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Oct 22, 2009
New York, I Love You Review
Posted by admin • 1 Comment »

Love is in the air a second time. How does it smell in the big apple?

New York, I Love You is the second installment of Emmanuel Benbihy’s global explorations of love. I still remember fondly watching Paris, Je T’aime on the big screen, being enthralled by how truly special each short was. Following that lead would be tough for anyone, but Benbihy and his writers have moved the concept to New York City, where viewers can be introduced to an assortment of eccentric people and neighborhoods. The result is not as masterful and refreshing as Paris, Je T’aime , but the vast array of styles and ideas still offers imaginative tales and an overall worthwhile film.

Jiang Wen - This strange short has a young man named Ben meeting a girl in a bar. He has a cell phone she left behind, and starts a conversation that is interrupted by her boyfriend. Wen instills a rather slick methodology here that I dug, and Garcia and Christensen have a solid chemistry as foes.

The 411: New York, I Love You makes some odd changes to the structure and layout of the anthology film that weren’t needed, but the content is still very heartwarming, funny, and profound. Each of the 10 directors offer their own tale of love, and how it can work differently in everyone’s life. There were one or two I did not care for, but overall, this was a terrific film, and will hopefully get more people interested in the various filmmakers. This is not quite a wide release yet, and might not expand, but then again, neither did the first film. See it if you can, or remember it for DVD.
Final Score: 8.0 [ Very Good ]

Hayden Christensen: Ben
Andy Garcia: Garry
Rachel Bilson: Molly
Release Date: October 16, 2021
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Source


Rated R for language and sexual content.

New York, I Love You is the second installment of Emmanuel Benbihy’s global explorations of love. I still remember fondly watching Paris, Je T’aime on the big screen, being enthralled by how truly special each short was. Following that lead would be tough for anyone, but Benbihy and his writers have moved the concept to New York City, where viewers can be introduced to an assortment of eccentric people and neighborhoods. The result is not as masterful and refreshing as Paris, Je T’aime , but the vast array of styles and ideas still offers imaginative tales and an overall worthwhile film.

Paris, Je T’aime found the right balance between the quality of the directors and the quality of the casts. Nevertheless, it was the filmmakers time to shine, and they triumphed beautifully. New York, I Love You makes some changes to the format we fell in love with previously. First is that the star caliber is higher, while the directors are more unknown in many cases. This is fine, as it allows green filmmakers the chance to prove their talents, while still throwing in the intermittent famous director to have fun with a short. The most notable faces at the helm this time are Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, and Mira Nair. The line-up is a jarring transition from the Coens, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, and Alfonso Cuaron, among others.

New York, I Love You was shot over a period of 36 days. The 10 filmmakers were given three guidelines: They had only 24-48 hours to shoot, a week to edit, and they needed to give a sense of a particular neighborhood. The shorts are around 10-12 minutes in length each, give or take a minute. In my mind it is misleading to summarize a few and leave the rest out, so here are my brief thoughts on all of them. Noticeable as well are the absences of titles. This time, the name of the director acts as the title for each segment, but more on that later. His or her name will appear in bold italics.

Jiang Wen - This strange short has a young man named Ben meeting a girl in a bar. He has a cell phone she left behind, and starts a conversation that is interrupted by her boyfriend. Wen instills a rather slick methodology here that I dug, and Garcia and Christensen have a solid chemistry as foes.

Mira Nair - The director of The Namesake and Monsoon Wedding crafts a tale of a Hasidic woman dealing with an Indian diamond merchant. She is about to marry, and says that she will cut off all her hair on that very day. This is one short that I flat out did not care for. Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan are both excellent actors, but they get lost in the story. It is incredibly bizarre, and doesn’t make much sense.

Shunji Iwai - Here we have a premise that is not entirely original, but at this length, it is compact and effective. David is a composer that spends most of his time talking to the assistant of his boss. They form a connection without seeing each other. Orlando Bloom is quite dirty, but appropriately so considering he stays at home composing music for anime films, and Christina Ricci is cute with her big eyes and nice smile.

Yvan Attal - Ethan Hawke stars as a writer who tries to hit on a random Asian woman smoking on the street. This has a twist at the end, which was hilarious, and watching Hawke emit echoes of his Before Sunset/Sunrise character is always a pleasure. Attal just points and shoots, but with Hawke and a lovely Maggie Q, that’s all we need.

Brett Ratner - Anton Yelchin is a high school senior that was just dumped before the prom by Blake Lively. He is without a date, until his local pharmacist hooks him up with his own daughter, played by Olivia Thirlby. The thing is, she is confined to a wheelchair. Mark my words, this is Brett Ratner’s best work in years. He captures the area with adequately vivid detail, while Yelchin and Thirlby are outstanding in their roles. James Caan is her father, and he pops up more than once as the pharmacist.

Allen Hughes - One half of the Hughes brothers (Menace II Society, The Book of Eli) takes Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo as a man and woman who evidently had sex, but are going on another date to see how it goes. Their inner thoughts follow them separately as they meet up. Cooper and Matteo make an interesting pair, but this struck me as very realistic, down to Earth, and even erotic as Hughes integrates ephemeral glimpses of their first hookup.

Shekhar Kapur - In what is easily the most gorgeously directed of the stories, and a contender for the most inexplicable, Julie Christie is Isabelle, an aging singer who is waited on in a hotel room by Shia LaBeouf and John Hurt. Many will hate this segment because of its ambiguity, but I adored it. The only problem is LaBeouf and Christie speak in such a low tone that if the volume in the theater is not turned up, you might not hear every word. It is worth noting that Anthony Minghella wrote this, and their is a dedication to him at the closing credits.

