Love Songs
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (31st January 2009).
The Film

Film has historically served as a site for questioning traditional notions of sexuality or even reinforcing antiquated notions of gender roles, especially within relationships. Though there are definitely more films in the latter category, films that present a challenge to prevailing notions of gender or sexuality don’t always work out. At times it just feeds back into some other sort of exploitation, like with the sexploitation films of the 70’s, while others try so hard to approach the edge of the norm they fall far too short of any sort of disruption of the dominant mindset. With the recent French musical “Love Songs” (2007), writer/director Christophe Honoré takes a much more subtle approach to sexuality and relationships by crafting a poppy musical about a threesome that doesn’t keep pointing out the fact that it’s edgy every five seconds.

Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) and Ismaël (Louis Garrel) are in a relationship that seems fairly stable, they have some bickerings, but most of it seems in jest, and they appear to love each other. At the same time Ismaël’s co-worker Alice (Clotilde Hesme) gets brought into their relationship to form a little threesome that bridges the three together. Unfortunatley one night after their trio begins, Julie suddenly has a heart problem and dies outside of the club, causing Alice and Ismaël to find new relationships and console each other, finding their own way in a very musical fashion. Julie’s family and Ismaël begin to console and depend upon one another, they knew about the threesome, but when Ismaël starts finding love in other places some of the family becomes upset.

Thankfully the film is a musical, because if it wasn’t for the music to keep the film alive, much of the story would fall apart and just not be interesting at all. The songs are catchy enough, though you can’t really sing along if you don’t know French, and they do an okay job of advancing the plot, but unfortunately the actual plot of the film seems like it’s not trying to do anything, just move some characters around to different istuations with some different songs and different relationships. In essence, the film seems a bit incomplete, the stories don’t need to tie up nicely or have everything sorted out in the end, but things seem to stop and start at various points without a good amount of explanation or connection. Much of the plot with Julie’s family gets picked up when it’s needed to advance certain points of plot, while elements of it drop out completely when not needed after they’ve been set up to be consequential.

Honoré’s directing matches the script, he has some interesting shots and keeps the film engaging on a visual level, but it doesn’t really do anything to wow me. Like much of the film it’s mostly just following from scene to scene rather than trying to set itself up on it’s own, or creating some sort of distinct tone within the film. That being said, the film was nominated for a Palme D’or and has the potential to get there, but it just doesn’t seem to go as far as it needs to. The relationships between the various characters are interesting and the romances work for what the film is, but they never add the amount of depth I wanted to see out of the characters or the drama between all of them.

Overall it’s not a bad movie, but at the same time it doesn’t push itself into my memory so that I’ll be thinking about it for some time after. The songs are nice, but not terribly catchy; the characters are interesting, but their stories aren’t that powerful in the larger scheme of the film. I think Honoré does a good and subtle job of dealing with the threesome aspect of the relationship by largely glossing over it rather than trying to make it seem like it was so bizarre and edgy, but this same kind of nonchalant attitude seems to wash over the majority of the film.

Video

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video presentation looks good, the colors come through nicely and the contrast is good. The video quality is surprisingly high for a release of a foreign or independent film since these typically don’t really get dealt with in their United States release. It keeps the weight of the film without being too grainy and overall is a nice transfer, though the film itself could be a bit more colorful.

Audio

Presented in either French Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, the 5.1 track has a good sound mix that keeps the volume levels consistent throughout the film, doing a fairly good job with the songs that are obviously recorded separately (though a couple of times the levels between the musical section and the regular film feel a bit off).
There’s also optional English subtitles.

Extras

There are no real extras except for the film's theatrical trailer for the film, which runs for 2 minutes and 33 seconds.

There are a few start-up bonus trailers for:

- “Dans Paris” which runs 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
- “Mise En Scene: Jacques rivette” runs for 1 minute and 45 seconds.
- “Flight of the Red Balloon” runs for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: F Overall: B-

 


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