By Fanny Ohier
The French Institute screened the movie Les Chansons d’Amour on Sunday 16 June as part of its cinematic programme. Directed by Christophe Honoré, the movie was nominated for the French movie competition Le Festival de Cannes in 2007, in several categories.
The movie tells the story of a young, charming and carefree man called Ismaïl Bénoliel, who experiences a sudden loss. Les Chansons d’Amour, which means Love Songs, is an inventive musical which takes place in the early 2000s in the maze that is Paris. The alternation of dialogue and songs is orchestrated with a pleasant suppleness and Alex Beaupain’s music helps the characters to express their unspoken feelings into poetic words. As a result of this finely tuned combination of the spoken and sung word, the movie soundtrack won an award at the festival in Cannes.
The first part of the movie titled The Departure narrates the collapse of Ismaïl’s relationship with Julie Pommeraye. The disputes and squabbles between the lovers are partly caused by the presence of a third person, Alice, who they invited into their relationship as a lover but ends up taking too much space.
Then the total reversal of the movie occurs. Ismaïl, played by Louis Garrel, has to face The Absence, the second chapter of the movie, and he begins to wander, both in love and on the streets of Paris. His explorations finally lead him into the arms of Erwann, a young high school boy who clearly cares more for the love he bears for Ismaïl than for the realisation that he is sexually attracted to men.
By then we have arrived at The Return, the last chapter of the movie. Ismaïl does not fight the past anymore and decides to move forward. He comes to terms with himself and accepts the love offered to him.
The faltering and over the top performances of the actors at the beginning of the movie gradually give way to a touching sincerity in the later scenes. The supporting roles of Alice and Erwann, respectively acted by Clotilde Hesme and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, give the movie a significant depth.
“The main character Ismaïl is searching for love and security, this is all he needs,” Sara Uthman said, a young girl present at the screening, “I liked that idea.” The idea of a musical was also widely appreciated by the young public.
The gay love scenes of Les Chansons d’Amour are subtle but explicit, and provoked a unanimous negative response from the viewers we spoke to. It was a surprising and bold choice of the French Institute to screen a movie in which the content had also shocked French audiences.