Let’s talk about the film, shall we? I was extremely anxious to see it, as I had a similar idea for a novel I’ll write when I finish the current one and the one lined up after it; I emerged from the theater feeling deeply relieved that while more than one person can have a similar idea, the execution really will be totally different. I’m not going to share anymore of my idea now, because I don’t want anyone to steal it! (hey, I’ve already had my blog plagiarized.) But I do want to talk a bit about the film: what was great, what was less great, and what it achieved.
What was great: the mimes.
What was less great: the weird Porte de Choisy sequence.
What it achieved: the fetishization of a red trenchcoat.
Ok, that was easy.
But seriously. What struck me was that the film took up the most mythologized theme in the most mythologized modern city– love in Paris– and deconstructed it in a number of different scenes all playing out around the city, featuring different people from different backgrounds experiencing a panoply of different shades of love. The mosaic of the film deconstructed the monolithic idea Western culture has of Paris as the city of love– nowhere more brilliantly than in the “Tuileries” sequence [what, by the way, is with French men and ass-slapping?] and attempted to give a richer and more quotidian portrait of both the city and the sentiment.
So in a sense, the film worked against the mythology of Paris. But then, if this is the case, why the filler shots of Paris at dawn, Paris at dusk, Paris at night, Paris with fireworks?
I think one possible answer is suggested at the end, when different scenes from the film are tiled over the shot of the Eiffel Tower doing the shimmy– as if the two visual layers are working in counterpoint, the myriad “realities” laid over the myth– which is itself a reality which occurs every night on the hour. Until, of course, they turn out the lights on the monuments at two am. That’s when the vampires and Frodo come out.
One drawback, I thought, was that although the film was as much about Paris as it was about the individual characters, very few of the sequences actually used the tangible Paris neighborhood they were set in. Some did this brilliantly– I’m thinking of the Place des Victories scene, with its statue of Louis XV [?] rearing on his charger and the centrality of cowboys to the story, or the bas-relief deer and fawn carved on the statue in the Place des fetes, against which the African man slumps after being stabbed in the street, innocent of any crime, a victim of the forest’s predators.
My own project will interact much more with the physicality of the city, and the way one’s experience of it constructs, remakes, reshapes one’s soul– profoundly, sure, but also on a very immediate level. The way places change according to our experience of them, and our emotional proximity to them, and the other way round.
“Paris je t’aime” gestured at this, and certainly came close to it in each sequence, but the producers were ultimately content simply to evoke twenty different neighborhoods in a way that would enlighten someone whose knowledge of Paris is limited to the tourist attractions, and to render nostalgic those of us with a more intimate knowledge of the city.
One last note: I think if I were still living in the States, frustrated and longing to move to Paris, seeing this film would have put me over the edge. Good thing I’m already here.