When Judge William Lee loves a city this much, he says it with steel.
Our review of Paris Je T'Aime, published November 26th, 2007, is also available.
Stories of love, from the city of love.
The collected short film project Paris, Je T'Aime—18 short films by 18 directors—gets a two-disc reissue by First Look Pictures. For those who can't get enough tales of the French capital, there is an abundance of behind-the-scenes supplements. If it's possible to love a city, I'll take Paris.
Facts of the Case
The first disc of this DVD set is identical to the single-disc edition released by First Look Pictures in November 2007. You get the main feature in a handsome 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. Depending on the actors featured in each segment, the dialogue is spoken in either French or English. Audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, DTS 5.1 surround or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The 25-minute making-of featurette "At the Heart of Paris, Je T'Aime" splices together interviews with the various directors and actors.
Disc Two is the same bonus disc included in the two-disc Limited Collector's Edition set that was released at the same time as the single-disc. There are 18 behind-the-scenes featurettes, one for each short film, which expand on the clips assembled in the making-of found on Disc One. Other extras include the theatrical trailer, and storyboards for two of the segments. All of these are presented 1.33:1 full frame in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
The short film is a showcase for the director and that's plainly evident in Paris, Je T'Aime as 18 renowned filmmakers are given five minutes each to tell a story situated in the City of Light. The Disc One featurette provides a nice overview of the project with brief interviews with many of the participants but it is designed to function as an introduction to the movie. The individual featurettes on Disc Two strip away that promotional structure to offer an insightful glimpse of each director's filmmaking process. Running approximately eight minutes each, the combined behind-the-scenes footage is longer than the actual movie. Essentially the "main feature" of the bonus disc, I'd like to take a closer look at those featurettes.
The small details that are revealed over the course of the featurettes help to flesh out what it was like to contribute to this project. "This is sort of like film school," remarks Alexander Payne (Sideways) as he tries on a costume for a role in Wes Craven's short. Time and resources are slim on the collective project so directors make themselves available to play small parts in each other's films. Craven (Red Eye) puts in a cameo for the installment by Vincenzo Natali (Cube). The participating directors don't complain too much about their constraints but the one equalizer that they all comment on is time: only two days for shooting. The Coen brothers admit they reworked their story to take place on a Metro platform because they didn't want to risk a day of bad weather ruining their shoot.
It's a real eye-opener watching these directors work from rehearsal to the shoot day. Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) seems like an extremely patient and calm person even when she has to deal with weather delays and an actress who can't shake her social modesty. After lengthy rehearsals, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) can't help but feel frustrated at the mechanical problems that repeatedly ruin his single-take film. Fans of Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) will enjoy watching that duo working behind the camera. One of those insights that perhaps only a foreign perspective could reveal: the Coens' French crew asks who they answer to and are told, "It doesn't matter."
All these little details of how the filmmakers' creative process was shaped or how they work with their cast and crew (often speaking to them through a translator) is what makes this collection of featurettes so fascinating. Even if you're not familiar with a particular director's work, it's still interesting to see how his or her segment comes together. For those viewers who love the nuts and bolts of how a movie is made, the documentary camera observes much of the working set. You can see how the camera's movement is planned and how much location space is required to light the shot. Those with sharp eyes could probably identify all the equipment used in a particular short.
My biggest criticism of these 18 featurettes is that there isn't a Play All option. You have to select each segment individually and they're listed by the respective titles so you have to remember which arrondissement the segment was situated if you want to jump right to it. It would have been more helpful to list them by the name of the director. While each making-of rightly focuses on its respective director, it would have been nice if someone overseeing the entire project had said something about the experience of assembling and coordinating so many varied talents. There's also no mention of the two segments that were abandoned.
In addition to the theatrical trailer, there are two other bonus features worth noting. You can watch the storyboard version of "Quartier de la Madeleine," the vampire story featuring Elijah Wood. There's also a split-screen version of "Tour Eiffel," the story of two mimes falling in love, with the finished film playing beside the storyboards by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets Of Belleville).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I don't think this DVD qualifies as a double-dip. It's simply a reissue, without any new content, in alternate packaging. Viewers who have no interest in the making-of supplements have no reason to upgrade. Those who bought the Two-Disc Limited Collector's Edition already have this set.
For those who are considering picking up Paris, Je T'Aime for the first time, the steelbook packaging is quite attractive though more susceptible to denting and scratches. With the same dimensions as a plastic keep case, it will fit right in on the DVD shelf.
Between 18 talented directors, you're sure to find something to love on the main feature. The movie isn't so much about Paris as it's about the romantic feeling the city conjures. The making-of featurettes prolong that fantasy by placing us at the locations with the visiting filmmakers. Who hasn't daydreamed about having short-term work in the City of Light?
First Look Pictures is guilty of dressing up old goods in a new suit. But
it's Paris, so all is forgiven.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
• At the Heart of Paris Je T'Aime
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