Sunday, October 18, 2009

FILM REVIEW: "New York, I Love You"

A disarming and surprising little gem, "New York, I Love You" unfolds like a book of riveting short stories.  I had heard very little about the film before its limited release this weekend in Chicago, and I had not seen "Paris, je t'aime", another anthology film in an apparent series ("Shanghai, I Love You" is next up in 2011). The producer, Emmanuel Benbihy, deserves much credit for taking ten stories from different writers and directors and blending them seamlessly in style and tone.

Based on what I knew, I expected ten short films, loosely connected, with New York as the major star.  Having just returned from my first trip to New York (see my posts last week), I was conflicted by my hope of recognizing places I had just been, and by my dread of this being simply another travelogue.

Actually, the film eschews panoramas and iconic cliches in favor of intimate human stories about the connections made (often romantic) between unlikely couples.  I was also pleasantly surprised at how many of the stories strongly connect to each other, with characters recurring in delightful ways.  This is not a representation of New York, but an impressionist's view of how the city allows for these connections to occur.

(Even so, I was thrilled to see a scene shot in Central Park's Strawberry Fields....the third occurrence of "Imagine" in my life in three weeks....Synchronicity!)

I won't try to recap all of the various stories here.  In one of my favorites, a mysterious opera diva (the classy Julie Christie) checks into a Park Avenue hotel she may have stayed in once, long ago, and develops a fondness for a crippled young attendant (Shia LaBeouf) who might or might not perform miracles...or who himself may be a fantasy.... It is a sad story, and watching it, one may feel like the tragic hero of one's own lost youth....

On another note completely, James Caan plays a druggist who "saves" a young man who is stood up by his prom date.  Caan's daughter, who agrees to be the young man's new date, has some surprises of her or two more than expected....and the story unfolds sweetly, like a teen film with a wise and benevolent soul.....Edgy and lots of fun! O'Henry would be proud...

The large cast also includes Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach as a hilariously bickering couple on their 63rd anniversary; Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci as a musician and a book-lover who fall in love on the phone; Hayden Christiansen and the late Andy Garcia as two thieves with more surprises for each other; Robin Wright and Chris Cooper as a couple who "meet" on the street; Ethan Hawke, who makes a play for a  woman using incredibly sexy schtick...and gets a shocking revelation; and Natalie Portman as an Orthodox Jew on the eve of her wedding, who discovers an abiding love for her Indian jeweler, which is reciprocated in a lovely image of their embrace.....

One might say that New York is loved for its surprises....and the unifying thread, the thing that makes it a prototypically New York experience, is that  life takes these characters, unlikely as they are to be connected like nowhere else but in New York, and moves them in unexpected directions....  In much the same way, I would assert, the process of reinventing one's self requires openness to surprise.
See this film!

1 comment:

  1. You're certainly bigging the film up with your review, Tom, it sounds delightful. I can't wait to see it.