I have 4 more reviews in the Summer Film Challenge. They are all grossly overdue. Let’s get this over with.
This is an anthology film where all of the films are about two things: love and Paris (that’s why the title translated into English is “London Sucks.”) It’s made up of 18 short films that connect (very) loosely to one another (sometimes, not at all) and each explores a different aspect of romantic love and a different part of Paris. The titles of each short are even named after the part of Paris in which the film takes place. Since this is an anthology film that contains 18 different short films in the span of two hours, I’m going to review and give my opinion on each individual segment and give my overall assessment at the end. Here we go:
1. Montmarte: Not off to a great start. This film commits the heinous and unforgivable crime of being completely unremarkable. A guy grabs a parking spot on a crowded street, sits there, and muses on how women don’t notice him. First of all, why is this guy so protective of his parking spot that he’s just going to sit there in this car?! What a douchebag! That’s not what parking spots are for, idiot! Anyway, a woman faints outside his car, he takes her in and I guess she falls in love with him? I don’t know. It was stupid, it didn’t make any sense, and it barely resolved itself. Luckily it was short. Moving on.
2. Quais de Seine: This one was… okay, I guess. It was about a young French guy meeting a young Muslim woman and the two of them learning about each other. It felt preachy and message-heavy, yet direction-less at the same time. Didn’t really like it.
3. Le Marais: This short was directed by Gus Van Sant and his style comes through very clearly. It’s a very contemplative and talky film but it works because of the interaction and ultimate miscommunication between the two characters. It’s a very simple premise of one person telling another that he thinks he’s his soul-mate, and the other not understanding because he doesn’t speak French. It’s simple but effectively executed, which ultimately makes it a poignant film. The first good short in the film.
4. Tuileries: This was my favorite. No wonder, since it was directed by the Coen Bros. and starred Steve Buscemi. It’s about an American tourist who tries to follow the “rules” of the Paris Metro (not making eye contact, etc.) and failing miserably as he comes into conflict with a young French couple. It was hilarious. Buscemi delivers another great performance, using his very distinctive face to great comedic effect. It’s also very appropriately Coen Bros., their style never distracting from the story, only helping the story become more entertaining and funny.
5. Loin du 16e: After the Coen Bros. film, the shorts became much more consistent in quality, and this one was no exception. This was another favorite because it was very simple, yet it was able to communicate a lot of emotion and tell a very powerful story. I don’t want to give anything away since it’s so short; I’ll just say it’s about motherhood. There’s very little dialogue, it’s probably only about two or three minutes, but it’s the one that stood out the most to me.
6. Porte du Choisey: This was… weird. Really, really weird. I don’t even know how to describe what happened because I don’t even know what happened in this film. It was about a salesman who goes to Chinatown and apparently Chinatown is really weird in Paris because… I don’t even know. Next one.
7. Bastille: Another really powerful, yet poignant film about a man who tries to leave his wife for his younger lover but finds out that his wife is terminally ill, so decides to stay with her and care for her, and ends up falling in love with her all over again. It reminded me of the first 10 minutes of Up, except more compressed and with more history. Exquisitely told, and in the end, quite tragic. It was also very refreshing to see a film explore the transformative power of unconditional love in a way that is not touched on nearly as much as it should be in my opinion: the idea that choosing to love someone even when you don’t feel like it, will cause you to fall in love with them. Usually in movies, people just fall in love because they’re “perfect” for each other. This is rarely the case in real life, yet people buy into the bullcrap that the movies preach about “love” and that’s why the divorce rate in this country is at 50% (don’t quote me on that. No in-depth scientific research went into producing that statement).
8. Places de Victoires: This was another weird one. Here’s the Wikipedia summary: “A mother, grieving over the death of her little boy, is comforted by a magical cowboy.” That’s about all I remember from it and that’s probably all you need to know. Next.
9. Tour Eiffel: I loved this one. It was a little gem. It’s a story about two mimes who meet in prison and fall in love, told from the perspective of their very young, quirky son. It was so different and so unique, yet so completely charming, it again demonstrates the unique voice of its director Sylvain Chomet, director of The Triplets of Belleville, another film that’s different and unique, yet also completely charming and wonderful.
10. Parc Monceau: Another film that is defined by the filmmaker who made it. It’s a film told in one long extended take, directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Big surprise. It’s a very clever film, maybe a little too clever as that may be the only thing that makes it significant, about a woman meeting with an older man. I know what you all think it’s about, but it’s not. There’s a twist at the end that changes your perception of the situation and the film knows it, so it kind of revels in its own cleverness, but it works. Short films are able to get away with this better than feature-length films because they don’t go on long enough for the audience to feel like the film is touting itself as being more clever than it actually is. But despite the winking at the audience that this film engages in, it is clever and very well executed. It’s fun to revel in the filmmaking chops that Cuaron displays in this segment, so definitely a winner.
