English Title: Love Songs
Original Title: Les chansons d’amour
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Director/Writer: Christophe Honoré
Music: Alex Beaupain
Cinematography: Rémy Chevrin
French filmmaker Christophe Honoré’s homage to Jacques Remy’s singsong musical films, LOVE SONGS, his fourth feature, plunders its triptych structure precisely from Remy’s THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964), divided into three chapters verbatim “Le départ, L’absence et Le retour”, it is a twee treatment of intimate relationship in a modern-day Paris, and beware that its dramatis personae will gladly sing at the drop of the hat, anywhere, anytime.
Our protagonist is Ismaël (Garrel), in the first chapter “The Departure”, he and his long-time girlfriend Julie (Sagnier) try to enliven their seven-year-itch doldrums with a menage-à-trois, and the third party is Ismaël’s colleague Alice (Hesme), who nonchalantly chants that she is the bridge between them. But the triangular equilibrium is not entirely stable, especially for the sensitive Julie, who divulges the with-it arrangement to her mother (Roüan) and elder sister Jeanne (Mastroianni), to their utter astonishment. Only soon after, Julie is abruptly succumbed to a cardia arrest.
The middle chapter “The Absence”, centers around Ismaël’s woebegone coping mechanism after the sudden bereavement, his inconsolable grief distances Alice and he feels encroachment from Jeanne, whose intention might not be entirely unsavory, Julie’s family still treats him like its own member, but it is the persistent pursuance from a young boy Erwann (Leprince-Ringuet) that casts a different light on Ismaël’s quagmire.
Finally in the “The Return” chapter, after a series of mishaps, mostly involving a bed-hopping Ismaël caught in flagrant delicto by Jeanne, who is piqued and befuddled by his wanton conducts to handle his grief, things tentatively steers towards a renewed hope in Ismaël’’s discovery of a new perspective of physical intimacy.
Steeped in a very Gallic cobweb of emotional vacillation, angst and nonchalance, LOVE SONGS fashionably delves into the modern relationship value with an attitude of exploring more unconventional options yet never feels too hokey or self-conscious. However, similar to Remy’s works, to this reviewer’s tin ears, it is the monotonous French chansons (here composed by Alex Beaupain) that dull the edge of elation and empathy. Garrel comports himself confidently in his swinging-both-ways panache, but a lingering image, besides Honeré’s surname-only opening credits and faux-archive footage in the wake of Julie’s demise, is drawn from Sagnier’s dainty presence, an impish figure that is taken too early from this world and its repercussions push her lover to get his feet wet in a new possibility that only too good to be true, but whatever works!