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Paris, je t’aime BD impressions


As a love letter to Paris with a romantic theme, Paris, je t’aime, consisting of eighteen short films about the French capital, is very much a mixed bag. Gathering together a variety of top-notch directors and actors from around the globe (ranging from the Coen brothers to Gus Van Sant to Sylvain Chomet and Bob Hoskins to Juliette Binoche to Maggie Gyllenhaal), it lurches from segment to segment with a decidedly uneven quality, transporting the audience from the very good to the spectacularly tedious in a matter of seconds. The most common failing of the weaker shorts is a tendency towards navel-gazing, a criticism often levelled against French cinema as a whole - although it’s worth pointing out that less than half of the filmmakers involved are actually French in origin. This is at its most tedious with the piece by Frédéric Auburtin and Gérard Depardieu, and the one by Richard LaGravenese, both of which languish in the sort of middle-aged cod-philosophising that is almost guaranteed to have me reaching for the fast-forward button.

These scenes of tedium mingle with the obnoxious (Gurinder Chadha’s patronising celebration of the hijab), the bafflingly incompetent (Wes Craven’s poorly written and acted Oscar Wilde piece), and even the sheer what-the-fuckery of Christopher Doyle’s downright batty piece. At the other end of the spectrum, Sylvain Chomet’s Tour Eiffel features more imagination than any of the other shorts put together (and he actually makes it entertaining, something that most of the other directors seemed to forget to do), while Vincenzo Natali’s vampire flick is stylistically and tonally so removed from the rest that I can’t help but love it. Tom Tykwer creates a superb sense of rhythm with his Natalie Portman-starring piece, evoking much of the same feel as his earlier Run Lola Run, while Alexander Payne’s closing piece just about perfectly encapsulates the bitter-sweet “happy-sad” feeling it aims for.

It’s a nice idea, but it ultimately outstays its welcome. The running time could have been tightened up significantly by excising some of the weaker pieces, which would have gone a long way towards improving my overriding impression of the film. There’s some very good stuff in there, but a lot of self-indulgent piffle too, which muddies the waters and ultimately left me feeling rather frustrated. There’s a thread on IMDB where members are listing the shorts in order of preferences, so I thought I’d do one of my own:

  1. 14ème Arrondisement (Alexander Payne)
  2. Tour Eiffel (Sylvain Chomet)
  3. Quartier de la Madeleine (Vincenzo Natali)
  4. Faubourg Saint-Denis (Tom Tykwer)
  5. Tuilieres (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. Quartier des Enfants Rouges (Olivier Assayas)
  7. Parc Monceau (Anfonso Cuarón)
  8. Place des Victoires (Nobuhiro Suwa)
  9. Place des Fêtes (Oliver Schmitz)
  10. Loin du 16ème (Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas)
  11. Le Marais (Gus Van Sant)
  12. Bastille (Isabel Coixet)
  13. Montmartre (Bruno Podalydes)
  14. Porte de Choisy (Christopher Doyle)
  15. Père-Lachaise (Wes Craven)
  16. Quais de Seine (Gurinder Chadha)
  17. Quartier Latin (Frédéric Auburtin and Gérard Depardieu)
  18. Pigalle (Richard LaGravenese)

For image quality, the BD is actually pretty nice, albeit hampered somewhat in the detail department by the application of unnecessary filtering. Grain density (moderately heavy) and detail levels (good to very good) remain largely the same across the board, with the notable exception of Wes Craven’s segment (Père-Lachaise), which looks unnaturally soft and underwhelming (see Example 15). Compression artefacts are a non-issue in spite of the use of a single-layer disc, and the image looks pleasingly film-like overall. 8/10

Paris, je t’aime
studio: First Look; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 20.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 24.85 Mbit/sec

Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime

By the way, a word of warning about subtitles on this disc: the film’s dialogue is a mixture of French in English, with the former being the predominant language. For subtitles, however, First Look have only provided an English SDH track, which subtitles everything and includes captions for music and sound effects. As a result, there’s no way of only having the French dialogue subtitled short of switching the subs on and off manually - which is an ineffective solution at best, given that some shorts (Alfonso Cuarón’s, for instance) jump between the two languages, sometimes mid-sentence.

Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

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