Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anthology Breakdown: New York, I Love You

Following the critical success of Paris, je t’aime, producer Emmanuel Benbihy elected to take his Cities of Love series to the Big Apple. And, soon after New York, I Love You was released, many were left wondering if Benbihy was meant to end his series with just one film. Yes, admittedly, this New York installment is nowhere near as accomplished as its predecessor, but upon rewatching it recently, I found myself taken with more than a handful of its segments.

In his initial review for New York, I Love You, Roger Ebert said that anthology films can never add up. They are the sum of their parts. If one segment is working for you, wait for a few minutes, and on to the next one. Precisely.

Segment One
Dir. by Jiang Wen
This breezy, uninvolved opener begins with a hipster pickpocket (Hayden Christensen… by the way, what happened to that guy?) pulling the wallet of a passerby (Andy Garcia). Soon, the thief has his eye on a lovely young dame (Rachel Bilson… by the why, what happened to that gal?). He follows her into a bar, spins some weak game, and is quickly interrupted by Garcia, who appears to be onto the hipster (or… something.) And that’s it. Needlessly drowned out in oversaturated orange hues, this segment is benefited by some David Mamet-esque chatter, but doesn't particularly add anything to anything. C-

Segment Two
Dir. by Mira Nair
A Hasidic jeweler (Natalie Portman) rushes into the store of a friendly Indian diamond merchant (Irrfan Khan) and the two enter into a quick exchange of goods. But soon, they’re complaining about the dedication of their respective religions, while mocking a few others. And then suddenly, with only the cue of a few rather marvelous little glances, the man comes to respect the woman’s situation, and they end their conversation in immense understanding. This segment cunningly shows how, sometimes, a person who enters our life for mere seconds really can leave an impact. B

Segment Three
Dir. by Shunji Iwai
A crusty film composer (Orlando Bloom) is struggling to finish his latest job because the film’s director is demanding that he read Dostoevsky for inspiration. Feeling under pressure, the composer seeks the director’s assistant (Christina Ricci) for solace over the phone. A tender little romance develops, resulting in a perfectly fitting conclusion. Not exactly weighty, but amusing nonetheless. B

Segment Four
Dir. Yvan Attal
Two strangers stand outside of a restaurant smoking and minding their own business. Before long, the guy (Ethan Hawke) gets up the courage to approach the woman (Maggie Q) and he begins an extended, increasingly inappropriate come-on which results in him explaining in vivid detail how he could get her off. She smiles, smokes and plays along to a point, until she delivers a bit of news that humorously stops him dead. Again, like most of the segments in New York, I Love You, this one isn’t particularly equipped with much depth, but Hawke’s final, stunned line delivery is priceless. B

Segment Five
Dir. by Brett Ratner
Dumped days before the prom, a kindhearted young kid (Anton Yelchin) is told by his pharmacist (played by James Caan, who gets to say things like, “She’s a snake fuckin’ devil whore”) that the kid can take the pharmacist’s attractive daughter to the big dance. The kid arrives via limo for his date and, much to his dismay, the daughter (Olivia Thirlby) is confined to a wheelchair. I say “dismay” because few could destroy a six-minute short as quickly and as tastelessly as Brett Ratner. Given the talent involved (Blake Lively cameos as the ex girlfriend), this segment could’ve been immeasurably better, and far more sophisticated. D

Segment Six
Dir. by Allen Hughes
By far the highlight of the film, this segment cross cuts two thirtysomethings making their way… somewhere. A woman riding on the subway (Drea de Matteo) narrates the events of the night before, as a man (Bradley Cooper) does the same while walking. It becomes evident that they are both en route to see each other after a very steamy one night stand. Their separate, inner dialogues (as written by Xan Cassavetes & Stephen Winter) are simply perfect. The regret, the anxiousness, the excitement, the nerves – it’s all staged perfectly as the would-be lovers get closer to one another. I won’t say how the segment ends, but it certainly isn’t to the disappointment of the viewer. A+

Segment Seven
Dir. by Shekhar Kapur
I’d be lying if I said I completely understood everything going on in this segment, but its delicate mystery is arguably the most intriguing part of the entire film. A woman (Julie Christie) staying in a seemingly abandoned hotel is helped to her room by a handicapped bellhop (Shia LaBeouf). She asks for violets, and he soon returns with some. He suffers a sudden, violent nosebleed, and then things get a bit strange. Instead of continuing a play by play, it’d be best to explore this meditative, translucent segment for yourself. Because really, what’s it all about? A-

Segment Eight
Dir. by Natalie Portman
A father enjoys an afternoon in Central Park with his daughter, who, we gather, he doesn’t get to see too often. In a simple but wholly effective little touch, the man (who is Cuban) is mistaken for being a male nanny to his pale-skinned daughter. That isn’t what the segment is about, per se, but it’s a flawless moment that encapsulates a father’s pain. When the girl is reunited with her mother, it becomes all too clear which film Portman is playing off of. B+

