Les Chansons d’Amour - review
In Les Chansons d’amour Christophe Honoré uses the great French filmmaker Jacques Demy’s 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as a template, splitting his musical romance into three sections named ‘The Depart’, ‘Absence’ and ‘The Return’. But Honoré is no purist, and, unlike Demy, he mixes up proceedings with spoken dialogue, veering away from Demy’s kitsch production values and delivering raw images of Paris in the traditions of the Nouvelle Vague.
Where Demy had Catherine Deneuve, Honoré’s muse is Louis Garrel. This is the third time the director and actor have worked together after Ma Mere and the excellent Dans Paris, but it seems as though Honoré has lost his reins somewhat. Garrel’s flamboyance and quirky tics are out of place in this film and often detract from the central theme of lost love.
Ismaël (Garrel) is dating Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), who we first see echoing Deneuve in Cherbourg, walking across the screen in a yellow overcoat. Keeping the links with Demy’s classic is Deneuve’s daughter Chiara Mastroianni who plays Julie’s sister. Mastroianni is the moral conscience of the story and could easily be the girl in the car at the petrol station at the end of Demy’s film, now all grown up. She is shocked to discover that Julie is enjoying threesomes with Ismaël and co-worker Alice (Clotilde Hesme). This depiction of a homosexual relationship marks a clear jump forward from Demy, but it is a death, shot with still photographs, in the manner of American photographer Weegee, that really turns events on their head and leads the film down a far more poignant road.
Ultimately, however, despite a fine pedigree, this film never quite reaches the needed crescendo, and unlike Demy’s classic it doesn’t leave you crying out for an encore. Still worth a look though. (Kaleem Aftab)
Filmhouse, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 14 Dec.