When the first anthology Paris, je t'aime (Paris, I love you) came out in 2006, it wasn’t the first time a full feature film consisted of mini vignettes either connecting to each other or not, but it was the first time, when the movie not only was set in one city, but the whole movie – all the short films – were meant to glorify this one city, in a way only the city natives could understand the beauty of their city.
The film was a big success, because it was different, it was about Paris, and it included both well known French actors, like Gérard Depardieu, and the young actors who have already received a certain international acclaim. In addition, it was one of the first projects ever to include so many well known film directors, who directed a few minute long film. These eighteen short films were filmed by such directors as Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Alexander Payne, and Gus Van Sant – the directors you wouldn’t necessary expect to do a very short film as part of an anthology.
After this film came out, the warmth receipt of the movie by the international audience lead to the sequence anthology New York, I love you (2008), however, while the Paris anthology consisted of 22 short films, the New York one only consisted of 11 short stories, and again all these short vignettes set in New York City related in some way or another to the subject of love – New York City. And as Paris, I love you, these short films about NYC were also directed by some of the finest film directors, both American and foreign, like Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal and Brett Ratner.
As a sequel of film shorts to Paris, je t'aime, which had the same structure, and is the second film in the Cities of Love franchise, unlike it’s Parisian friend, the short films of New York, I Love You all have a unifying thread - of a videographer who films the other characters.
With such a wide array of great filmmakers and fine actors, it’s hard to miss such a film, however, unlike Paris, I Love You, New York film received very mixed reviews. It had no similar success as the French one and many admirers of the first sequence wished there were rather no sequence than a bad sequence. However, in 2010, the Russian film industry followed up with the Russian version of the Cities of Love franchise – Moscow, I Love You. As its American and French ‘commrades’, the film was set around one city – Moscow and the 18 short films were directed by some of the best Russian film directors and featured very well known actors. However, neither the international press and audience, nor the Russian audience liked the film as much as they liked the French film.
While all the films carry the same message – to fall in love with the city featured in a film, both American and Russian versions were unsuccessful, leaving the international audience wanting more and wondering, if there’d be another sequence that would be as successful as the very first one. And this is exactly what the Georgian filmmakers had in mind, when they were making the fourth sequence to the Cities of Love in 2013 – Tbilisi, I Iove You, which is set to be released in the Republic of Georgia on February 20th, 2014.
Tbilisi, I Love You is a series of 10-short films that are written and directed by natives of Georgia and that take on a personal narrative about the republic’s capital city, Tbilisi.
This film is produced by Storyman Pictures David and Nika Agiashvili, who you might know from his big directorial debut The Green Story, which I wrote about last year, and which was another great story.
Tbilisi, I Love You involved the following Georgian directors: Nika Agiashvili, Irakli Chkhikvadze, Levan Glonti , Alexander Kviria, Tako Shavgulidze, Kote Takaishvili, Levan Tutberidze and features both Georgian and some of the well known American actors like Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell (also featured in The Green Story), Sarah Dumont, George Finn (also starred in The Green Story), Nutsa Kukhianidze, Giorgi Kipshidze, Ia Sukhitashvili and more.
Unlike its previous unsuccessful sequences, I found this film is much deeper and fuller of love for the city of Tbilisi. It also carries a more meaningful message of that no matter what your city, and country, is going through, despite all the troubled times there might be, the residents of the city find the ways to love the city and stay faithful to their city just as one is supposed to do with a good friend or relative – no matter of whether one’s experiencing happy or sad times, the true love and/or friendship is when one’s always by his/her side in good and bad times.
This is exactly what the Georgian directors wanted to show. Besides telling different stories that are very different in its matter, they also set them in different times of the 20th and 21st centuries, when the country experiences the rise and fall of Communism, the beginning of the country's independence from USSR and political turmoils that come with it, as well as the times when the city experiences the globalization and urbanization of the city – from the first McDonalds in the city, which on its own was a very new thing for the Georgians, to the historically meaningful and controversial visit of Fidel Castro to then Soviet republic of Georgia (USSR) in 1963, where he met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and which visit included visiting secret military bases and a nuclear submarine - but this is not what this story is about, you'll need to see the film to see what the director picked to show about this historic visit of the Cuban revolutionist and dictator to Tbilisi.
By including this historic moment as part of the film, allows the general public to see why this visit was so significant for the historians and USSR at that time, taken that Castro and Khrushchev were contemplating many political affairs that would have influenced the world, including America.
I found Tbilisi, I Love You – a real celebration of the city, because its residents have true intentions of finding and keeping that love for the city they live in, no matter what, and this is very inspiring, especially to those who live in the places that do experience such drastic changes and/or moments of misfortune, like the cities of Cairo, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Moscow, and Kiev, recently. It’s always easier to love something that is unproblematic, and it’s always harder to love something that goes through changes and not always positive changes. This is exactly what the directors of Tbilisi, I Iove You managed to show – for better or worse, people of Georgia manage to find pleasure in both their city and their friends and families and make the most of it, which I, personally, think of as an ideal love.
In additional to showing true love for the city, the film offers a great variety of the city sights, some of which one might find depressing, as I did in the first few moments into watching the film, but then I realized why the directors wanted to show it this way – the dark side of the city – it’s because they found these images true to the story and events and both the characters and the visuals complement each other in very well done shots.
In Tbilisi, I Love You there’s a large sense of the European filmmaking school, which is characterized by its long moments and slow shots of an emotion and/or a sight, as you’d see in the films of the European classics of Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and Eric Rohmer. It is based on a rejection of the tenets and techniques of classical Hollywood cinema, or, in other words – rejection of the expected – expected happy endings, expected reactions and emotions to a situation, etc. Thus, this film would be a real treat for the European cinema lovers as well. This is what makes this film very different from the Russian and American sequences and very close to the French - the original film. I can also see how well this film would be received by both the crème de la crème of the American cinema-goers and the general public, who might have been missing on seeing some serious actors’ work from Eastern Europe that works in harmony with some of the American actors involved.
Here’s the breakdown of some of the short stories you will see in the movie:
Nika Agiashvili, also the producer of the film, directed the short’s that feature Perlman and McDowell. Perlman’s short features him as a nameless American motorcyclist who rides through Tbilisi’s remote areas with a woman named Freedom (Dumont). McDowell’s vignette centers around an actor who reluctantly agrees to a one-month shoot in Tbilisi and over that time, develops a love affair with the city. Other shorts tell a story of friends who can’t be apart, dealing with the turmoil of the city they love that is going through political and economical changes; couples that fall in and out of love; and stories about different families that either have something to celebrate or something to live through by keeping each other happy. All these short stories give another angle to the perception of the city and its residents’ spirit and the film as a whole.