The musical genre, inflected by realism, has survived in modern France, and directors/producers have returned to it at fairly regular intervals ever since Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” kickstarted it. Even French masters like Godard and Rivette have dabbled in musicals now and then.
Divided into three chapters, “Love Songs” (a la Lars Von Trier) has fine performances and all the actors use their own voice to great effect. The narrative is simply pt essentially French with wit and unabashed sexuality taking over as a fine art that only the Gallic are capable of.
Ismael (Garrel) lives with his girlfriend, Julie (Sagnier), but when his colleague Alice (Clotilde Hesme), predominantly lesbian, moves in with them to pump in a bit of excitement in the couple’s lives, problems begin to creep. Through 13 tunes, helmer Honore manages a splendid work that weaves in and out of genuine grief and tragedy that the characters, including Julie’s parents and sisters (Mastroianni is one), overcome in a variety of ways. It is, however, interesting, to watch the path Ismael adopts, while shrugging off the comfort of Julie’s family.
“Love Songs” may at the first glance seem very dissimilar to the director’s earlier “Inside Paris”, but on a closer look one can easily see how alike the two films really are. Honore’s breeziness reflects abundantly in “Love Songs” as well, and made as a tribute to a dead friend, the movie has the power to tug at your heart strings. When Ismael sings, “Every minute is like a sob”, walking down a lonely Paris street, the gravity of loss is conveyed in an utterly poignant way.
In Competition, “Love Songs” may not walk away with a prize, but it a film that moves you. And who cares about the Palms then.
Russia’s entry “The Banishment” by Andrei Zvyagintsev begins like a thriller: a car zipping by, its long shots adding to the mystery, a bullet in a man’s arm being removed in a clandestine manner and the pregnant pauses. But it turns out to be a film about a family that moves into a secluded countryside to grapple with boredom, adultery, guilt and finally death. We really have no explanation for many of the things that happen there. Why must an abortion be carried out in such secrecy, when does all this happen? In short, “The Banishment” is hardly competition material. And I saw many in the audience with a shut eye, and at nearly two-and-a-half hours, this work was trying.
Remember Audrey Tautou who played Tom Hanks’ sidekick in “The Da Vinci Code” that caused such a bang at the last Cannes Film Festival. (The movie was panned, ripped apart and thrown back into the cans, and nobody talks about it any more.) Well, Tautou – whom I felt was a bad actress at least in the Code – will now play Coco Chanel, the French designer who gave fashion and fragrance a new meaning, blending style and substance with such finesse that French designing began to ride the skies. Anne Fontaine will helm the yet to be titled movie, which will focus on Chanel’s childhood and early adult years. Fontaine said that she had conceived the idea with Tautou in mind.
Chanel was born in degrading poverty, and was the daughter of a travelling salesman. That was 1883. When her mother died, her father abandoned her, and little Coco spend seven years in an orphanage, where she learnt to sew. But fashion was not her first dream. She wanted to be a singer, and she did sing in “Who’s Seen Coco in Trocadero”. She was then nicknamed Coco. It was during her years as a cabaret dancer that she began making clothes for stars that eventually led her to become one of the greatest names in the world of style. And, she was not just that. She was an enigma, and will Tautou be able to create that?
(Webposted May 19 2007)