Yesterday, I saw Paris, Je T’aime, in which twenty filmmakers use Paris as a backdrop for short stories about various kinds of love and relationships. Here’s the trailer:

The movie is organized around eighteen five-minute arrondissements. Each episode is written and directed by a different person. It stars many well-known actors, including Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Nick Nolte, Gena Rowlands, Steve Buscemi, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Miranda Richardson, Juliette Binoche, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and includes several famous directors, including Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Coen, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, Wes Craven, and Alexander Payne.

Some of the episodes are less successful than others, but on the whole I really liked this movie. I was a little worried going into it that I wouldn’t like the short format of the individual episodes. But I found the short form interesting, since it allows you to compare the different directors’ styles as well as the different stories’ plots and statements about love. There’s a little bit of everything here: whimsy, sentiment, violence, heartbreak, exuberance, humor, despair. It was also great to see many of the places that we had just visited included in the film. As an experiment in film making, it definitely succeeds.

Four of the arrondissements stood out as my favorites; I’ll briefly explain why I liked them in particular in the order they appear in the movie. Loin du 16e (XVIe arrondissement) was written and directed by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas and stars Catalina Sandino Moreno as woman who must leave her infant in (what appears to be) subpar daycare in order to commute across the city to her job as nanny for a wealthy family’s infant. It’s heartbreaking in its subtle simplicity as we see the sacrifice she makes to support herself and her baby. We also see the contrast between how she loves her own child and merely cares for her employer’s infant. It’s a great episode.

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