Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movie with Abe: New York, I Love You

New York, I Love You
Directed by many directors
Released October 16, 2009

This is the second film is a series of odes to the romance of famous cities worldwide, with future projects devoted to Jerusalem, Rio, and Shanghai all slated for 2011. The previous film, “Paris, Je T’Aime,” was a lovely look at the way Paris captures its visitors and residents with its singular allure. New York is indisputably one of the most iconic cities in the world and, as with Paris, countless films have been made professing and representing love for and in the Big Apple. What makes this any different from those? It’s terribly disjointed and lacks the cohesive feel of a city that contains every possible kind of person, which is exactly what this film shoots for and woefully fails to achieve.

Its Paris-based predecessor was divided into clear vignettes based on neighborhoods, each one helmed by a different director. The segmenting here isn’t marked at all, and as a result, one story flows carelessly into another, and the lack of definitive chapter openings and closings leaves most of the stories up in the air and unresolved. Some are barely developed (a photo left by Rachel Bilson for Hayden Christensen), while others don’t get very far (an affair between Drea de Matteo and Bradley Cooper). The vignettes are titled with only their director’s name, and therefore it’s hard to pick out what each one is about since they all blend together and rarely leave an impression.

The most effective segment actually comes from Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour,” “Red Dragon”), who guides Anton Yelchin and Olivia Thirlby in an inspired prom-night date that brings surprises for both of them, with a nice supporting turn from James Caan. Yvan Attal’s section brings out expectedly great performances in flirtatious strangers Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn. Two screen veterans, Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman, are welcome presences in Joshua Marston’s ode to old age in the city. Those three sets work better than the rest, but it’s still more about the actors and less about the impact of the movies as cinematic gold or tributes to New York City.

Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) showcases fine performances from screen legends Julie Christie and John Hurt, but his segment feels extraordinarily disconnected from the rest of the film. The interfaith interaction between usually outstanding actors Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan (“A Mighty Heart”, “Slumdog Millionaire”) comes off as more comical and less meaningful, and it’s a shame because it’s helmed by the talented Mira Nair (“Amelia”). Kapur and Nair, as well as Ratner, are the only big-name directors who worked on this project (Portman, who also directed her own segment, is famous for her onscreen work), and it’s a shame because a film about New York City should have attracted more prominence, especially from American filmmakers. It seems that Paris really just is more enchanting, given the more well-known American talent that contributed to “Paris, Je T’aime.” Based on how hard it is to distill concrete segmented stories from this film, it would appear that Paris is a more attractive city. Paris is a wonderful place, to be sure, but there’s nothing like New York City. You wouldn’t know it to look at this film.


Watch the Minute with Abe here.

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