27 June 2008

Plug of the Week: Love Songs ("Les Chansons d’Amour", a movie by Honoré)

"Love Songs" is a recent French film that is supposedly a modern version of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", which I somehow missed (like punk) and which I obviously need to catch up on (as I am doing with punk). Since I haven't seen UofC, I have nothing to add to any comparison there.

"Love Songs" is set in Paris, about three young adults who are in a menage à trois that has just about run its course, the parents of one of the women, and another young man. It is all about these characters trying to figure out their various relationships and what love means, while smoking and speaking in extended metaphors. In other words, pretty standard French drama with some modern flavor. Despite that, the movie has its own weird wonderful personality. It is definitely not made in a movie factory.

The film is in three parts (signaled by big words on the screen saying "Part 1", etc.). At the end of Part 1, there is a surprising tragedy (saying that doesn't spoil because every blurb and review says as much), which puts everything on the boil.

What brings this movie to this blog is that it is a musical. You don't get a lot of those these days. It is not a "Hey, let's put on a show!" musical or a "Let's stop and do a Big Number!" musical. (For a good, lowkey recent example of the latter, I point you again to "Colma: the Musical", which I have already plugged.) This is a French movie about relationships—the characters talk a lot and have a lot of inner dialogs. Those dialogs are often in song.

The film is matter-of-fact about the music. The characters simply start singing as if it is a quite ordinary way to have a conversation. The songs are nice lightweight ballads which work very well in the contexts of the conversations and in the film as a whole. The songs are not wildly different from each other, but that makes sense in this film because individual people do tend to have a consistent way of speaking and the songs are extensions of their speech.

The instrumentation is used nicely behind the melodies to amplify what is being said. For example, there is one noteworthy scene in which two characters are singing sweetly about different kinds of love being like different kinds of apples and whether or not getting a worm between your teeth is a bug or a feature, while making very tender clothed love (and smoking, of course), while the music behind them gets more and more intense. The climax of the scene is pretty much the instruments having an orgasm while the characters stop singing and roll off screen (presumably to finish undressing and have their own orgasms). It is beautiful, affecting, and effective exposition.

The actors do their own singing, which they do reasonably well. They are better than J. Random Actor, but ordinary enough to make their performances easy to relate to. I wouldn't buy a soundtrack album, but I found the singing pleasant and very natural to the characters. (As a nice bonus, there is much pleasant non-cookiecutter actor and actress hotness, in a variety of flavors.)

What is particularly handy is that this film is available in the Netflix Watch Now program, which means it is free if you have Internet Explorer and a Netflix subscription. Free is good.

One note: There is same-sex snogging / macking. Whether this turns you on, turns you off, or you don't care—now you know.

Love Songs

Love Songs
on Netflix

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