Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Paris, je t'aime

Unlike Dus Kahaaniyan, this film does not fall flat because the films are not good, but it does so since the title is probably inapt. One goes to expect the spirit of Paris, the beauty of Paris, the life of Paris reflected in the film, but it is a rare film or two that does satisfy you on that account, most somehow failing in that respect. I saw this film long, long ago, but it was only after watching the hapless Aesopian Dus Kahaaniyan I thought to write about Paris, je t'aime ("Paris, I Love You"), a much better anthology.

Some of the films in the movie are outstanding, the prominent ones being Tuileries, Loin du 16e, Place des Victoires, and Faubourg Saint-Denis. Tuileries is a film that I would put in the same category as Lemony Snicketts' A Series of Unfortunate Events (hope I got the name right!), a film not just giving you sharp humour, but also giving some real solid advice when in Paris. It's not a farce actually, the series of events that can unfold on you if you don't avoid eye-contact with strangers. The real interesting thing is the flatness that has been brought about in the camera angles, so it's a flat lonely metro station with one elderly tourist on a bench right at the center of the screen, making him look real lonely and disconsolate. Loin du 16e and Place des Victoires are probably the most touching films that one can expect in so short a time, especially the former. The film is only about a working mother, and shows her daily routine (see image), from one train to other, from her baby to her employer's. And in only this much, no effects, no histrionics, no music, just a lullaby, the film touches you. That's called a film, that's called a story. It's also a film that probably touches Paris, besides the opening film Montmartre. Place des Victoires is another film which tugs at your heart-strings, a film about a woman who lost her young son and is trying to come to terms with it. Juliette Binoche is at her best here. Faubourg Saint-Denis is a beautiful film about love - and with better twists in the tail than most twist-inserters do manage to. I say "twist-inserters," since I have recently seen the Hindi film Dus Kahaaniyan, where the sole purpose of writers and directors seemed to be giving a twist to the tale, be it something as absurd as a woman shielding a boy from a rioter by seducing him or a woman who finds that she had been wrongly blaming an opposite religion's man all along, with he being more of a sufferer (sounds good here, but when it's all about a rice plate, it seems very, very farcicial, not helped by some more farcicial, stereotype acting by protagonists Shabana and Naseeruddin). A blind man, a beautiful girl into drama and music loves him - how could he be not insecure? - that's the stuff, the simple emotional fabric, the rubric that great stories are made of, not some preachy rice plates or balloons.

Paris, je t'aime has three more excellent films, Tour Eiffel, Pigalle, and Place des fêtes. Tour Eiffel is about mime - much better than Raj Kapoor's hours-long ordeal Mera Naam Joker, it succeeds in giving the message that a mime artist's heart is in giving happiness to the world. The film has an interesting ending, which seemed to be inspired from the beginning scenes of Mina Tannenbaum (a film I reviewed here some time back). And importantly, it's a hopeful ending, though I was expecting the converse for such a film - something which pleased me, for it's very easy to drift into melancholic endings just to make seem a work of art greater than it is indeed. Only a courageous person or a person whose audience is mainly popcorn-munching - only those two kinds of persons hazard a happy ending. Pigalle is a very amusing film - a husband (Bob Hoskins) and a wife, both aged now, trying to sex up their married life, by the husband pretending to be aiming for a prostitute. It's the dark corners of the film which keep you interested - I mean literally, the dark camera corners. You have to see it to know what I mean. And then there is Place des fêtes, a film more like an American film than a European film. It's a film that presents you quite another perspective of love - love at first sight, and courage to abide by it, just by it.

In Gurinder Chadha's Quais de Seine, it's another love at first sight, crossing religious and tradition's boundaries, but we don't know whether the boy has the guts to abide by it or not - it's a charming story, but not worth being made into a film. Or even if you want to make a film like that, then I would have picked the Champs-Elyseés for that film instead of a quai, and a colder day, maybe from autumn, with a strong wind. These things matter - if you are not into such a loop, why are you a director? The other films do not do very well (in total, there are 18 films in the movie, total running time 2 hrs), but the two worst films, that lead you to even wonder why did you come to see the movie (for they come early in the movie), are the Sino-Australian film Porte de Choisy, a film I couldn't make head or tail of, and Quartier de la Madeleine, the usual vampire dose in an anthology.

Overall, a movie that has a couple of great films, some good films, and the rest average or not quite there. That's quite good from an anthology, n'est-ce pas?

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