Monday, January 06, 2014
Love Songs (2007 film)
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/18/08 w/ Additional Edits.
Written and directed by Christophe Honore, Les Chansons d'Amour (Love Songs) is the story of a young couple who bring in a young woman into their lives. A threesome occurs as things become complicated as it's all told through song. A mix of tragedy, humor, and romance, the film is a tribute to the French New Wave as well as something upbeat with most French films often driven by cynicism. Starring Louis Garrel Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hemse, and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet. Les Chansons d'Amour is an excellent film from Christophe Honore.
A young man named Ismael (Louis Garrel) is in love with Julie (Ludivine Sagnier). Ismael is also in love with Alice (Clotilde Hemse) as all three embark on a threesome that all three seem to be into. Yet, Julie is starting to be tired from the threesome as Ismael and Alice are also working together. During a breakfast with Julie's parents and two sisters, Julie and Ismael attend where Ismael entertain the family. Yet, Julie reveals to her older sister Jeanne (Chiara Mastroianni) about the threesome as her mother (Brigitte Rouan) listens as well. After eating dinner at a bar with Alice, Ismael and Julie go with Alice to a concert as on the way. Alice reveals that her role in the relationship was to bring them together. At the concert, Alice meets a guy named Gwendal (Yannick Renier) but Julie feels ill where something horrible happens.
Now alone, Ismael is confused on what to do as Jeanne arrives at the apartment to pick up Julie's things. With Ismael at work, his relationship with Alice has changed where she's now living with Gwendal and his little brother Erwann (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet). Erwann is attracted to Ismael though Ismael isn't sure about this as he befriends him. With Jeanne now living at his apartment for a while, Ismael hangs out with Erwann though still haunted by the memory of what happened to Julie. During a lunch with Julie's family, it's been revealed that Ismael has inherited some money which he refuses to take. After a one-night stand with a bartender named Aude (Annabelle Hettman, Ismael learns that Jeanne is at the apartment still wanting to talk to him.
With Alice wanting to break up with Gwendal, she is convinced that she's followed by Erwann but is really following Ismael. Unsure of Erwann's intentions, he decides to continue the friendship as they grow close. When Alice gets contacted by Julie's mother and sister Jasmine (Alice Butaud), they wanted to know what was going on in Julie's relationship with Ismael. When Jeanne learns of how Ismael is coping, she confronts Ismael about what happened with Julie where Ismael is trying to figure out what went wrong as well.
The film is about the impact of a threesome between a young man and two women and the aftermath of how the young man tries to cope with the loss of one woman. When the other pulls away to form a relationship of her own with another man, the character of Ismael goes into a period of grieving and just trying to figure out where to go to next. All of this is done in song as several characters sing to convey what they're feeling and such. The approach is done naturally thanks in part to Christophe Honore's direction where it feels natural instead of staged. With his hand-held approach, on-location shooting, and compositions reminiscent of the French New Wave style. Though it's not perfect due to a few pacing issues and plot-staging. Honore does create a film that is truly entertaining and full of life despite its thematic tone towards tragedy.
Cinematographer Remy Chervin does excellent work with the film's colorful shots of Paris in the day and nighttime in its exterior settings along with wonderful blue-like shots of some of the film's interiors and soft lighting to convey the haunting tone of the film. Editor Chantal Hymans does a fabulous job with the film's editing, notably with speeding some scenes for humor along with cutting to play up to the film's musical tone as his editing is a highlight. Production designer Samuel Deshors and art director Emmanuelle Cuillery do an excellent job with the film's look for the home of Ismael and Julie along with the place Ismael and Alice works at. Costume designer Pierre Canitrot does a wonderful job with the film's costumes with the stylish dresses that Ludivine Sagnier wears to the suits that Louis Garrel wears along with the more youthful yet stylish clothes that Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet wears.
Sound editors Valerie Deloof and Agnes Ravez along with recordist Jean-Alexandre Villemer do excellent job in capturing the sound in its location as well as the vocal performances of the actors. The film's original music by Alex Beaupain is a wonderful mix of pop, rock, and ballads as all the actors do their own singing with the sultry Ludivine Sagnier bringing a breathy quality to her vocals with Chiara Mastroianni having a raspier quality that's reminiscent in the vocal style of her mother Catherine Deneuve. Louis Garrel had a more straight quality that works as someone who isn't a great vocalist in the traditional sense but managed to bring the emotional despair needed for those songs.
The cast is definitely filled with memorable performances from Jean-Marie Winling as Julie's father, Yannick Renier as Gwendal, Annabelle Hettman as Aude, and Alice Butaud as Julie's sister Jasmine. Brigitte Rouan is good as the concerned mother of Julie who wonders about Ismael's own emotional state in the aftermath of what had happened. Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet is wonderful as Erwann, the young man who has a thing for Ismael as he tries to flirt with him and such. Clotilde Hemse is very good as Alice, the third woman in the relationship who is the bridge between Julie and Ismael. Yet when that ends, she tries to move forward while providing some insight to Julie's family about that relationship.
Chiara Mastroianni is great as Julie's older sister Jeanne who is having an affair of her own, while dealing with loss and Ismael's behavior. Ludivine Sagnier is wonderfully divine as Julie, the woman of Ismael's life who feels frustrated as she tries to question about the status of her love life. Finally, there's Louis Garrel in a brilliant performance as Ismael. The protagonist who deals with loss and his own existential crises as Garrel brings a great sense of humor, charm, and subtlety to his performance.
Les Chansons d'Amour is an excellent and entertaining film from Christophe Honore featuring a superb performance from Louis Garrel. Fans of youthful, vibrant French films will enjoy it for its entertainment, bending of genres, and thematic tone. The film also has something for film buffs in its ode to the French New Wave while Louis Garrel is clearly becoming one of France's best young and rising talents in his work with Honore, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Francois Ozon among others. In the end, for a film with some excellent songs, musings on life, and that is entertaining. Les Chansons d'Amour is the film to go check out.
Christophe Honore Films: (Nous deux) - (Close to Leo) - (Seventeen Times Cecile Cassard) - (Ma Mere) - (Dans Paris)- (La Belle Personne) - (Making Plans for Lena) - (Man at Bath) - (The Beloved (2011 film))
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