The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

No Love, New York

Christopher Morley, an American journalist and essayist, once said that New York City was “the nation’s thyroid gland,” According to online medical sources, the thyroid gland controls how quickly the rest of the body uses energy, and how sensitive the body should be to other hormones. In effect, it helps to regulate many bodily functions. The most common problems for the thyroid gland are, on two ends of the spectrum, too much activity or too little activity. And, just as Morley notes New York City’s symbolic significance in the context of the nation’s collective health and well-being, he also points to the most common problems with one of this weekend’s Valentine’s Day-themed films, “New York, I Love You”.
The “film” actually consists of 10 short vignettes, in similar fashion to its parent piece, “Paris, je t’aime.” This Gotham-based collection is the second installment of the Cities of Love franchise created and produced by Emmanuel Benbihy. Thankfully, each segment of “New York” clocks in at around 10 minutes, so the audience’s attention is kept relatively intact for the duration of the film.
Unfortunately, the redeeming qualities of the vignettes, individually and collectively, are few and far between. Though the cast of characters is, admirably, as ethnically and religiously diverse as the City itself, the problems begin to mount within the first scene, in which an attractive young girl allows herself to be followed into a nearly-empty bar by a suspect man in dark sunglasses. The scene ends peacefully enough (in that no one is hurt or worse, as one expects might occur in a similar situation in “the real New York,”) but the barrage of chance meetings and absurd verbal exchanges between strangers has really just begun.
The vignettes, though each one concerns itself with the problems and triumphs of love, are poorly tied together. Characters from the early scenes make cameo appearances in later ones, but to no greater purpose than to suggest, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Paul Haggis’s “Crash,” that we are all really connected, even in a big, dirty city like New York. Repetitive slow—and fast—motion traffic visuals and shots of bridges from moving cars serve to “transition” the audience from one scene to the next, in that typically artsy, oh-so-quirky New York fashion.
While one respects the endeavor, it would be unfair to suggest that this film works, in any way, to bring together its disparate parts. Unlike the thyroid gland, which usually has to deal with either too much or too little activity, “New York, I Love You” suffers from both ailments at once. Ten vignettes are perhaps a few too many, in that at the end of the film, one finds it difficult to recall the events of the earlier scenes. And yet, the collection is palpably repetitive—although there are intriguing moments to be considered along race and gender lines, the storyline of each scene is, in effect, that strangers meet and carry on uncomfortably familiar conversations until some twist about their relationship is revealed to the (supposed) shock of the audience. Add to the mix a terribly contrived sense of New York style, complete with chain-smokers on sidewalks, artists in eccentrically-tilted fedoras and cafés littered with Moleskine notebooks, and the result is a wholly uninspiring medley that would turn the stomach, or perhaps thyroid, of any film lover on Valentine’s Day.

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