Christophe HonorÃƒÂ©‘s "Les Chansons d’Amour" is a Hail Mary pass of a film, an omnisexual modern Parisian musical that makes the director’s last effort, the dreadful and ridiculous bit of Oedipal arthouse fartery that was "Ma MÃƒÂ¨re," look like a safe choice. It’s also exists so brazenly in its own world that even if you’re not won over by its uneven charms, you have to admire its chutzpah. We started off with that kind of shrug and by the end were genuinely fond, so qui sait?
And so: Louis Garrel, he of the massive tousled head and melancholic Gallic gaze, stars as IsmaÃƒÂ«l, who’s been together with his girlfriend Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) for eight years. The two are still in love but are concerned about his long hours (he works at a newspaper) and general relationship malaise. To keep things fresh, they’ve introduced a third person into their romance (ah, France) — IsmaÃƒÂ«l’s coworker Alice (Clotilde Hesme). This, Julie confides to her mother on the sidelines of a family dinner, only seems to be exacerbating things. And then… Julie dies. IsmaÃƒÂ«l is a wreck, and Julie’s family members struggles to keep tabs on him while dealing with their own grief. He eventually wavers towards finding comfort in the arms of a persistent, smitten high school boy (GrÃƒÂ©goire Leprince-Ringuet). Did we mention this is a musical? The characters continually break into brief, pop-influenced song, sometimes peppered with amusingly unmusical vulgarities. Only a few of the tunes are in any way memorable, the best being a discussion of the trials of the mÃƒÂ©nage ÃƒÂ trois that rises to a joyously 60sesque la-la chorus.
Where are we with the musical these days? The combined weight of realism and irony crushed it for a while, and after that any song-and-dance number had to have inherent kitsch or comedy (or be animated). "Les Chansons d’Amour" is the latest film to try to drag the genre back from the realms of camp, and it bears some resemblance to "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" in its desires to combine the day-to-day and matter-of-fact (or, for "Chansons," the overtly contemporary) with the weightless magic of a great musical number. HonorÃƒÂ©’s film rarely reaches those heights, but it attempts them with nary a wink, and for that alone it certainly earns a salute.
"Les Chansons D’Amour" has no US distributor.