Having just come off the Tribeca film festival, I should be perfectly attuned to an experimental short film anthology like Paris Je T'Aime, (Paris, I Love You) and some segments of it are definitely enjoyable, but the overall hit-miss ratio is too low to ignore. This, despite a juggernaut talent bench that includes the Coen brothers, Wes Craven, Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Alfonso Cuaron, Nick Nolte, Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Elijah Wood, Steve Buscemi, Gus Van Sant and Juliette Binoche. In fact, these are only a few of the notable performers and directors who contribute to the 18 shorts, only a few of which actually intersect with the others. My favorite of the lot is the one that the Times' Stephen Holden declared to be the worst: a snappy little love note to Parisian vampires titled Quartier de la Madeleine. Starring Olga Kurylenko as a classic vampire with opaque, milky eyes who is interrupted in the midst of her work by Elijah Wood, it's a beautifully photographed little love story with lots of blood that seems made of melted pink plastic.
Strangely enough, that's not the short directed by Craven (even though he makes a cameo in it -- how could he not?) Craven's entry is Pere-Lachaise, focusing on a visit to that famous cemetery -- where Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison are buried -- by a squabbling couple played by Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer. Just when Sewell's character has run out of things to say, the ghost of Wilde actually shows up to give him some advice. Like many of the films, however, it feels like a 30-minute short that was cut down to about one-third of that time in order to squeeze it into this crowded phone-booth of a feature format. If you don't pay careful attention, you might actually miss Wilde's appearance and wonder what happened to wrap up the segment. Still, the acting drags it over the finish line. The same can be said for Quartier des Enfants Rouges, starring Gyllenhaal as an American actress shooting a costume drama in Paris and possibly falling for her Parisian dope dealer.