Kind of an educational watch, because the Steve Buscemi short also doubles as an unforgettable PSA about the dangers of making eye contact on Parisian public transport.
This anthology of 18 short films — directed by the likes of the Coen brothers, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, and Olivier Assayas — is a cinematic charcuterie board. Each director offers their own creative interpretation of one north star: love in Paris. Romantic love is heavily represented, naturally, but in diverse forms: love that’s run its course, dormant love in need of rekindling, electric chance encounters, and, apt given the location, honeymoon love. Segments like the one starring Juliette Binoche and Alfonso Cuarón’s five-minute-long continuous take opt to focus on parental love instead, with the former also exploring love through the frame of grief.
If this all sounds a little syrupy and sentimental, fear not: there are dashes of bubble-bursting humor from the Coens, whose short stars a silent Steve Buscemi as a stereotypically Mona Lisa-obsessed American tourist who commits a grave faux pas in a metro station. Instead of sightseers, some directors offer more sober reflections on the experience of migrants in the city, which help ground the film so it doesn’t feel quite so indulgent. Still, the limited runtime of each vignette (sub-10 minutes) doesn’t let any one note linger too long, meaning the anthology feels like a series of light, short courses rather than a gorge of something sickly.
With 18 shorts playing in immediate succession, comparison is inevitable. Tastes will undoubtedly vary, but the highlights surely include Alexander Payne’s closer, starring a fantastic Margo Martindale as a heavily accented solo American tourist who falls in love with Paris — not at any of its many landmarks, but on a regular old park bench. Ben Gazzara and Gena Rowlands also add sparkling wit to the whole with their vignette (written by Rowlands) about a wealthy elderly couple reflecting on their life together on the eve of their divorce. The short starring Natalie Portman is another standout, but, with the likes of Willem Dafoe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Gaspard Ulliel, Leïla Bekhti, Elijah Wood, and Barbet Schroeder lending their acting talents to the other contributions, there are plenty of reasons to clear the plate here.