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:: New York, I Love You

A few years ago, Emmanuel Benbihy had an idea worthy of a first year film student. He would produce a series of films dealing with various aspects of love in different cities around the world. Each film would feature a collection of short segments, filmed by a different director. It was a simple concept and has yielded results that are alternately charming, whimsical, boring or pointless. The first film, Paris je’taime, was released in 2006 and received mostly lukewarm reviews. The next instalment, New York, I Love You, has just been released. Unfortunately, the new film fails to deliver even more spectacularly than the first.

Earlier this year, I returned from a trip to New York with far from amorous feelings toward the city. I had fallen in love with the Big Apple of television and cinema at an impressionable age and was inevitably disappointed by the place in reality. Despite this, I was mildly intrigued to see New York, I Love You, as I wanted to know what cinema had to say about the city this time around. My New York involved bitter cold, blisters and bigots. The New York of the film, while more appealing than my experience of the city, took such a back seat to the banter between its plethora of pairings, that locations such as the Diamond District, Central Park, Tribeca, Chinatown and the Village, whizzed by without any real sense of place.

The film consists of eleven vignettes, all directed by international art house directors such as Shekhar Kapur, Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, except for one by actress Natalie Portman. Some of the vignettes are too short, while others outstay their welcome by several minutes. By the end of the film, you feel like a slightly discombobulated NYC pigeon that has flown around the city for a day, listening in on snatches of people’s lives. Having said that, the final segment does try to tie the film up into some semblance of a conclusion, using a montage of images projected onto the walls of a Manhattan rooftop.

Each vignette explores a different facet of love - new, young, old, illicit, obsessive, unrequited and unconditional. Surprisingly, homosexual love is completely left out of the equation. Some of the stories have overlapping characters, whilst others are self contained. Throughout the course of the film, we meet a hapless pickpocket (Hayden Christensen), an elderly couple at Coney Island (Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach), an artist (Ugur Yuchel ),a boy and his prom date (Anton Yelchin and Olivia Thirlby), a pair of lovers (Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo), a bellboy and a guest (Shia Le Beouf and Julie Christie) , a pick-up artist (Ethan Hawke) and a middle aged married couple (Chris Cooper and Robin Wright). While most of the stories are forgettable, the scene where Ethan Hawke’s pick-up artist lights a beautiful stranger’s cigarette is amusing, as is Orlando Bloom’s tale, which casts him as a musical score composer facing a deadline and some serious writer’s block.

Ultimately, the uneven, disjointed nature of the film makes for an unsatisfying cinematic experience. I suggest you wait for the DVD, especially as it will most likely include the missing twelfth vignette, which ended up on the cutting room floor and was directed by no other than Scarlett Johansson!