Rio, I Love You

Studio: Screen Media Films
Various Filmmakers

May 06, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Emmanuel Benbihy’s Cities of Love, which began with Paris, je t'aime in 2007 and then crossed the Atlantic to New York in 2009, continues south in the franchise’s latest installment, Rio, I Love You. Adhering to Paris’ inaugural structure, the film is a collection of ten shorts all about love and all set in Brazil’s beautiful seaside Rio de Janeiro. And, as with any anthology work, some chapters are heads above the rest.

John Turturro’s segment, "Quando não há Mais Amor"—which he not only stars in, but also wrote and directed—is by far one of the film’s weakest links. Overly dramatic, it focuses on a lovers’ quarrel between two unmemorable characters and is told only semi-chronologically, adding an extra layer of of detachment. It strains for the dramatic, but falls somewhere between melodrama and tedium. On the other hand, Fernando Meirelles’ "A Musa," which stars Vincent Cassel as a sand sculptor in love with a woman from afar, offers a unique birds’ eye view angle of Rio’s beachfront promenade and the feet that traffic it. Even as a short, it’s a bit too long, but it’s a notable addition to an otherwise fair to middling film. "O Milagre," written by Rodney El Haddad and Nadine Labaki (she also directs), stars Harvey Keitel as an American actor who spots an opportunity to help impoverished street children while filming a movie in Rio. It provides perhaps the most endearing and heartfelt moment of the film; it’s also the only chapter bold enough to eschew the burden of making a pointed (or oddly comical) statement about romantic love between two adults.

Benbihy’s globe-spanning franchise—which apparently visited Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2013, though it made no impact here in the States—is set to expand to Shanghai, Rotterdam, and Jerusalem in the coming years. The idea and the effort remain admirable, but the steady decline in the films’ quality since Paris makes one wonder how much Cities truly is an effort of love. It’s easy to get actors, writers, and directors to commit to a few days’ or weeks’ work here and there. Rio, I Love You proves that it is infinitely harder said than done, however, to produce a quality anthology film about the heart’s desires.

www.rioiloveyou.com

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