New York, I Love You, Blu-ray (2009)
10 segments by 10 Directors, featuring many stars, incl.: Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Christina Ricci, James Caan, Julie Christie, William Hurt, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman and Chris Cooper
Studio: Vivendi Entertainment VE1206 [2/2/10]
Video: 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Theatrical trailer, Interviews with five of the directors, Bonus segments by Scarlett Johansen (starring Kevin Bacon) and Andrey Zvyaginstev
Length: 103 minutes
I should preface this by revealing that I’m a big fan of collaborative movies with different directors, even if they’re not perfect, and this one isn’t. It’s a sort of sequel to Paris, je t’aime with similar producers and some of the same directors. There are ten love stories (using a wide range definition of that), mostly related to the diversity and unusual relationships that New York City is known for. I liked the design that instead of having a definite start and finish to each of the ten stories, they were dove-tailed into one another, with some of the characters and situations showing up again in another story. It made it something like the cinematic tapestries of Robert Altman.
The beginning seemed a bit confusing until one gets further into the film. Part of this is the variety of visual approaches. One of the most unusual of the stories was the work of successful Indian-American director Mira Nair. It concerned the diamond sales section of NYC around 47th Street and an initially hard-boiled bargaining session between an orthodox Jewish woman who was getting married the next day and a Jain gem dealer. The two diverse religious groups make up most of the diamond trade in NYC. It is the similarity of the strict dietary restrictions of the two people that brings them together in an understanding relationship. There are a number of more shocking surprises in store for anyone watching this film.
The most confusing segment involves Orlando Bloom as a composer trying to create a score for an animated film or perhaps computer game. A Japanese director did that one, and explains (via simple animation) in the extras how due to his unfamiliarity with English he illustrated the entire segment via storyboards instead of a script. It didn’t work so well. The segment with Julie Christie is quite haunting, but doesn’t relate to NYC in the slightest. The final segment, with Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman as a squabbling but loving 90 and 80-year-old couple, is a gem.
The directors had only two days to shoot their segments and a week to edit. In spite of the TV series pace, it turned out quite well. Both of the segments included in the extras are very strange and it is easy to see why they didn’t make it to the actual feature. Scarlett Johansen’s story is well filmed and well acted by Kevin Bacon but absolutely nothing happens and there’s no way it could be called a love story. It seems to have lost something in translation.
– John Sunier