Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Paris, My Love : Faubourg Saint-Denis ~ Tom Tykwer

Our relationships are as shallow as our lives. We do not know how to relate with one's own self. As a consequence of it, we just grope in the dark when it comes to relating with any Other. We live a life of conveniences and compromises. As long as it does not disturb the fundamental axis of our negotiated spaces, the show goes on. Pretty well, that too. We contrive stories to suit the nefaroius designs of our mind. And couch them in endearing terms and ennobling references. With the cunning of reason, we concoct extremely clever narratives on love and care, on responsibilities and duties, on give and take. In actuality, we only create a make-believe world where everything is faked and feigned. Behind every facade of courtship, there is a secret bargain hidden underneath. Which is tragic. But grossly real. The irreconcilable contradictions both from within and outside creates a fractured self which is drenched in inexplicable anguish and miserable loneliness, against the backdrop of the deafening silence of the universe.

Do all intimate relationships undergo crises of sorts and keep on floundering? Why should the bubble finally burst into pieces and plunge into nothingness? How many intimate relationships continue to flourish weathering the rough storms? Is it humanly possible to withstand the travails and turbulences of any relationship and still continue to be in love? One of the most profound chapters on love is in J.Krishnamurti's Freedom From The Known. ( ). But apart from getting insights into the psychological understanding of one's own self and the intricate mechanisms of the mind, which might be possible on a serious reading of J.Krishnamurti and Erich Fromm, it is also imperative for a spiritual quest in order to comprehend the meaning of living and loving. Else, we would have to continue to wallow in the deceitful and treacherous manoeuvres of the human mind and carry on with the vanity of the self into an eternally perpetuating void.    

Paris, Je t'aime (Paris, My Love) is a collage of 18 short-films directed by 22 different directors of various nationalities on the city of Paris which they all love. Each short film is about 5 to 7 minutes of duration with a remarkable story-telling on various facets of Paris with the multiple meanings in the lives of its human beings. Emmanuel Benbihy, who is mainly behind its production in 2006, had also produced a similar movie of short-films on the city of New York entitled New York, I Love You in 2009. In New York, I Love You, except Fatih Akin's short-film on the life and muse of a painter, the rest of them were a damp squib. May be because, the nature of New York city itself did not inspire the artists as much as Paris did and continues to do. I do not know. Paris, Je t'aime is a collection of short-films containing many delightful vignettes on the denizens of Paris and the splices of their broken contemporary lives. Though I have many other personal favourites in this collection on Paris, Faubourg Saint-Denis by Tom Tykwer stands out as a unique testament on love from the rest.

The story of the short-film by the German director Tom Tykwer gets unfolded in the neighbourhood of Faubourg Saint-Denis, which is an urban district in the city of Paris. Francine (the enigmatically beautiful Natalie Portman) who is an aspiring actress, telephones to her blind boyfriend Thomas (Melchior Beslon) and tells  him that their relationship is over. Thereafter, the director delves us into a series of flashbacks, as the nostalgic images of their shared memories dazzle through the mind's eye of Thomas starting from their first encounter. Thomas recollects their wonderfully joyous relationship filled with passion and turbulence. The sudden phone call from his lover makes him reminisce about their torrid past. While he is sieves through the  weft and warp of his love life, we too travel down the memory lanes and by-lanes. The short-film ends with another phone call from Francine, when he comprehends the intensity of how much he misses her and finally how the blind lover even starts seeing her. When Tom Tykwer felt creatively exhausted and personally adrift after his real life break-up with his lover Franka Potente, he created this moving portrait on love.  


Faubourg Saint-Denis ~ Tom Tykwer :

- "Yes?"

- "Thomas, listen!"

- "Francine?"

- "Listen!
There are times when life calls out for a change. A transition. Like the seasons. Our spring was wonderful, but summer is over now and we missed out on autumn. And now all of a sudden, it's cold, so cold that everything is freezing over. Our love fell asleep, and the snow took it by surprise. But if you fall asleep in the snow, you don't feel death coming. Take care."

- "Francine... I remember it exactly

It was the 15th of May

Spring was late to arrive and rain clouds were gathering

And you were screaming ~

Francine: "Let me out. Please! Bruno? Bruno you bastard! Bruno, i'm dying here! Please Bruno! Bruno Please! I can't take it anymore!"

Thomas: Hello!

Francine: "Why can't anybody hear me!"

Thomas: I hear you! Who is Bruno?

Francine: I'm rehearsing, can't you see?

Thomas: Umm no, sorry.

Francine: No, no, i'm sorry.

Thomas: You are an actress?

Francine: Trying to be... I've and audition today

Thomas: At the conservatoire?

Francine: Yeah.

Thomas: What kind of scene was that?

Francine: It's... it's from this pretty bad movie i was in once. It's my only one so far but... i'm this prostitute who gets beaten and raped by her pimp and then he locks her in this dark cell all day long and she goes nuts, but at the end they still get married.
Thomas: A pimp and a prostitute?

Francine: (Sounds a bell) Shit! it's ten?

Thomas: So?

Francine: I have to be there at ten.

Thomas: I know a shortcut, come on!

Francine: Wait! Wait!

Thomas: This way.

Francine: Are you sure?

Thomas: Straight!

Francine: That was fast. Thanks!

Thomas: Good Luck!

And of course you were accepted

You left Boston and moved to live in Paris

A small apartment on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis

I showed you our neighbourhood, my bars, my school

I introduced you to my friends, my parents

I listened to you as you learned your lines

I listened to your singing, to your hopes, your desires

I listened to your music

And you listened to mine

You listened to my Italian, my German, my bits of Russian

I gave you a walkman and you gave me a pillow

And then one day, you kissed me

Time passed, time raced

And everything seemed so easy, so simple, free

So new and unique

We went to the movies

We went dancing, shopping

We laughed, you cried

We swam, we smoked, we shaved

From time to time you screamed, without reason

Sometimes with reason

Yes, sometimes with reason

I walked you to the Conservatory

I studied for my exams

I listened to your singing, to your hopes, your desires

I listened to your music

And you listened to mine

We were close, so close, ever closer

We went to the movies, we went swimming

We laughed together, you screamed

Sometimes with reason, and sometimes without

Time passed, time raced

I walked you to the Conservatory

I studied for my exams

You listened as I spoke Italian, German, Russian, French

I studied for my exams

You screamed, sometimes with reason

Time passed without reason

You screamed without reason

I studied for my exams

My exams, my exams, my exams

Time passed

You screamed, you screamed, you screamed

And then

I went to the movies


Forgive me, Francine!"

Thomas: Yes?

Francine: Hey what happened? You're gone all of a sudden. You hung up? Was it that bad? Thomas, are you still mad about yesterday?

Thomas: No...

Francine: Tell me, was it believable?... I see, shit! It doesn't work like that huh? How are you supposed to say: "our spring was wonderful; but summer's over" without sounding completely melodramatic? Ughh Whatever! The director loved it, so i have to find a way. Thomas, are you listening to me?

Thomas: No, I see you..