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New York, I Love You(2009)
A collective work of twelve short films shot by renowned international directors in each of the city's five boroughs, with the theme of finding love being interwoven between each of the five minute stories.
For more about New York, I Love You and the New York, I Love You Blu-ray release, see New York, I Love You Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Christina Ricci, Julie Christie, James Caan, Andy García, Bradley Cooper
Directors: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Shekhar Kapur
» See full cast & crew
New York, I Love You Blu-ray Review
New York, New York, a helluva town. The "city of strangers" finds people meeting in the most unexpected ways in this valentine to the Big Apple.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 16, 2010
"….It's a city of strangers/Some come to work, some to play/
A city of strangers/Some come to stare, some to stay…."
Those wonderful lines from the lyric to Stephen Sondheim's emblematic "Another Hundred People" from his classic 1970 musical comedy Company could well play as the theme song to New York, I Love You. A sometimes touching, sometimes maddening, and often quite surprisingly breezy trip through the lives of several strangers (and, yes, not-so-strangers) attempting to connect with each other in one of the world's most chaotic metropolises is, like the city itself, a crazy quilt of perspectives, emotions and characters. Featuring a roster stuffed to the gills with big name stars and several noteworthy up and comers, and helmed by eleven very different directors, New York, I Love You really could have ended up a slipshod mish mash of varying styles and approaches. The fact that it's as cohesive as it is is testament to the project's overall artistic merit and also, perhaps, to its mentor, the late Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), to whom the film is dedicated, as well as scenarist Israel Horovitz who adapted several of the segments and helped write some of the segues getting us from one character to the next.
You may love New York, I Love You, you may hate it, but you have to at least give it props for one indisputable fact: it is part of a franchise that doesn't stick a number after a generic title in order to supposedly differentiate it from its precursors. Part of the same, relatively new "Cities of Love" series that brought us Paris, Je t'aime, New York, I Love You shares that film's vignette structure while providing a few more bridging segues and interrelated characters than the Parisian version. That very emphasis on short, often epigrammatic vignettes is at once the film's strongest suit and its weakest link. Several of the segments are wonderfully done, and in fact none is less than at least acceptably entertaining. However, there's never a chance to really dig into any characters or develop a relationship with anyone for very long, perhaps by its very nature reflective of what most of these people are going through in the "city of strangers."
The films starts off with one of the weaker entries, a sort of ménage-a-trois featuring Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson in a short essay on hidden agendas, pickpocket style. We're then whisked away into the impending Hasidic marriage of Natalie Portman, who nonetheless silently fantasizes about a Jain jewel merchant (Irrfan Khan) with whom she's negotiating. Next we're introduced to a haphazard film composer (Orlando Bloom) who's being coached via cell phone by the director's assistant, Camille (Christina Ricci). A couple of great punchlines punctuate intersecting stories dealing with a writer (Ethan Hawke) and a callgirl (Maggie Q) and two smokers (Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn) who may be contemplating an extramarital dalliance. A decidedly lighthearted episode directed by Brett Ratner occurs next, the only narrated piece in the film, dealing with a nerdy high school boy (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek's Chekov) who agrees to take his neighborhood pharmacist's (James Caan) daughter (Olivia Thirlby) on a date, something that turns into unexpected territory when she shows up in a wheelchair. The repercussions of a one night stand are explored in the subsequent short sequence featuring Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo (Cooper's entry into a couple of other cabs earlier in the film starts out as a running gag, but then goes nowhere and isn't repeated). Minghella himself penned the most enigmatic sequence of the film, an odd little meditation featuring Julie Christie as a retired singer who shows up at what appears to be an abandoned hotel which is perhaps haunted by Shia Le Boeuf in a quite remarkable performance as a crippled Russian. John Hurt is also on hand in a cameo. Natalie Portman takes over the directorial reigns in the next episode, featuring ballet star Carlos Acosta in a very nice, understated turn as a single father. His brief dance sequence is simply astounding. A strange but satisfying interaction between a frustrated painter (Ugur Yüsel) and a Chinese herbalist (Shu Qi) is up next, which also features a fun cameo by Burt Young. The final sequence is a lovely little piece featuring Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach as a lovingly bickering couple kind of celebrating their 64th anniversary. Wound through and around these episodes are various bridging segments featuring a videographer (Emilie Ohana), who ends up taking shots of many of the characters. A brief montage of these moments caps the film.
