May 18, 2007

Cannes. Les Chansons d'amour.

"Jacques Demy was really the last French filmmaker to make musicals where songs, action and romantic drama blended effortlessly," asserts the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "Nevertheless, this has not deterred French novelist-filmmaker Christophe Honoré from bravely attempting to resuscitate the (mostly) discarded genre. The result is mixed."

Les Chansons d'amour

Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen Daily, paints a slightly more elaborate background. "It's an institution that ambitious French directors have returned to with regularity, with even the likes of Godard and Rivette dabbling in it, while the last really successful breakthrough in the field was Ducastel and Martineau's Aids-themed Jeanne et le Garcon Formidable.... But Honoré's competition entry, while theoretically positioned to take him into the top rank of rising French auteurs, is a self-satisfied damp squib which succeeds neither as realist narrative nor as heart-lifting romance, and which provides a rather unexceptional soundtrack palette for its tale of chic, arty young people grieving and falling in love."

At indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez listens in on the press conference and gets a bit of background on Love Songs (Les Chansons d'Amour). "A collaboration between Honore and musician Alex Beaupain, the film features Beaupain's songs sung by actors Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet.... Honore approached Beaupain about building a screenplay around some of Beaupain's songs. Despite some friction that the two acknowledged... Honore enlisted his longtime friend to adapt some of the tunes."

"[I]ts portrayal of both death and romance are equally implausible," writes Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "[Honoré's] last film Dans Paris stood just on the right side of whimsy, but this new film is poorly conceived and weak. The songs are dreadful too."

Variety's Jay Weissberg finds it "stumbling a bit in capturing the genuine grief that sits at its heart, though once again his feel for family is unerring and some of pic's greatest charms come from the warmth they inspire. Unabashedly French in its handling of threesomes and porous sexuality, this tale of a romance cut short by tragedy yet finding a way toward love again should play well locally, with respectable offshore prospects."

Mike D'Angelo (ScreenGrab) finds it "rather a bad musical, replete with repetitive yet forgettable songs, halfhearted stabs at offhanded choreography, and cozy narcissism masquerading as ardor."

"[E]ven if you're not won over by its uneven charms, you have to admire its hutzpah," writes Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog. "We started off with that kind of shrug and by the end were genuinely fond. Qui sait?"

This is Honoré's "most accessible film to date," writes editor Boyd van Hoeij. "Are the characters completely believable? No. Are the feelings the characters talk and sing about pinpointed with a precision that seems to have become Honoré trademark as well? Very much so. It is this quality that makes Les chansons d'amour a good film - if not necessarily a good musical."

Updates, 5/19: "Honoré's film employs the same three chapter structure and even the same chapter headings - Departure, Absence and Return - as The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, and the two pictures have a common theme of love and loss," writes Wendy Ide for the London Times. "But Chanson's jaded bed-hopping, Gauloise-puffing, quotation-parrying Parisians are a world away from the bittersweet innocence of Cherbourg."

Fabien Lemercier, writing for Cineuropa, finds that "the 36 year-old director-scriptwriter brilliantly overcomes the difficulties of the genre, with songs written by Alex Beaupain perfectly punctuating an intriguing story of turbulent emotions in various forms (love, bisexuality, death, sorrow, rebirth).... [T]he film reveals a working class and multicultural Paris, captured with much veracity through the wanderings of several characters along the city's streets."

Update, 5/28: "How do you inherit from New Wave cinema?" asks Emmanuel Burdeau (Cahiers du cinéma). "No, you can't, it is eternal and perhaps cannot be outdone. Rather, this question: To what extent can a movement that was notoriously heterosexual be translated into homosexual terms?"

Cannes @ 60. Index.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 18, 2007 12:59 PM




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