief over the death of her son finds salvation in fantasy and memory.

Class lines are crossed without reservation. A young housekeeper with a cherished infant spends her days picking up after an upper-crust Parisian who appears to care more for the nightlife than her own small child.

Best in show is Alexander Payne's vignette, lusciously unconstructed and brimming with longing as a middle-aged American postmistress dictates the adventure of a lifetime in her badly accented French.

The tales are connected by honeyed promises and narrative gossamer. Puzzling head-scratchers vie for screen time with profound observations on affaires du coeur while tragedy boldly intersects whimsy. Vampires, terminal illness and abstract musical comedy? Check, check and check. Asymmetrical but appealing from start to finish.

Paris herself in an ethereal picture postcard in glorious hues and shades of gray, her celebrated flaws shamelessly splayed out onscreen. The cast is a melting pot of international celebrity, from Elijah Wood and Natalie Portman to Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche and Catalina Moreno, all willing participants in erring being human, and loving and forgiving divine.

--Jeanne Aufmuth

For more movie reviews or local show times, go to www.DanvilleWeekly.com

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