Anthology films hardly ever become a hit with large audiences. Critics and hardcore movie fans are probably the only ones who see them during their original theatrical runs. The majority of movie watchers, however, could care less about them. They often feel too disjointed, and quickly the interest of the casual viewers wanes. A few years ago, producer Emmanel Benbihy released the first anthology of what he called “The Cities of Love” series. Paris Je T’aime took place in the districts of Paris, France, which many people call the most romantic place on Earth. This time around, Benbihy got together ten new filmmakers to take this idea to New York City, New York. Throw in a bunch of recognizable stars, and we now have New York, I Love You.
Like Paris, je t’aime, New York, I Love You is a collective work of eleven short films from 10 different directors. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with the others, but they all tie into the common theme of finding love. The 10 filmmakers were given three guidelines to shot their individual vignettes. They only had 24-48 hours to shoot, a week to edit, and they needed to give a sense of a particular neighborhood. So at least they were supposed to give a wide view of New York’s five boroughs. Each one of the short films lasts around 10 minutes.
Here is a brief summary of shorts featured in this film. In Jiang Wen’s short film, a young con artist named Ben (Hayden Christenson) meets a girl (Rachel Bilson) in a bar, and tries to con her. He has a cell phone she left behind, and starts a conversation that is interrupted by her boyfriend (Andy Garcia). In Mira Nair’s short film, a Hasidic woman (Natalie Portman) deals with an Indian diamond merchant. She has just shaved her head in preparation for her wedding. Irfan Khan is the Jain diamond seller, whose wife has left him to become a nun, shaving her head in order to become so holy that he must now worship her as a goddess. In Shunji Iwai’s short film, David (Orlando Bloom) is a composer that spends most of his time talking to the assistant (Christina Ricci) of his boss. They form a connection without seeing each other. In Yvan Attal’s short film, a writer (Ethan Hawke) tries to hit on a random Asian woman (Maggie Q) smoking on the street. In Brett Ratner’s short film, a high school senior (Anton Yelchin) was just dumped before the prom by his girlfriend (Blake Lively). He is without a date, until his local pharmacist (James Caan) hooks him up with his own daughter (Olivia Thirlby). The catch is that she is confined to a wheelchair. In Allen Hughes’ short film, there is a man and woman (Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo) who have had sex in the past, but are going on another date to see how it goes. Their inner thoughts follow them separately as they meet up. In Shekhar Kapur’s short film, Isabelle (Julie Christie) is an aging singer who is waited on in a hotel room by Shia LaBeouf and John Hurt. In Natalie Portman’s directorial debut, we follow a father (Cesar de Leon) and his daughter, that looks nothing like him. In Fatih Akin’s short film, there is a tale of a painter (Ugur Yucel) that is obsessed with a Chinese herbalist (Qui Shu). In Joshua Marston’s short film, Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman play a bickering elderly couple strolling to Coney Island to celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary.
The cast is certainly impressive. Even the most casual movie fan will recognize a majority of them. Of course, you get a mixed bag of acting quality as a result, but overall everyone does what they need to do in the short time they have. You won’t likely know as many directors, but hopefully this will lead to people seeking out their other work. That’s not to say that they all did great jobs. There are hit and miss vignettes overall as well.
There is nothing that really stinks in New York, I Love You. The main problem is that there is not enough connection between the people and stories to appeal to a wide enough audience or even the casual movie fan. Hardcore movie fans and aspiring filmmakers will certainly enjoy various aspects of how the film was developed; it has just enough creative segments to make it watchable for them. But aside from the recognizable faces, the entire viewing experience is completely forgettable upon watching.
The video on the Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p/VC-1 codec at the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. The quality is great, but you shouldn’t expect anything less than that since this is a newer film. No major problems here.
The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital DTS-HD 5.1 Master Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either. Again, you shouldn’t expect anything less.
Bonus Segments –
There are two bonus short films that cut from the final cut of this film. One was called “These Vagabond Shoes” and it was directed and written by Scarlett Johansson. It starred Kevin Bacon. Not the best short film, which is probably why it got cut from the feature film. Still not that far off from some of the other films here. The other was written and directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, and it is called “Apocrypha”. Again, not the best but not the worst short film ever.
Director Interviews –
These are one-minute interviews with the directors and includes Brett Ratner, Yvan Attal, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, and Shunji Iwai. They talk about the rules that had to work, which was a 6-7 page script for a 6-7 minute short. They talk about transitioning back to creating short films for this film instead of a longer film.
New York, I Love You has a bunch of actors you will immediately recognize, but their time on screen is short. Some of the short films are better than others, but for the most part they are all pretty average.
Vivendi Home Entertainment presents New York, I Love You. Directed by Brett Ratner, Jiang Wen, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Shunji Iwai, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Kapur, Fatih Akin, and Joshua Marston. Starring Bradley Cooper, Shia LeBeouf, Natalie Portman, Blake Lively, Christina Ricci, Orlando Bloom, Hayden Christensen, Robin Wright Penn, Rachel Bilson, John Hurt, Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q, Anton Yelchin, Cloris Leachman, Olivia Thirlby, Drea de Matteo, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Jacinda Barett, and Eva Amurri. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: February 2, 2010. Available at Amazon.com
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