Friday, May 25, 2007

Paris, I Love You

The closing night event for the FilmfestDC was the montage “Paris je t’aime” ("Paris, I love you"), a set of eighteen short films (about 6 minutes each) set in Paris by internationally recognized directors, but in the style of a Project Greenlight “director’s contest” as in “On the Lot” or a “48 Hour Film Project.” The film started theatrical runs as AMC Select and at Landmark on May 25 in the DC area, with distribution from First Look Releasing.

The first couple of films started slow, with the idea of responding to tourists needing help, but when it got to Gus Van Sant ‘s “Le Marais” it was in psychological territory. A young French artist (Gaspard Ulliel) prattles to young American (Elias M’Connell) about how they could have met in a past life, as if he wants to start a real relationship on a psychological level. Only after the Frenchmen leaves do we learn of the one-way nature of the conversation, as the American speaks poor French. The very next one, “Tuileries,” directed by Minnesota boys Joel and Ethan Coen, set in a Paris Metro stop, plays on the danger of making eye contact with other Metro passengers who may be attractive. Steve Buscemi gets has chance at “fag bashing.”

The others vary in content, many having little dialogue. In “Quartier de la Madelaine” (Vincenzo Natali) Elijah Wood plays a naïve tourist tantalized by a vampire attack from Olga Kuyrlenko, seems immune but then wants to become a vampire himself. Wes Craven directs a bizarre segment “Pere-Lachaise” at the grave of Oscar Wilde. In the final segment “14th Arrondissement” (Alexander Payne), a naïve aspie-like tourist (Margo Martindale) humors us with very force and unidiomatic middle school French. A couple of the skits have placards for other movies, like "Werckmeister Harmonies."

The spoof on the French language may be suggested by the title. In French, second person singular ("tu") is familiar, and the plural form ("vous") is always used in formal speech and writing.

From my four trips to Europe, it’s easy for me to imagine some short films set in various cities. Let’s say, how it feels to navigate a maze in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain (where another tourist complains that the piece is designed to make one feel like s__t). Or loosing a rental car key in the William the Conqueror Museum in Bayeux, France. Or bribing a train conductor for a sleeping berth on the train East from Berlin to Krakow, Poland (to visit Auschwitz). Or making a friend (who narrates how he got out of East Germany as a kid and grew up in Britain) in the Connection Disco in Berlin before going downstairs to the “museum.” Or a discussion with the origins of the Basque people with a waiter in Lourdes, when the waiter suddenly becomes uncomfortable. I can think of a lot of ideas. Or having a personal epiphany in Dresden.

More details as to the individual directors and segment names here.

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