Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Qu'est-ce que les français ont été jusqu'à?: Short Rants on Les Chanson d'Amour [Love Songs] and Tell No One

Les Chansons d'Amour [Love Songs] (Christophe Honoré, 2008): Well, at least it was a major improvement over Ma Mère. There's something about Honoré's erratic, actor-unfriendly direction that doesn't work for me. What takes place in individual scenes is usually very interesting, but the way Honoré connects (or, shall I say, doesn't connect) eliminates any chance for dramatic effect. Just like I complained about in Ma Mère, the characters do complete 180's between consecutive scenes (Garrel's character literally went from "Get away, stalker" to "I think I'm in love" with Leprince-Ringuet's character in a matter of two scenes) and erases any chance for proper character development. How can we get to know these characters and relate to them when their reaction to anything and everything happening is chopped away and we are left to guess how they bridged the gap between two very different emotional states? Some may think I'm just lazy for not connecting the dots, but I think Honoré is lazy for not providing a few more dots. I pity the poor actors, which include Honoré fave Louis Garrel, Ludvine Sagnier and talented newcomer Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, who are forced to act here without much to go on or really do. They try their damndest, but it is freaking hard trying to make characters from ideas and vignettes of people.

The brilliant thing about Les Chansons d'Amour, however, is the use of musical numbers in the narrative. They aren't used like the musical numbers in HSM3, which are mainly for entertainment purposes only; in Les Chansons d'Amour, the songs allow the characters to express themselves and their unusual relationships in ways that they can't in the "real" world of speaking and communicating with each other. When Julie and Ismael, in another one of their numerous and ongoing fights, suddenly break out into song with Alice trying to unite them, it is not merely to entertain us for a few minutes. With her constant interruptions into their fighting and literally stepping between them, trying to unite them together through her, we finally understand her role in the threesome relationship that they have developed. While the lyrics don't translate so well in English sometimes, the music is often times beautiful and completely captures the emotions they are trying to portray. Dramatically, the film is kind of a bust, but with an interesting use of musical numbers and game cast members, Les Chansons d'Amour sort of redeems itself by the end. Sort of. B-

Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2008): Whoever described this film as "Hitchcockian" was entirely accurate; the fact that it's more Saboteur than The 39 Steps or North By Northwest seems to have been left out, unfortunately. For a two hour, edge-of-your-seat thriller, this film felt like it dragged on for at least 4 and a half (Gone With the Wind feels infinitely shorter in comparison). I kept waiting for something in the first twenty minutes to grab my attention and make me care in the slightest about any of the main character, but, alas, the wait was in vain. By the time Francois Cluzet's character is about to be taken in by the police for the murder of his dead wife's friend and he decides to run away from the police because he's innocent (my least favorite cliché in the history of film, FYI), all I kept hoping was that someone would catch him, put him in jail and give him the electric chair. With a main character you can't root for, plot twists that lead to incessant and annoying dead ends and scenes that just go nowhere and somehow feel boring, Tell No One is quite possibly one of the biggest duds of the year. And was anyone else annoyed as hell by the ending? Why are you bothering to tell me one 10 minute explanation when most of it's a lie and then you are forced to spend another 5 minuted telling me what really happened? Blurg, this movie was awful and another entry into my future book, This Film is Good?!: Films Beloved by Critics of All Sorts that Suck Major Ass. D+

4 comments:

J.D. said...

France must hate you so much right now.

mB said...

I was a bit less harsh on Love Songs but upon re-reading my review I realised I probably had the same reservations about the film, but was consoled by the use of the form and its two beautiful leads to tarnish my image of the film: http://ablognextdoor.blogspot.com/2008/05/les-chansons-damour-or-top-5-academic.html

Dame James Henry said...

J.D.: Sorry France if you're offended, but I call 'em like I see 'em. As a consolation gift, I usually do love your country, your actors and your films!

MB: Your review and J.D.'s recommendation were actually the two main reasons I wanted to see what this film was all about. You're so right in your review, though: there are so many different papers you could write concerning this film, but the film needs more than just ideas. Sadly, there's not much more to Les Chansons d'Amour besides its academia nature and Garrel/Leprince-Ringuet looking so fine together

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