Friday, October 16, 2009
New York, I Love You
Unlike many other tourists, I never bought a T-shirt or a coffee mug that prints: "I ♥ New York." To me, New York City is indeed exciting and fun to visit. However, I simply cannot associate this sleepless city with the word "love," because the city gives me the impression that everyone is in a hurry and they are too busy to slow down for love. That impression is changed by a delightful film "New York, I Love You" (France/USA 2009 | 110 min.).
Following "Paris, je t'aime", this film is the second installment of a series of "City of Love" that tells love stories in each city. New York City will be followed by Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai next year, then Mumbai and Jerusalem the year after.
Eleven directors (Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston, and Randy Balsmeyer for the transitions) and an all-star ensemble cast tells a sequence of love stories that happen in these neighborhoods of New York City: Central Park, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, SoHo, TriBeCa, Upper East Side, Upper West Sides, and Brighton Beach. Each director has 48 hours to shoot a short story about 10 minutes long in a neighborhood. Each story tells a love story that could be touching, or surprising, or charming, or poignant, or witty, or poetic, or enchanting, or simply fun. Although not all stories hit the mark, they certainly entertain me and change my view about love in the big apple.
Chinese director Jiang Wen's (姜文) segment opens the film with a story about a thief. Ben (Hayden Christensen) not only tries to steal a wallet, he tries to steal the heart of Molly (Rachel Bilson), but he ends up in a skill match with Molly's boyfriend Garry (Andy Garcia). The segment is sharp and precise, as if the characters are performing a three way tango.
French director Yvan Attal's segment brings back the talkative Ethan Hawke from "Before Sunrise". He plays a writer who tries to seduce Maggie Q's character when they share a smoke on the sidewalk outside a restaurant. Somehow I think this might just happening on the sidewalks in San Francisco, even people might not talk as these characters do.
The film closes with a heartwarming and hilarious story directed by Joshua Marston. Both over 80 years old, Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman terrifically play an elderly couple who struggle to walk to the beach to enjoy their quiet moment. It truly tells me what a lifetime partner is like.
I am particularly delighted to hear Zhou Xuan's (周璇) "The Wandering Songstress" (天涯歌女) is played in director Fatih Akin's segment about an artist an artist's encounter with a young girl (Shu Qi) in Chinatown. The song strikingly transforms the Chinatown neighborhood back to Shanghai in 1930s.
Unlike "Paris, je t'aime," segments and characters in "New York, I Love You" are loosely connected throughout to make the film more like a feature film instead of a collection of shorts, even these segments have different styles from different directors. It works because it makes me feel like the city is connected by love from these neighborhoods.
After all, New York is a city filled with love, according to this film. The film makes me want to buy an "I ♥ New York" T-shirt while it warms my heart.