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They'll always have 'Paris'

18 vignettes about Paris, from directors like the Coen Brothers ('Fargo') and Walter Salles ('Central Station').

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"Paris Je T'Aime" is the concoction of producer Tristan Carne, who envisioned directors from around the world contributing vignettes about Paris each lasting no more than five minutes. The result is 18 minimovies celebrating Paris's 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods)and it's predictably hit and miss.

As is true of virtually all episodic films, the lurch from story to story can get wearying, especially if too many duds follow in a row. The saving grace is that even when the segments aren't good, they are at least stylistically very different from each other. How could this not be with a directorial roster that runs the gamut from the Coen Brothers ("Fargo") to Walter Salles ("Central Station")?

As the stories begin to play out, it soon becomes clear that this is not going to be one of those sticky valentines to the City of Lights. That means no loving close-ups of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. A more unfamiliar Parisian terrain is on display. The majority of the directors are not from France and came to Paris while they were writing the script or just before shooting started. They present an outsider's vision.

Given the sheer volume of stories in "Paris Je T'Aime," reading a checklist of my picks could get pretty wearying, too. So I'll single out a few from both ends of the spectrum.

On the negative side is Christopher Doyle's "Porte de Choisy," a tutti-frutti fizzle about a hair-product salesman in a Chinese beauty parlor. I guess Doyle was trying to cross Hong Kong chop- socky with a spangly MGM musical, but who knows?

Vincento Natali's "Quartier de la Madeleine" stars Elijah Wood as a vampire. Fangs do not become him. Wes Craven's "Père-Lachaise," about a nattering encounter between an engaged couple, takes place in front of Oscar Wilde's tomb. Too bad Wilde wasn't on hand to provide better dialogue.


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