March 3, 2008
Love Songs, 2007
Christophe Honoré's idiosyncratic concoction of irreverent humor, subverted expectation, romanticism, and affectionate homage falls elegantly and poignantly into place in Love Songs (Les Chansons d'amour): a lyrical, immediately engaging, yet substantive thirteen song musical presented in three chapters, each bearing a title from the three parts of Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Departure, Absence, and Return). The unexpected presentation of the film's opening credit sequence - citing only the surnames of the actors and production crew - sets the tone for Honoré's whimsical exploration of loss, incompleteness, and emotional fracture. Ostensibly a film on the amorous (mis)adventures of indecisive, twenty-something Parisian copy writer, Ismaël (Louis Garrel) who, as the film begins, has embarked on a ménage à trois with the reluctant consent of his devoted girlfriend, Julie (Ludivine Sangnier) and his co-worker Alice (Clotilde Hesme), the film similarly sweeps through the variegated arcs of Demy's quintessential film as it traces the complex emotional trajectory of loss, grief, survival, and healing following an unexpected tragedy. However, Honoré's rumination on lost love is far from a derivative reconstitution, but rather, a contemporary examination of the malleability - and interchangeability - of modern identity. Featuring original songs by collaborator and friend Alex Beaupain (whose experienced loss of a mutual friend served as the inspiration for the film's narrative) and a strong ensemble cast who perform the musical numbers in their own unadulterated voices - including Brigitte Roüan in the role of Julie's mother, Chiara Mastroianni as Julie's sister Jeanne, and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet as the idealistic Breton student, Erwann - Love Songs delightfully (and unabashedly) expresses the poetry in the quotidian in all its intoxicating, dislocated presence and bittersweet, lingering memory.