New York, I Love You is the second episode in the Cities of Love series of feature films conceived by Emmanuel Benbihy. The film was shot over a period of 8 weeks with the participation of 11 directors using their own screenplays. Each short film had to follow a mandate which included the need for each to contain a love story, to be visually identifiable with New York or its surrounding neighbourhoods and there would be no fade to black at the end or the commencement of each story.

Benbihy chose younger directors from around the world as he wanted to use a more edgy approach and depict New York as it is today. The idea was to generate originality that exists in a diverse group and not to revel in nostalgia. The only uniting bond was the LOVE of the city and LOVE was the central theme to be used throughout their films.

The incredibly short shoot created an energy that is apparent throughout the films as the directors were only allowed 2 days each to shoot, 7 days to edit and during that time the next director would be working on location. The same production and costume designers and the rest of the below-the-line crew remained the same on set through the whole period.

This is evident in the finished result. The film has a seamless continuity that works exceptionally well with the use of transition sequences that are captured by a New York videographer (Emilie Ohana), who moves around the neighbourhoods filming sequences that hold the stories together.

And what fabulous stories they are. We move from a pickpocket (Hayden Christensen) to a gem dealer (Irrfan Khan), to a musician (Orlando Bloom), to a fast talking romancer Ethan Hawke), to a pharmacist (James Caan), to two anguished lovers (Drea de Matteo and Bradley Cooper), to an opera singer (Julie Christie), to a male nanny (Carlos Acosta), to an artist (Ugur Yucel) and finally to a veteran New York couple (Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach). Each has a wonderful story to reveal and there are many more characters, played by equally famous actors in each story.

The performances hold up well against a backdrop that makes you want to rush off and buy a ticket to the Big Apple. Romance works well as the central theme as New York romances somehow seem to exist on another level, whether they are brief encounters, fantasies, or the ‘real’ thing.

It’s difficult to single out which is the best yarn as they all work as a collective piece. However, there is a real poignancy in Joshua Marston’s exploration of love that lasts until the end. The end being the final years in a couple’s life as they wander along the boardwalk at Brighton Beach, remembering the past, but so aware of the present.

If there is a criticism to be made, then it would be for its length. I could have sat there for more of the same. I guess that desire will be fulfilled in the next Cities of Love stories from Rio and Shanghai that are due for development in 2010. Bring it on!

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