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Let Paris court you

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By Kelly LeVan

“Paris, je t’aime” absolutely charmed me. The film looks at France’s capital city from the backseat of a car, from a subway station, from restaurants, from baby cribs, from jail, from deathbeds. In 18 five-minute shorts, it shows 18 different arrondissements, or districts, from the eyes of a paramedic, a traveling salesman, a tourist, a blind man, a vampire.Although the collection is distinctly French, it includes several actors and directors working outside of their home countries. Canadian, German, Nigerian, Spanish, Brazilian – everyone adopts the city of lovers as his or her own.Watch Steve Buscemi get decked by a Frenchman in Joel and Ethan Coen’s tribute to Tuileries. Wander along the Parc Monceau with Nick Nolte for a few wonderful minutes directed by Mexican Alfonso Cuarón, famous for his feature-length film, “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”Visit the Place des Victoires arrondissement, where Japanese director Nobuhiro Suwa pairs Juliette Binoche with Willem Dafoe, who plays death, which is a cowboy.Australia’s Christopher Doyle sets his piece in the Porte de Choisy, Chinatown – but a distinctly Parisian Chinatown with a flair for musicals. In Gus Van Sant’s Le Marais district, one man tells another that they might be soul mates – and he’s undeterred, though puzzled, by his interlocutor’s almost total silence.I loved that story for its rare courage, although to be fair, many of these pieces highlight quick flashes of courage. If there  were an overarching theme beyond love for Paris, I think it’s our human ability to find strength when we need it.Another favorite vignette of mine takes place in the Tour Eiffel, where the Eiffel Tower stands. Written and directed by French animator Sylvain Chomet, the boy-mime meets girl-mime story begins with a young man pretending his way through daily activities – drinking coffee, gardening, driving and eventually mocking tourists, which lands him in a very real jail. However, here he meets his girl-mime. They mime together joyously, and, almost magically, give birth to and raise a son.The hokey mime costumes and the drippy, if nearly wordless script, hold together the entire collection. They are the fantasy Paris, the Paris of yore, which everyone still believes in a little bit, no matter how isolating or tragic life gets.I’m not the only one who’s charmed by “Paris, je t’aime.” Audiences at the Cannes Film Festival loved it in 2006, as did critics from USA Today, Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and other news sources when it was released the following year.The New York papers didn’t have much praise for it, but I think they’re jealous: It boasts of a city so much more layered and fascinating than recent films have shown the Big Apple to be.Regardless of the Times’ cold shoulder, “Paris, je t’aime” has wooed the Film Society of the Los Alamos Arts Council.  The organization, in collaboration with UNM-Los Alamos, will screen the collection of short films at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Student Center at UNM-LA. Admission is $5, or $3 with a UNM-LA student ID.My score: 5/5 kernels