Segment Nine
Dir. by Fatih Akin
A hard living and creatively deprived painter gets inspired to paint a local tea herbalist. She initially says no, but the intrigue of the proposition dominates her mind. She attempts to seek the painter out but finds that he has carried out his inspiration without her. Given the immense talent of the man who helmed this segment, it’s a damn shame it isn’t more memorable. C

Segment Ten
Dir. by Yvan Attal
Similar to Attal’s earlier segment, this one begins with two strangers (Chris Cooper, Robin Wright) standing outside a restaurant, talking and smoking. She discusses the excitement of one night stands, and quietly explains her assumed disappointment at returning inside to sit with her husband. The man is interested to say the least, and before the woman walks back inside, she teases him with a notion of maybe meeting again. Maybe. (Props for the segment’s perfect inclusion of Radiohead’s “No Surprises.”) A

Segment Eleven
Dir. by Joshua Marston
An old married couple (Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman, both better here than they’ve been in years) celebrate their anniversary by embarking on a walking journey to Coney Island. They shuffle about, bicker ceaselessly, climb stairs at a snail’s pace, and, upon arriving, share as tender and reflective a moment as can be found in this film. Marston thankfully holds that moment for several beats, before it is cut short in appropriately New York fashion.  New York, I Love You certainly doesn’t match the charm and wit of Paris, je t’aime, but it’s nice to go out while watching two old pros at the top of their game. A+

Previous installments of Anthology Breakdown include:


  1. Nice job! I liked New York, I Love You overall, but I prefer Paris, Je T'aime. Still, I do need to rewatch both films.

    Favorite segments: 4, 7, and 10 (Again, I really need to see it a second time though.)

    1. Thanks man. I was really hoping to rewatch this and find something that I liked. I remembered absolutely hating it, so thankfully there were a few standout segments. Your favorites are definitely among my top as well.

  2. This is one of my least favorite anthology films ever. While I did like the shorts by Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, and Natalie Portman.

    Visually, I felt that none of them stood out. They all had the same palette and it annoyed me to death. Plus, I hated the in-between inserts between the segments.

    1. Yeah, all in all, it's not really that good. It's funny, just last night I was explaining to someone why I thought this was so much less accomplished than Paris. And I mentioned the boring color palette specifically. It's just so drab.

      And yeah, the inserts segments are pointless. Kind of a bummer.

  3. Eh, didn't like this one overall. I did really love Segment Six though, which is the only one I actually cared about.

    1. Segment six really is quite good. I wish I could say that it makes the whole film worth it. But... nah.

  4. I didn't like the movie overall, I found it to be terrible comparing to lovely Paris Je t'aime, but the segment with Cooper was really amazing, shame the others weren't this good.

    1. Yep, that pretty much seems to be the universal takeaway. Shame indeed, but at least there are a few that stand out.

  5. I've never had much interest in seeing this, but may watch it one today for Portman.

    1. For the most part, it is entirely skippable. But Portman's segments are pretty good.

    2. Aah okay, I'll eventually get around to it haha.

    3. Yeah, later rather than sooner is a-okay here.

  6. Thanks for this post, Alex. I loved Paris Je t'aime and was so excited for New York, I love you but never saw it because I heard heard bad reviews. Maybe worth watching though.

    Anthologies generally seem tricky... Are they ever phenominal? What would be the best you've seen?

    1. Thank YOU for commenting! New York, I Love You is tough for me to recommend. There are segments I enjoy, but your time would be better spent looking those up on YouTube. The movie as a whole is meh.

      Anthology films can definitely be excellent. I think Paris je t’aime and Coffee and Cigarettes are both great, while Four Rooms, Nine Lives and others are really good as well. Expect those posts soon!

  7. Did you think to make Anthology Breakdown: V/H/S? (just the first two films)

    1. Nah, only because they didn't really do it for me. I did enjoy certain segments of part 1. But I didn't like part 2 very much and Viral was dreadful.

  8. Quite honestly, I really couldn't get into Paris Jetaime, after watching one hour. I felt I was able to enjoy more of New York, I love you based on the interactions and the good actors chosen. However, vignette movies as a whole are films I rarely enjoy. I prefer those of Garry Marshall, that connect. I appreciated this writer breaking down the segments but I don't agree with the ratings here. For example my favorite was the one with Anton Yelchin! Loved that one. I didn't understand the one with Julie Christie and Shia Labeouf at all. Can't enjoy something if i can't make any rational or even irrational sense of it. Complete random doesn't work for me in movies. Movies take a lot of money, they are planned and structured so I think directors can and should do better then "at random" which is sometimes what this feels like. I get it, its supposed to be art imitating life, but that's just not that satisfying. A scene like the one with Maggie Q and Ethan Hawke at least can be taken for what it is which is a probable conversation that could occur, and ends humorously. So its not a bad film, by any means. But, since we are talking about New York, I would have liked a bit more essence of New York things as well, instead of just "people" of new york.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I love that Segment Five is your favorite. I miss Anton Yelchin so much.