New York, I Love You

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Directed by an eclectic group of international filmmakers, including Mira Nair, Yvan Attal, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Khapur, Natalie Portman, and Fatih Akin, the new anthology "New York, I Love You," modeled on the more successful "Paris, Je t'Aime, is an artistically disappointing compilation. For starters, about half of the segments are not particularly good or interesting, and the rest, while offering some fun, do not yield insightful observations about New York and/or its varied residents.

Following "Paris Je T'Aime," this project is the second episode of the “Cities of Love” series of collective feature films conceived by Emmanuel Benbihy, who produced this film with Marina Grasic ("Crash"). 
Vivendi Entertainment will release the film on October 16, but I doubt that many New Yorkers would be proud of what they see. Part of the problem is that as a city, New York is not exactly unknown or unrecognizable or free of associations, having been immortalized on screen in many different ways in thousands of movies. Indeed, like Paris, New York has long been one of the world’s most enduring mythic sites, a dream city celebrated in literature, poetry, music, theater and film. 
We all think of Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Spike Lee as quintessentially New York directors who have made their most significant work there, dwelling on the subjective meaning of the city (and it neighborhoods) for them. Unfortunately, in "New York I Love You," there are not many segments that approximate the level of insight, emotion, or style found in Lumet, Allen, Scorsese and Lee.
Moreover, the danger of such compilations is that they tend to glorify their subject, over-praise its teeming populace of one-of-a kind characters, its stone-and-glass skyscrapers, its subterranean cultures and its rooftop love affairs as backdrops to action, comedy, drama and poetry.
The ten helmers were given specific guidelines. First, the running time of each story was to be around 8 minutes. Second, shooting was to take two days, followed by postproduction and editing for about one week.   All the stories, which have no titles, are connected by transitions that were shot by the same director.
Perhaps the anthology should have been called "Manhattan, I Love you," as all but one segment are set in this island. The sole short outside Manhattan is by Joshua Marston ("Maria Full of Grace") whose Coney Island-set tale features Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman as an old-couple, whose routines are made watchable due to the vet actors' distinctive and charismatic personalities.
The new anthology unabashedly offers romantic window into the hearts of New Yorkers. What unifies the diverse contributions is the theme of love, or love in all its varieties, from first love, tough love and momentary love, to love remembered, love denied, love yearned for.
These interwoven stories aim to form a colorful collage of New York as a unique city and the deep yearning for love and connections that sustain its denizens. In some cases, the film reflects the director’s first taste of filmmaking in New York. For others, it is a chance to revisit the city from a different perspective. Since this collaboration of young filmmakers includes American as well as foreign (French, Indian, Turkish, British), we expect multi-varied perspectives. But alas, what we get are rather conventional and formulaic stories, devoid of specific subtexts and ethnic minorities, most of which could have taken place in any big cosmopolitan city
As expected, several of the films deal with cross-cultural encounters, clashes, and conflicts. Let me give a few examples. Mira Nair's entry stars Natalie Portman as a Hassidic woman in the Diamond District whose strictly business relationship with a Jain gem merchant (Irrfan Khan) takes a surprising turn. Nair infuses the intercultural romantic fantasy, which transforms the purchase of the precious stone into something else, with admirable emotions.
Displaying more humor than other episodes, Brett Ratner's segment concerns a high schooler (Anton Yelchin) talked by a pharmacist (James Caan) into taking his wheelchair-bound daughter (Olivia Thirlby) to the prom. 
In Jiang Wen's piece, a thief (played by the handsome Hayden Christensen) pickpockets Andy Garcia, only to fall for Garcia's mistress (Rachel Bilson). Gallic Yvan Attal's entry consists of two encounters, one involving fast-talker Ethan Hawke trying to pick up a coolly amused Maggie Q, the other depicts an intense come-on between Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn.
Allen Hughes' entry is imbued with dark mood: Drea De Matteo plays a woman who had a one-night stand with a younger guy (Bradley Cooper), and wants to see him again, fondly recalling (in flashback) their hot sex. 
Orlando Bloom is a musician facing a pressing deadline in Shunji Iwai's segment, and an unseen Christina Ricci is the woman encouraging him on the phone.
Fatih Akin's chapter stars Turkish actor Ugur Yucel as a desperate artist obsessed with a reluctant woman-muse (Shu Qi) in Chinatown, but we don't get the special ambience of that neighborhood.
Actress Natalie Portman directs a short about a little girl (Taylor Geare) whose male nanny (Carlos Acosta) is insecure about being a child-care provider.
Shekhar Kapur ("Elizabeth") took over the helming a segment after the death of Anthony Minghella, who scripted the episode, and to whom the entire film is dedicated. In his pretentious and moody piece, Julie Christie plays a sophisticate opera singer who checks into an Upper East Side elegant hotel in order to kill herself, only to become intrigued and sidetracked by a mysterious, handicapped bellboy (Shia LaBeouf), engaged in a journey outside time.
The connection between the segments is provided by transitional scenes, shot by helmer Randy Balsmeyer, in which Emilie Ohana plays a video artist shooting this and that around her, without ever giving the impression that she has reason to be there.
Time and money constraints might have affected the technical quality of the production, which is average, but no more. The music rarely succeeds in reflecting New York's contemporary multicultural scene. 
Indeed, the most disappointing thing about "New York, I Love You," is how bland, characterless, and devoid of true grit the city appears to be, which makes you wonder about what happened to the new ethnic and demographic elements of the ever-evolving city in the post-9/11 era, since few blacks, Latino or Islamic resident are in sight.
End Note
Scarlett Johansson's directorial debut, shot in black-and-white, was eliminated because it didn't fit well with the rest.
Narrative Structure
Segment Directed by Jiang Wen
With: Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, Rachel Bilson.
Written by Hu Hong, Meng Yao; adaptation, Israel Horovitz. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Mark Lee Ping Bing; editor, Affonso Goncalves; music, Tonino Baliardo.

