Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th October 2009
Box Office USA: $1.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $8M
Distributed by: Vivendi Entertainment
Production compaines: Vivendi Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 62
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Producer: Emmanuel Benbihy, Marina Grasic
Screenwriter: Jiang Wen, Hu Hong, Meng Yao, Suketu Mehta, Shunji Iwai, Olivier Lecot, Yvan Attal, Jeff Nathanson, Xan Cassavetes, Stephen Winter, Anthony Minghella, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston, Hall Powell, Israel Horovitz, James Strouse
Starring: Natalie Portman as Rifka, Shia LaBeouf as Jacob, Orlando Bloom as David, Christina Ricci as Camille, Hayden Christensen as Johnny, Kevin Bacon as Tom, Robin Wright as Anna, Julie Christie as Isabelle, Maggie Q as Call Girl
All of these stories take place in Manhattan, with only one or two brief forays into other boroughs, and they all centre around relatively well-off people, mainly white or Asian. They're also quite serious and emotional, with only brief moments of humour dotted here and there, although some make us smile more than others. Each is about a male-female relationship--marriages, brief encounters, possibilities, life-long companionship. Most have a somewhat gimmicky twist, and a few are intriguingly oblique.
Only a couple films stand out. The most striking visually is Kapur's segment, starring the radiant Christie as a woman in an old-world hotel being tended by a foreign bellhop (LaBeouf). It also feels the most interesting, as the looseness of the late Minghella's script allows the actors to invest subtext into every shot. Also memorable is Marston's slice of old-age life with the fantastic Leachman and Wallach bickering and bantering as they stroll to Coney Island.
The best gag goes, unsurprisingly, to Ratner. And it's also unsurprising that Nair manages to capture a rich blend of ethnic and religious diversity in her understated short. Attal has actually made two films, as Hawke and Q offer a clever take on flirting while Chris Cooper and Wright add weight to their telling glimpse of marriage. Leave it to Bradley Cooper and de Matteo to provide the lustiest segment, written and assembled with wit and skill. While Portman's enigmatic and elegant short packs a quiet punch.
Holding everything together are Balsmeyer's transitional scenes, starring Ohana as a videographer collecting the stories for an art performance and meeting several of the other characters along the way. The pieces that are thus loosely intertwined are filmed with the same warm cinematography and silky-smooth editing. It's just a shame there isn't more variety in the geography, filmmaking styles and in the kinds of characters on screen. Because even though each segment is rather wonderful in its own way, as a whole this feels like a side of New York that we've perhaps already seen on screen.