Ever since I got to Dublin I’ve wanted to take advantage of my big city living and go to an independent film centre. Within my first weeks, a coworker had already told me the name of one: The Irish Film Institute. It became one of those things I’ve been meaning to do but never quite get around to doing (along with going to bingo night hosted by a drag queen and going to see a Gaelic football match). When Courtney was in town, I was determined to get out into town and do more stuff that I would miss doing back home (not that I don’t get my fill of indie films). So, the last day she was here, we decided to go to a film at the institute.
We had tried previous to Sunday night, but unfortunately the film we had wanted to see was sold out…and for good reasons. We were smart on Sunday, though, and purchased our tickets in advance.
First, I’d like to describe the theatre. Tucked away on the distinctive cobblestone streets of Temple Bar, the IFI is a very popular spot on Saturday and Sunday nights. Maybe other nights, too, but I’ve only been there on those days. From the outside, the theatre looks very discreet, marked only by a small sign and a neon blue hoop that marks its location, so it’s very easy to walk by and not notice. When you walk inside you come across a long dimly lit hallway with a floor that illuminates and directs you towards the center area of the theater. Here, the ceiling shoots up and the space opens up into a nice meeting area. The bare brick walls are covered in recent and antique movie posters. In one corner, there is a cute little pub (where my supervisor and I had a cuppa one time!), next to which is a little café where you can get desserts, coffee, tea, and Hagen Daas ICECREAM. In the other corner sits a cute bookshop filled with books about film study, theater, and cinema in general.
After entering the theater the night of the movie, we had already bought our tickets, so we skipped the line and waited until the theater was open and we could choose our seats. While waiting, we all decided we needed some Hagen Daas, which pretty much ended up being our dinner because it was 6 pm. I got praline icecream and couldn’t be more excited to enjoy my icecream while watching a French film. Finally, after queuing for about 15 minutes we were allowed to enter the theater. It had tall ceilings just like the meeting area and a huge floor entirely filled with rows and rows of seating. This theater seemed odd because the rows weren’t split up at all, so they were rows of about 50 seats with no break. We sat in the middle and realized that the rows were so tightly packed together there was almost no legroom. I tried not to think about what would happen in there if there were a fire.
Now I’d like to shift into an overview and review of the actual movie, titled Paris, je t’aime. A lot of the technical information for the movie I got from The Internet Movie Database.
Paris, je t’aime is a conceptual film that was dreamed up by writers Tristan Carné and Emmanuel Benbihy. The concept included bringing together fabulous directors from around the world, including such favorites as Wes Craven, the Coen Brothers, and Alfonso Cuarón (the director of the Motorcycle Diaries and HARRY POTTER and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and inviting them to create a short vignette (5-8 minutes in length) around the theme of love and it had to be set in Paris. From this concept were born 21 vignettes that were set in different arondissements and were as uniquely different as can be, but still all tied back to the theme of love. At the end of the film, some of the stories were connected together to show how people’s lives can come together and we are all connected through our emotions and experiences in ways that might not be outwardly realized. The vignettes were a whirlwind tour of Paris, exploring themes ranging from tumultuous French politics to falling in love to losing a loved one to existing in a life without love to falling in love with Paris as an American tourist (the last one made me giggle incessantly) featuring a cast of famous Hollywood and French actors including some of my favorites: Gaspard Ulliel, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Steve Buscemi, Juliette Binoche, Willem DaFoe, Gerard Depardieu (also directed), Elijah Wood, among others.
Since it would take forever to describe all the stories, I’ve selected a few I thought were especially cute or poignant or both and I will analyze and give a brief overview of them.
This vignette started with a blind boy on his laptop listening to music. All of a sudden the phone rings and he hears the voice of his girlfriend.
There are times when life calls out for a change. A transition. Like the seasons. Our spring was wonderful, but summer is over now and we missed out on autumn. And now all of a sudden, it's cold, so cold that everything is freezing over. Our love fell asleep, and the snow took it by surprise. But if you fall asleep in the snow, you don't feel death coming.
He instantly hangs up the phone, devastated, thinking she has broken up with him. He then flashes back to the first time they met. He was walking along a back street and hears a girl screaming at a man begging to be let out of a room. Thinking there was trouble, he rushed to her window and asked what was going on. Around turns Natalie Portman, saying, “I’m rehearsing a scene, what are you…blind?” He replies, “Yes, I am.” And they fall in love. The next section of the movie is a whirlwind tour of their relationship.
“she would scream loudly for no reason”
He justified her phone call by explaining that they had been drifting apart, that the seasons of their love really had set into a winter, their love was in hibernation. The piece was a very accurate and brutal portrayal of young, immature love.
The present flashes back and the boy receives another phone call. He wipes away a tear and answers. It’s Natalie Portman, asking why he hung up. She goes on to explain that she was rehearsing a scene.
This was possibly the funniest story in the movie, obviously, because the Coen brothers did it (reference O Brother where art thou? and Fargo). The scene begins with a man (Steve Buscemi) sitting in a metro station, reading his tour book. Anyone who travels knows all about tour books and whether they are helpful or not. Some people swear by them, some would rather discover things for themselves. I prefer the latter, but Buscemi’s character is an avid follower of his tour book. He reads about the history of some of the famous tourist attractions in Paris, and then he reads that it is the lover’s capital of the world. He then notices some people across the tracks making out. All of a sudden, he is hit by a spitball and sees a bratty kid sitting with his grandmother. He looks back at his tour book and it tells him to avoid eye contact. He thinks this is odd and then looks up. The woman currently in lip lock across the way is staring right into his eyes. He makes eye contact. He freaks out. What will happen next?
Buscemi ends up getting kissed by a herpes-infested French girl, beaten to a pulp by her boyfriend, and left lying on the floor of the metro station for the next train to come. Before the scene ends, the young kid spits another spitball at him.
Moral of the story: always heed your tour book.
“Loin de 16eme”
A Spanish woman is shown lying in bed. Her alarm rings. The time says 4:30 am. She gets up and gets ready for the day. She gets on a series of public transportation with her baby, she probably lives in the HLM, which makes a very long and tedious commute to work every day. She walks into a dimly lit, dingy room with about 50 cribs that serves as her baby’s daycare. The baby cries. She sings it a song.
The woman then travels on another long series of transportation to her job. She falls asleep, she wakes up, and she looks exhausted, weary, and sad. She arrives in metropolitan Paris at a very well to do home. She walks in and is clearly a maid/caregiver. The matron of the house leaves and she is left alone again. She sighs. She hears a baby cry. She sighs. She walks to the baby and stares at it. (Why should you be crying…you have everything.)? She sings it the same song, with far less gusto.
This piece, although the only dialogue was basically her singing this Spanish song, was the most poignant of the film. It portrayed the trials an immigrant mother in France must overcome to support her own baby, sacrificing her own happiness and time with her baby to create a better life for it in the end. This piece made me very sad, as it should have.
I just realized how long this post is and decided not to cover the last two stories I wanted to. Just see the film :-)