18 Love stories

18 Love stories

Think about these actors: Matt Dillon in Drugstore Cowboy, River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho, Joaquin Phoenix in To Die For, Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, Robb Brown in Finding Forrester, and just about the entire cast of Elephant. The gay director of all these movies, Gus Van Sant, certainly has an eye for good-looking young males.

In his latest work, in cinemas from today, Gaspard Ulliel, recently seen as the teenage Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, uses some rather desperate pick-up lines to hook up with a seemingly unresponsive print shop worker, played by Elias McConnell. McConnell was the unlucky amateur photographer in Elephant, and he’s matured into a beautiful young man, so much so that you’ll hardly notice a fleeting appearance by Marianne Faithfull in the same scene.

And that’s about it for the gay content in Paris, Je T’Aime, a two-hour feature comprising 18 five-minute shorts by 20 different directors, all tied together with some linking material and all concerned with love in the world’s most romantic city.

If you’ve ever tried to watch those DVD compilations of the best short films from Tropfest in one sitting, you’d be familiar with the potential problems of Paris, Je T’Aime. Just as you start to get engrossed in one of the shorts, it’s over and you’re on to something different. Paris has the advantage that there is a unifying theme, and the pieces are so short that if you find one of them isn’t working for you, don’t worry -“ here comes another.

Fortunately, the majority of them work, and movie buffs will enjoy seeing some interesting directors doing something different, along with appearances by some popular art house stars. Here are some highlights:

Alfonso Cuaron plays a neat trick on the audience while following Nick Nolte and Ludivine Sagnier in a long tracking shot. Juliette Binoche is luminous as a bereaved mother encountering Willem Dafoe’s mysterious horseman near the Place des Victoires. Fanny Ardant and Bob Hoskins play elaborate sex games, Tom Tykwer directs Natalie Portman as a Hollywood actress having a whirlwind affair with a blind French student, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is another actress trying to score with her drug dealer. Steve Buscemi should have taken his tourist guidebook’s advice in the Coen brothers’ piece. G?rd Depardieu plays a barman witnessing a conversation between Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands. Rowlands scripted it herself -“ the strongest writing in the movie -“ and Depardieu co-directed.

There are also gems from some lesser-known names. A touching cross-cultural romance unexpectedly blossoms on the Quais de Seine, and an ambulance worker has a tragic encounter with a stabbing victim at the Place des F?s.

Paris, Je T’Aime is a solid concept, with some sequels being planned. This one probably works best if you’re romantically inclined, in love with Paris, or just in love with love.

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