Natalie Portman - In her directorial debut, Portman follows a loving father and his daughter, who looks nothing like him. Cesar de Leon plays the father, and I found this to be a very touching example of how our society judges books by their covers. Portman’s direction can hardly be praised as masterful, but she shows natural abilities that could be put to good use in the future. Cesar de Leon also gives a quiet and subtle performance.

Fatih Akin - The director behind The Edge of Heaven gives us this tale of a painter that is obsessed with a Chinese herbalist. This could have been much more moving than it was had the actors, Ugur Yucel and Qui Shu, been given more lines. Burt Young does make a nice cameo as a landlord though.

Joshua Marston - This is reminiscent of Stanley Tucci’s recent remake Blind Date, but the dialogue is so terrific with Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn as the leads, that the familiarity of the premise means nothing. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Marston (Maria Full of Grace) catches the area’s aura marvelously, and has a knack for character interaction.

Shortly after the release of Paris, Je T’aime, Emmanuel Benbihy responded to some of the criticisms. The chief complaint from detractors was that the transitions were too abrupt. When one short ended, the other then began. He elected to alter this for New York, I Love You, and as I said then, the change was not necessary. For this series of stories, we might spot a character for a moment in someone else’s segment or a transition, but he/she will return later for his or her full short. They also attempt to link the stories in small ways to elicit a smooth flowing narrative. These stories should not have been edited in such a manner. It is not a flaw necessarily, but it was trivial. In the end, the viewer is also privy to a playback of clips, so as not to forget some of the shorts. Benbihy and company are trying too hard to please us, and his set up was fine before.

I’m not sure why they chose to delete the titles. Perhaps they felt this too gave the audience a bumpy segue way feeling. If this was so bothersome to people, they chose to see the wrong film. For New York, I Love You, the directors and cast list are only displayed at the final credits, complete with pictures to jog our memory. This was was ok, but I still appreciated the titles. It was suitable to begin a new story with a new vision, and by highlighting the directors name beforehand, it offered the viewer the chance to acknowledge the filmmakers. It’s almost as if they are trying to hide the fact that this is an anthology film.

Since I reviewed Paris, Je T’aime, I have seen a lot of anthology films, some good and some bad, but I have always enjoyed the smorgasbord effect. It is amazing to me that upon perusing so many articles from mainstream critics, that they all stick with the same argument for this type of movie. “It is only as good as the sum of it’s parts.” I agree with this to a point, but many critics have the attitude that because of this, the entire picture is doomed to fail, thus they seem to dismiss it before every giving the proper chance. They have the belief that unless each of the segments are equally as fulfilling, the effort is poor. This is not only ignorant, but arrogant and unfair.

Constantly reading the same carping that 10 minutes is not enough to make a connection with the characters gets old. What do they expect? The segments are not meant to be compared to full-length features. It is inevitable that one will like some shorts more than others. The point is whether or not the experience as a whole leaves a satisfying impression. Having what seems like pre-packaged complaints without affording an open mind is somewhat conceited. I will say that New York, I Love You suffers from having a segment that did not work at all in Mira Nair’s.

The task of evoking a sense of the neighborhood is not easy, but it was accomplished with adeptness considering the allocated time. The key word is “sense.” New York, I Love You and Paris, Je T’aime present tastes of the areas in their city, not the full helping. With such a small amount of time, the emphasis needs to be on characters and emotion, otherwise, this would be borderline a documentary, or a postcard, which is dull. The magnificent transition shots from Randall Balsmeyer give us fleeting tours of the city, and showcase the various landmarks with single shots, and that is all we really need to see of certain monuments. An important theme is that personalities and culture are just as crucial to the atmosphere of a city as the tourist attractions and reputation, and this provided a graceful outlook of New York City as a melting pot.

When the film was screened at the Toronto Film Festival, it apparently included two more segments. One was the directorial debut of Scarlett Johansson, which featured Kevin Bacon, and the other by Andrei Zvyganistev, which featured Carla Gugino. I can only assume these were cut to improve the final cut. After the success and positive buzz of Paris, Je T’aime made its rounds, a trilogy was envisioned. Now, at least three more installments are on the horizon in Shanghai, Jerusalem, and Rio. I say bring ‘em on. On a side note, I have read that some people were wondering why recognized New Yorkers like Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese did not participate. Well, they tried an anthology film once (New York Stories), and it did not turn out well.

With an awkward structural change, and a couple missteps in the segments, New York, I Love You is far from perfect, but enchanting all the same. With all the by-the-numbers romantic comedies raking in the cash these days, I would take another installment of this series anyday. It is breezy entertainment, but occasionally profound, and always fairly inventive. Love works in weird ways, and one never knows how they will find or lose it, but people have unusual encounters and exchanges in every city. That is what makes New York, I Love You such a tender and delightful treat. It conveys just how big this world is, and how many mesmerizing stories there are to tell…one city at a time.

Categories: NYILY, Reviews



by diamondeyed in October 22 - 9:25 pm
 

Finally a good review. Critics have been trashing this film and I believe their opinions unfounded. It was a sweet fil and I loved it. I thought it wouldn’t be as good as Paris, je t’aime, but it was. Amazing film!