Segment Directed by Mira Nair
With: Natalie Portman, Irrfan Khan.
Written by Suketu Mehta. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Declan Quinn; editor, Allyson C. Johnson; music, Mychael Danna.

Segment Directed by Shunji Iwai
With: Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci.
Written, edited by Shunji Iwai; adaptation, Israel Horovitz. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; music, Shoji Mitsui.

Segment Directed by Yvan Attal
With: Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn.
Written by Olivier Lecot, Yvan Attal. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Benoit Debie; editor, Jennifer Auge.

Segment Directed by Brett Ratner
With: Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, Blake Lively.
Written by Jeff Nathanson. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Pawel Edelman; editor, Mark Helfrich; music, Mark Mothersbaugh.

Segment Directed by Allen Hughes
With: Drea De Matteo, Bradley Cooper.
Written by Xan Cassavetes, Stephen Winter. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; editor, Cindy Mollo; music, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne.

Segment Directed by Shekhar Kapur
With: Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf.
Written by Anthony Minghella. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Benoit Debie; editor, Jacob Craycroft; music, Paul Cantelon.

Segment Directed by Natalie Portman
With: Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, Jacinda Barrett
Written by Natalie Portman. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Jean-Louis Bompoint; editor, Tricia Cooke; music, Nicholas Britell.

Segment Directed by Fatih Akin
With: Ugur Yucel, Shu Qi, Burt Young.
Written by Fatih Akin. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Mauricio Rubinstein; editor, Melody London; music, Ilhan Ersahin.

Segment Directed by Joshua Marston
With: Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman.
Written by Joshua Marston. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Andrij Parekh; editor, Affonso Goncalves; music, Marcelo Zarvos.

Transitions Directed by Randy Balsmeyer
With: Emilie Ohana, Eva Amurri, Justin Bartha.
Written by Hall Powell, Israel Horovitz, James Strouse. Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michael McDonough; editor, Affonso Goncalves.


A Vivendi Entertainment release of an Emmanuel Benbihy and Marina Grasic production, in association with Sherezade Films, Benaroya Pictures, Grosvenor Park Media, Ever So Close, Visitor Pictures, Plum Pictures, 2008NY5 and Grand Army Entertainment. Produced by Benbihy, Grasic.
Executive producers, Michael Benaroya, Glenn Stewart, Marianne Maddalena, Taylor Kephart, Bradford W. Smith, Claus Clausen, Jan Korbelin, Steffen Aumueller, Pamela Hirsch, Celine Rattray, Susanne Bohnet. Co-producer, Parker Bennett.
Feature film concept, Emmanuel Benbihy, based on a premise by Tristan Carne. Editor, Affonso Goncalves.
Music, Jack Livesey, Peter Nashell; music supervisor, Ed Gerrard; songs, the Budos Band.
Production designer, Teresa Mastropierro.
Costume designer, Victoria Farrell.
Sound, Ken Ishii, Tom Varga; re-recording mixers, Lewis Goldstein, Matthew Gough.
Associate producers, Pierre Asseo, Laurent Constanty, Warren T. Goz, Stewart McMichael.
Assistant directors, Tom C. Fatone, Adam J. Escott.
MPAA Rating: R.
Running time: 103 Minutes.