Paris
I see you waving, I’ll be right there.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/20/2008 (France), 10/23/2009 (USA)
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Cast: Romain Duris, Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, Mélanie Laurent, Gilles Lellouche, Zinedine Soualem , François Cluzet , , Karin Viard, Julie Ferrier

Apparently, this is the time of year for cinematic love letters to big cities. “New York, I Love You“, the second installment of the “I Love You” franchise (“Paris je t’aime” released stateside in 2007 and “Shanghai, I Love You” is forthcoming) is currently in theaters and while I don’t recommend it, I do like the idea of it. Obviously, each city’s denizens have stories to tell. You pass by people on the street everyday whose lives could make a feature film, a great novel or at least a scintillating conversation over coffee.

Some cities are beloved than most by filmmakers however (having world-renowned landmarks is a plus visually) and so Paris is getting a second heaping of adoration with … well … “Paris”. Where did they ever get the idea for the name? (insert snicker here)

Unlike the “I Love You” series, “Paris” is under the guidance of just one writer/director, Cédric Klapisch, though it still is a multitude of stories all woven together like a six degrees tapestry. Here, Pierre (Romain Duris) is diagnosed with potentially terminal heart failure and is essentially confined to his apartment hoping for a transplant to happen in time. His sister (Juliette Binoche) moves in with her kids to take care of him and the pair help each other actually live their lives, rather than await their fates.

At the same time, Pierre’s fascination with the people he sees on the street from his balcony leads us to follow their lives. There are street vendors who all hope to find love (or at least lust), a newly hired store clerk who develops a slight crush on Pierre, a young man from Cameroon hoping to immigrate to France in search of a woman he’s enamored with, a history professor whose brother is having a baby, and a young college coed who begins an affair with said history professor. And those are just the main subplots.

Ultimately, it is this overabundance of characters that is “Paris”‘ weakest link. Nearly all of the stories are fascinating and held my interest. However, the film feels much longer than its two hour runtime and as I kept shifting in my seat to regain feeling in my posterior, I often wanted to edit out one or two of the subplots simply to reach a conclusion.

It isn’t the fault of any of the actors. Everyone involved delivered solid performances and each of these little snippets of their lives could have been developed into their own feature. So while I commend Klapisch for creating such wonderful characters, I also wish there had been someone overlooking his shoulder in the writing process who reminded him that sometimes, less is more.

As for his direction, aside from the obvious pacing issues created by a glut of characters and subplots, he definitely remembered to frame each element as a tribute to the city of Paris itself. This really was a love letter, not just a snapshot of people’s lives within the city’s boundaries. We get grand vistas of the sprawling buildings, multiple looks at some of the more famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and every camera setup on the street frames not only the people but also the architecture and the feel of Paris.

If you have ever visited or lived in the City of Lights, then you’ll probably get even more out of the film that I did, seeing as I’ve never set foot on European soil. As such, I can only go with my gut on this and give “Paris” a 3.5 out of 5. Just about every mark against the film is a result of not trimming the script and keeping the energy level higher. If those things aren’t as much of a concern to you, I wholeheartedly recommend this and it’s obvious passion for subject material like Klapisch exhibits here that make going to the movies that much more enjoyable.