Outside of big city film festivals, or perhaps a premium cable doing special programming, there is no market for short films. But on Friday, June 27, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society will show a film featuring 20 short vignettes, all of which are only five minutes in length. Each short is a unique love story set in a distinct quarter or neighborhood in Paris and each were directed by some of the most preeminent filmmakers of our time.
PARIS JE'TAIME could be considered a series of postcards by 20 various filmmakers from the city of lights, a Paris picture album of two people who meet, share a connection, and who either walk away hand-in-hand or who part, probably never to see each other again. All the short films are well-produced vignettes, but sadly some of them feel incomplete. It seemed like there should have been more.
Understandably, it's difficult to tell a complex and very intimate story even between just two people in only five minutes, especially because as a writer-director you want to be subtle and nuanced. Sometimes it doesn't take much. Some actors can deliver so much in so little time, but for some situations established in these shorts, they require more than even the best actors can give.
As such, a lot of the short films amount to nothing but brief flights of fancy, momentary voyeuristic peaks, windows into people's lives who after five minutes you feel abandoned when that particular short film ends and the feature moves on to the next short. Some critics can argue that leaving an audience yearning for more is a good thing, but I feel a film even if it's only a minute should be satisfying, like it might not have been much but at least it was a balanced meal.
For example, within this feature, filmmaker Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) directed a short called "Le Marais." Le Marais is a bourgeois area just north of the Seine River that since the 1980s has had a growing gay population and is home to many gay-owned businesses.
Knowing nothing about Paris, it might have been helpful if Van Sant had somehow acknowledged this or made that fact more clear. Instead, in the short, all you see is French actor Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising) play a young delivery boy who rambles on and on in his native tongue, expressing definite interest and perhaps attraction to another boy who turns out to be American, and then he leaves.
Is this symbolic of something? Does this young delivery boy's ramblings really mean anything beyond his anxiety or possible nervousness over approaching a boy whom he doesn't know but whom he has an apparent attraction? Is the American boy even gay? What does it all mean? All we're given is a monologue on a long one-shot and that's it. You're expecting to be left with some questions, but this one leaves you with too many.
In contrast, French animator Sylvain Chomet (Triplets of Belleville) in his short film titled "Tour Eiffel" tells a brilliant and wonderfully imaginative tale of how a little boy came to be born, a little boy who happens to be the son of a mime. The five minutes observed here with its minimalist dialogue and broad, theatre-style acting is probably the most creative storytelling in mostly all the two-hour movies I saw in 2007.
Several shorts are equally as inspiring including the ones by Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men) whose short film called "Tuileries," named after the subway stop below the home of the Louvre Museum, is wickedly whimsical. German director Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run) has a short "Faubourg Saint-Denis" that is feverishly passionate and centers on a blind boy reminiscing over an entire love affair, which he recalls in a whizbang. Vincenzo Natali's "Quartier de la Madeleine" is stylish and noirish fantasy that is creepily good.
Other mere amusing shorts include those by two female directors, that of Britain's Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and Spain's Isabel Coixet (The Secret Life of Words), as well as by two American male directors, Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Alexander Payne (Sideways). All four of these succeed by involving the audience immediately in characters, most of them lonely or trapped characters, who we can easily identify. Their five minutes feel like I've watched enough for two hours and not in the long, drawn-out, boring kind of way, but in a way that's fulfilling.
The rest by contrast feel like flash frames, flashes before our eyes that may or may not resonate, that may or may not make a mark, but that are unfortunately too quick to ever truly be appreciated.
This movie also stars Fanny Ardant, Juliet Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Ben Gazzara, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Margo Martindale, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Emily Mortimer, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowland, Rufus Sewell, and Elijah Wood
Three Stars out of Five
Rated R for language and brief drug use
Running Time: 2 hours