Thursday, January 22, 2009

Les Chansons d'Amour

I started a post about Louis Garrel but I quickly realized that all my sentences started and ended with "Les Chansons d'Amour", so I might as well do a Les Chansons d'Amour post. It's my favourite of his movies (I really like La Belle Personne as well, but Les Chansons d'Amour owns my heart If you want my opinion, forget Ma Mère and Dans Paris).

He is one of my favourite actors and Les Chansons d'Amour is one of my favourite movies, for numerous reasons. It's a movie, as the title suggests, about love. The director depicts the life of young people who are full of life falling in and out of love, in and out life. Ismaël lives with Julie in a Parisian flat in the 10ème arrondissement and they both start to feel the routine of their love life to be too much to bear (this is what the song Inventaire is all about - Je ne trouve plus rien de neuf à te dire). They invite Alice (played by Clotilde Hesme) into their flat to spice it up a little and see if they can reconnect. After about 20 minutes, Julie dies suddenly. It takes humility in an actress for her to leave a movie in which she's a lead after only 20 minutes. Ismaël, brilliantly portrayed by Louis Garrel, has to move on and he does so better than Julie's family. On the surface, he seems to have forgotten all about his girlfriend when everybody wants him to remember and talk about his suffering.
This movie is so much a part of me it's hard to talk about it. I have perhaps never felt so close to fictional characters before. It takes place in Paris, not in an idealized Paris (although the language used is a bit more posh than the one I use) but the real Paris filmed here as in a documentary. I've lived in Paris all my life and seeing the city I've always known being the background of such a hopeful story brought me more than I can express. It simply feels like home.

Il faudra bien que tu t'avances si on veut combler la distance entre nous

The movie was shot during the presidential race of 2007, about 4 months before the election in May (it was shot in January) and everywhere there are subtle references to the political context, how could there not be? Ismaël and Alice work for a newspaper and that's what made the headlines in January 2007. It takes intelligence to make a movie about youth in 2007. Absolutely nobody before had ever targetted youth as the cause of all evil the way Sarkozy did during the campaign. The movie feels so contemporary and makes a beautiful statement. It's a little bubble of resistance in itself.

As-tu déjà aimé pour la beauté du geste?

Later, Christophe Honoré, the director, would do a movie called La Belle Personne (starring Louis Garrel again, but also several actors who already worked with him on Les Chansons d'Amour, including Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) inspired by the book La Princesse de Clèves by Mme de LaFayette after he heard the same president despising this 17th century novel (the first historical novel, at least in France) in one of his speeches as too literary and too difficult for the common man. Honoré's answer was a movie in which the plot of La Princesse de Clèves is easy to relate to and even the common man can find echoes of it in everyday life.

Je suis beau, jeune et breton, je sens la pluie, l'océan et les crêpes au citron

The songs used during the movie are all excellent, the lyrics are sophisticated, sexy (Je n'aime que toi), sometimes lyrical (Ma Mémoire Sale) - I've never been fond of musicals but here it works beautifully, it never feels forced. The actors, wo aren't professional singers, do a great job with the songs composed by Alex Beaupain, and the music is splendid. By the end of the movie, Ismaël embraces his feelings for Julie but realizes he feels more alive than he's ever felt with somebody else, Erwan, brilliantly portrayed by Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet. Ismaël lets it all go and gives in to love. This movie is a tribute to love, a tribute to hope, to moving on and making each day count.

Aime-moi moins, mais aime-moi longtemps

From left to right : Louis Garrel, Chiara Mastroiani, Clotilde Hesme, Ludivine Sagnier, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet