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‘New York, I Love You’ weaves engaging tales

Philip Kennicott Washington Post

New York is the sort of city where a man can approach a woman during a cigarette break outside a restaurant and in three minutes flat have her deep in granular sex talk.

Thus, a writer, played by Ethan Hawke, approaches an attractive woman in “New York, I Love You,” a compendium of short films woven into a light but enjoyable souffle of erotic vignettes.

It’s not clear whether Hawke has struck out or struck gold, and that ambiguity is characteristic of most of the short segments, which recall the tone and clever twists of a Guy de Maupassant story.

“New York, I Love You” is the second in a series that producer Emmanuel Benbihy calls “Cities of Love,” designed to take “audiences on far-reaching journeys through the world’s most beloved and culturally influential cities.”

First stop, in 2006, was “Paris, Je T’Aime.” Next, the franchise moves to Rio and Shanghai, then Jerusalem and Mumbai.

The New York installment attracted a starry cast of actors and an intriguing cross-section of edgier directors.

Natalie Portman makes her directing debut in perhaps the weakest of the 11 shorts, but she appears to better effect as an actress in Mira Nair’s touching film about a Hasidic woman and a Jain man coming together for an erotic, cross-culture moment.

Jiang Wen directs a taut and cynical take on love and theft, but has little luck compelling real acting from Hayden Christensen. And Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci feel underutilized in a film about modern-day bohemianism directed by the prominent Japanese director Shunji Iwai.

Subtly present is a powerful, nostalgic sense that New York is now passe compared with up-and-coming megalopoli of the world. Bring on Shanghai, Mumbai and Rio.

“New York, I Love You” is playing at the Magic Lantern Theatre.
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