11. Quartier des Enfants Rouges: Ugh. The last thing I want to see is a professional movie extra buy pot from a dealer, then out of nowhere, develop a crush on her dealer. Okay, reading that back makes this sound way more interesting than it actually is, but take my word for it, this one is pretty terrible. It’s essentially about nothing, and I don’t care about any of the characters. At all. This was bad. Moving on.
12. Place des fêtes: Out of all the segments, this one is the most “epic” in scope in that it tells a story of a dying man who meets the woman he had fallen in love with at first sight several weeks previously but she had not seen him. The film proceeds to tell the story from the time he first saw her to the moment he dies in her arms. It’s a nice idea and I can see what the filmmakers were trying to do, but I think they bit off a little more than they could chew. It didn’t really work for me. It was trying to do too much in too short of a time.
13. Pigalle: This was another weird one, but it was the fun, entertaining weird rather than the unpleasant weird. It was about a man and wife who pretend to meet each other for the first time in a bar to keep the excitement in their relationship. And there’s also a hooker in it; I can’t remember how she factors into it, though I believe that was where much of the weirdness came in. It was fun. Don’t remember much about it, except that it was fun.
14. Quartier de la Madeleine: Okay, this one was weird! This one beats the Chinatown segment for weirdness, but it still made more sense so it’s ultimately better. Basically, a young (presumably) American tourist encounters a vampiress and falls in love with her (I think). This segment was unlike any of the other shorts, both in its content (it’s a freaking vampire story!) and in its visual style which employs harsh shadows and saturated colors much more than even a “standard” movie would. It was refreshing to see this short among the others because it was so different. It didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but it was still entertaining.
15. Pere-Lachaise: This short was probably the most surprising for two reasons: one, it was written and directed by Wes Craven who is primarily known for his horror films and two, it’s a movie that’s about a guy getting romantic advice from Oscar Wilde. Literally, Oscar Wilde appears to him to give him romantic advice. And it’s directed by Wes Craven. Who knew that Craven was the right person to tell this story? This was another favorite for me because it was so surprising and unexpected, and because director Alexander Payne plays Oscar Wilde and knocks it out of the park. It was just a fun little gem.
16. Faubourg Saint-Denis: This was another really really good one, but it’s good primarily because of its style and the way the story is told rather than the story itself. The story is the standard guy (over)reacting to his girlfriend breaking up with him and tells the story of their relationship in the course of about three minutes. Tom Tykwer has proven that he can take a rather unremarkable story and tell it in such a unique way that it’s able to take on new meanings and reinvigorate the story and the characters (Run Lola Run). I’m not saying that’s what happens in this film because it’s so short, but there is still that invigoration of energy that Tykwer’s stylistic flourishes add to the film. I thought the ending was kind of lame though. It didn’t ruin it, but it was a pretty lame twist ending.
17. Quartier Latin: This segment felt like it was written and directed by Woody Allen. It wasn’t, but it felt that way. It’s about a husband and wife meeting in a French cafe to finalize their divorce in the most amicable and peaceful way. It was okay. The characters were interesting and the situation they described was interesting, but I felt like this conversation they were having was the least interesting part of their story. It wasn’t bad; it was somewhat compelling, but with these characters it could’ve been so much more even in its condensed state. Again, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly memorable either.
18. Last one! This was definitely the most appropriate segment to end the film on and it was a very nice film, but it didn’t really blow me away. I generally really like the work of Alexander Payne and he does a good job here but I expected more from him. The best and worst that can be said about this movie is that it’s quaint. It’s a nice, quaint little segment that sums up the past two hours of the movie, but that’s about it. I guess this segment didn’t resonate with me because there wasn’t much to it except a summarization of what Paris is to this woman. I mean, it wasn’t bad. Actually it was quite good and well-written. It just didn’t resonate with me on a deeper level like some of the other shorts did.
And that’s it. 18 reviews of 18 short films all contained in 1 movie. To sum up, I really liked this film. Not all the segments were good, and of the ones that were good, some were clearly better than others, but overall it was a unique film experience that expressed so many different styles and talents that it ultimately succeeds in delivering an entertaining, poignant, and often funny, film-going experience.
Final Rating: 9/10
13 reviews down, 3 more to go. I can make it before the New Year! I know it! Next: All About Eve.