For better or worse, there is a predominant standard in feature films. They are typically anywhere from 80 to 120 minutes in length and revolve around a singular storyline. The focus is on a particular set of characters independent of any particular location(s).
French producer/director Emmanuel Benbihy decided to buck this trend with the creation of Paris Je T’aime (Paris, I Love You), a collaborative film with its fixation on a specific place, in this case, Paris. With the film unwritten, yet decidedly centered on the “City of Lights”, the (revolving) door opens for an ensemble cast of actors and directors to help create the story.
Use Paris’ districts (neighborhoods) to be the framework. Twenty short films by twenty different directors surrounding Paris’ twenty arrondissements for one feature film.
Here’s why this is interesting. In most films, we are forced toward one perspective, the directors (and/or writers). But if we’ve learned anything from our post-modern critics, it’s that reality is better understood from a variety of angles and perspectives.
For example, say a film focuses on a particular couple at a particular cafe in a particular village. Great. But what is going on with the other couple at the other cafe in the other village?
This is Paris Je T’aime.
Interestingly enough, only 18 of the 20 shorts produced made the final film. Directors include Joel and Ethan Coen, Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist), Wes Craven, Alexander Payne (Sideways), Gus Van Sant, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), and Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) to name a few. Since its release, a franchise series entitled “Cities of Love” has been created with Paris, Je T’aime as the first installment. New York, I Love You premiered in 2008 and Rio, Shanghai, and Jerusalem are set to follow soon.