When you think of a franchise film, you’re likely besieged by images of god-like superheroes decked out in muscly body armor and flanked by an endless litany of explosions — not a love letter to romantic international locales directed by some of the world’s most illustrious directors. But that’s exactly what producer Emmanuel Benbihy has made out of his “Cities of Love” series of films.
Beginning with Paris, Je T’aime back in 2006, and continuing on to New York, I Love You a year later, “Cities of Love” has effectively leveraged itself as an international cinematic brand, licensing its prestigious imprint to cities across the world and pioneering the nexus between marketing, international tourism, and auterist cinema. After the first two installments went over relatively well, the latest city to put up the simoleons for an omnibus love letter at 24 frames per second is none other than Rio de Janeiro — a city that has historically captured the world’s imagination and could certainly benefit from some glossy marketing right about now.
Completed in 2014, Rio, I Love You (what was wrong with “Rio, Eu Te Amo”?) will finally be making its way stateside this April, with theatrical runs in both New York and Los Angeles. The late and relatively lukewarm reception to the project might have something to do with the lack of American helmers, with only actor-director John Turturro holding it down for U.S. auteurs. But fans of world cinema will be elated to learn that Guillermo Arriaga, Paolo Sorrentino, and Brazilian A-listers like Fernando Meirelles and José Padilha have all directed shorts for the project.
Of course, these are directors not generally associated with a sunny vision of life, but the film’s American trailer evokes the golden sunlight and “What is love?” platitudes of a feel-good cereal commercial. How true this trailer may be to the film as a whole is certainly questionable, but U.S. audiences might rightfully need a little nudging to go out for a movie about a South American city directed by a handful of foreigners with difficult to pronounce names.
Rio, I Love You opens in New York theaters on April 15 and in Los Angeles on April 22, 2016 with more cities to follow.