Inspired by the 2006 film Paris, je t'aime, an anthology of short films set in the French capital, a handful of international directors apply the same strategy to the Big Apple. The filmmakers include Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman and Brett Ratner.
The idea seems ripe -- who hasn't returned from a weekend in New York City without a dozen great stories? -- and yet the results are bland and predictable. Most of the short tales are about courtship, love or relationships, and hit the familiar beats: giddy new lovers, bored marrieds, contented seniors, missed connections.
Despite the varied backgrounds of the directors, these romances focus primarily on straight affluent white people or their hipster progeny. (The few ethnic characters, most in bit roles, feel intentionally added to create the correct urban palette.) With the millions of people packed into New York, haven't we already seen enough tales of arty Manhattanites mooning in cafes?
Even more puzzling is that despite the location shooting, little about these stories feels uniquely, wonderfully, hilariously or knowingly New York. (Only Burt Young turns in a classic deadpan single line equating the death of a character with the availability of a desirable apartment.)
I'm not sure if it was part of the assignment, but most of the shorts function each as a prolonged set-up to a rather silly twist. Halfway through the film, I began to correctly guess these gotchas. (I'm not bragging; you too know most of these lightly sketched characters and their behaviors from other movies and TV shows.) New York is a mildly pleasant diversion, but only if one can push past the disappointment that it could have been so much more satisfying. Starts Fri., Nov. 6. Manor