As you can see from this brief précis, New York, I Love You can be fairly termed quirky in the extreme, and yet there is such an abundance of heart and some wonderfully unexpected twists and turns at times that it becomes easier to forgive the film its faux ingenuousness. There's just enough gist of each character given that the audience is not left completely in the dark, and if the sum of the film's parts never really adds up to much, those parts themselves, taken singly or in dollops here and there, are often refreshingly brisk and nuanced. Performances are uniformly excellent, and it's a joy to see so many established actors sharing the screen with lesser knowns, all of whom are easily up to the task of working with their better known counterparts.
Probably the biggest surprise to me personally was the cohesion from both the directorial and cinematography standpoints. This is a film filled with some wonderfully constructed crane and dolly shots, which offer not only some great passing cityscapes, but also lend a visceral feel to the noise and motion that is New York City. More than mere technique, though, shines through the natural performances which range from such icons as Christie to the simply phenomenal little girl in the Acosta sequence, Taylor Geare. If some of the episodes themselves may leave individual viewers cold, my hunch is very few will be bored by any of the performances.
The "Cities of Love" series started out with a decided sputter with its Parisian outing, which was too mannered and haphazard to ever achieve much impact, despite some individually inviting moments. New York, I Love You is manifestly better, and a much more cohesive film. If it's not quite at the uniformly excellent level, it's such a leap forward from Paris, Je t'aime that I can't help but be hopeful that the forthcoming Shanghai, I Love You will be a true delight.
New York, I Love You Blu-ray, Video Quality
Several of these segments have been artificially pumped up in post, and that gives a somewhat uneven look to this AVC encoded 1080p image in a 1.78:1 ratio. You'll notice it right off the bat in the first sequence with Christensen and Garcia, which sports a rather odd orange-yellow tint, giving a weird hue to flesh tones. Things normalize for most of the rest of the film, but there are long sequences which seem to delight in ambers and yellows, which at times gives the film at least the impression of being slightly washed out. While there is not an abundance of grain, this has a very natural and pleasing "thick" film texture to all of the visuals. Detail is excellent throughout, and in the cityscapes, depth of field can be quite amazing. There is some very minor artifacting on quick pans across the geometrical patterns of windows on skyscrapers, but that's about the only anomaly to report.
New York, I Love You Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For a film taking place in one of the most cacophonous places in the world, New York, I Love You's DTS HD-MA 5.1 mix is a decidedly laid back affair. While a lot of the passing city scenes do offer some nice surround ambience, with all the honking horns, traffic noise and chattering masses you'd expect, the bulk of this film is really surprisingly quiet, marked by dialogue taking place between two people, and often indoors. Everything is always clear and precise, with good directionality, in these segments. When we do get outdoors, as in the final segment with Leachman and Wallach, we're provided with some very nice ambient effects, from seagulls calling to the lap of waves on the Coney Island beach. A couple of times some rather startling LFE comes into play, as in the nice drums in the Acosta dance sequence, and, in that same Leachman-Wallach segment, when a "hoodlum" (to quote the elderly couple) whizzes by on a skateboard. This may not be as bombastic a soundtrack as some people are expecting for a film taking place in the Big Apple, but it's a solid, respectable piece of work that delivers for the film extremely well.
New York, I Love You Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Two cut segments from the film are included. Scarlett Johannson wrote and directed These Vagabond Shoes (if you're not a Kander-Ebb or Sinatra fan, you won't get the reference), starring Kevin Bacon. Critical reaction to this short and sweet segment has been pretty cruel, but I found it charming, with a lovely, colorful denouement after its sepia-toned prelude. Apocrypha, directed by Andrey Zvyagatsov, is a good deal more enigmatic, following a kid videographer filming a woman (Carla Gugino) who may be ending a painful relationship. Interviews totaling 16:26 with five of the segments' directors (Ratner, Yvan Attal, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, and Shunji Iwai), as well as the original theatrical trailer, are also included.
New York, I Love You Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
New York, I Love You is, for the most part, a bright and breezy whirlwind trip through the Big Apple. Its very structure deprives the film of ever really providing much depth to any of the characters, but several of these sketches are quite compelling indeed.
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