Love Songs

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Love Songs, Christophe Honoré’s musical

trifle about loves lost and lorn on the streets and in the apartments

of Paris, doesn’t come into its own until around the halfway point.

The story about a girl, a boy, and a girl living together in the big

city is basically a beautiful, sophisticated soap opera punctuated by

the occasional musical number. The threesome of Ismael, Julie and

Alice is fairly well played by the brooding Louis Garrel (best known

as Eva Green’s creepy brother Theo in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers),

Ludivine Sagnier (the bombshell from Ozon’s Swimming Pool), and

Clotilde Hesme (new to me, though she appeared with Garrel in Regular

Lovers, directed by the famous elder Garrel, Philippe). A plot twist at around the half-hour

mark throws the relationship into disarray, but the film doesn’t find

its emotional core until the gentle, boyish-looking Erwann (Grégoire

Leprince-Ringuet) shows up, crooning sweet nothings at Ismael until

the latter succumbs — it’s the first time any of the film’s songs feels more than utterly perfunctory.


Certainly Honoré throws a change-up —

heterosexist viewers may consider it a bait and switch — as the

film switches focus from a conventional love triangle to its gay duo.

A scene in the first section of the film in which Ismael lounges in

bed as Julie and Alice pull their tops off (they’re seen only from

behind) is catnip for voyeurs, and perhaps a deliberate parody on the

male gaze that defines so much of romantic cinema. As arbitrary as

that shot is, it’s subverted by the increasingly glorious happiness

Honoré affords his more passionate lovers in the film’s second half.

Honoré has some fun with Ismael’s switch-hitting — as when Julie’s

sister, to her disappointment, finds him in bed with another man —

but the tongue-in-cheek climax, which has Ismael literally

spotlighted against the side of his apartment building as he comes to

terms with his identity as a lover, is full of enough kitschy

optimism to add at least the illusion of emotional meaning to the

thin stuff that comes before it. B-

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