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Relationship Status: It's complicated
on November 4, 2012
"Love Songs" is not what it might seem by glancing at the cover: a light-hearted musical about three young adults in love in Paris, enjoying a relationship that is more of a menage-a-trois than a love triangle. The movie takes a dark turn, and ends up exploring more types of love and more of the different emotions that love inspires than what is apparent at first glance.
"Love Songs" is a star turn for Louis Garrel, and he does an admirable job as Ismael. It helps that he is a beautiful man and a talented actor, as is especially demonstrated in two scenes where he plays parlor games (charades and puppeteering) for an amused audience that show off his expressive range. His character Ismael gets put through an emotional wringer as in a fairly short order of time he experiences a wide variety of different types of loving relationships, from the casual to the committed, with a variety of different people. Louis Garrel performs the role admirably, but one of the shortcomings of the movie is that it tries to do too much: any one of Ismael's relationships could have generated its own movie. Or maybe that is the point, at the end of the day: that is just the way that life is for young adults in the City of Light.
Ludivine Sagnier fans, of which I am most definitely one, will be a bit disappointed with "Love Songs", as the film definitely belongs to Garrel, not Sagnier. Sagnier's is a supporting role, and one which requires her to look wan and disinterested at a critical juncture, which does not play to her strength as a vibrant fun-loving woman. Clotilde Hesme is given a more carefree, impish role, and she does a fine job with it.
Director Christophe Honore does several things very well: the backdrop of Paris, especially the street scenes, makes the viewers feel as though they've been transported there; and the conclusion of the nightclub scene, which features several freeze-frames while the sound continues, is an emotionally touching way of conveying what is happening. But at the end I think that "Love Songs" tries to do a bit too much, and could have been better if it had reduced the scope of the plot. But again, maybe that is the point the film is trying to make about love: it's complicated.