Whatever it is that Americans glamorize about Paris, the films of Christophe Honore possess in spades. Stylish, irreverent, gorgeously rendered and unabashedly romantic, his features are both modern and classically Gallic and “Love Songs,” a musical that IFC Films opens in the U.S. this Friday theatrically (and also on demand), may be his best yet. indieWIRE couldn’t have been more enthused to talk with him about this film and on the state of French film in general during an interview during NYC’s Rendezvous With French Cinema series.
In his latest effort, Honore tells the story of a couple with a stalled relationship. In an effort to re-energize their love lives, Ismael (Louis Garrel) and Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) enter into a playful yet emotionally charged threesome with Alice (Clotilde Hesme). A tragedy, however, strikes and the young Parisians are forced to deal with the fragility of life and the unexpected fluidity of love…
“I have always loved musical comedies, especially the George Cukor ones,” the writer/director says through a translator. “‘But Love Songs’ isn’t really inscribed in that tradition. It’s a sung film that falls in the tradition of realism. Of course, the first reference is to Jacques Demy‘s ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg,’ but I think even Demy is more of a subterranean level of influence.”
Continuing Honore adds, “The whole process of making this film was very speedy,” he says. Cast last November, the actors recorded the songs in a studio in December, and then shot the film during 30 days in January. “That’s how it is in France. You either take three years to get together the budget, or you just make the film with a ridiculously low amount of money. But these constraints inspire me.”
Honore makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t feel European film is a leader right now. “US cinema sets the bar both from an industry and an artistic point of view,” he says. “But as a filmmaker I am working principally for the French, although I am pleased that my films have reached an international stage.”
Like “Dans Paris,” Honore’s last film, “Love Songs” boasts a young cast of well-known French up-and-comers, including the waggish Louis Garrel, perhaps best known in the U.S. for his role in Bernardo Bertolucci‘s “The Dreamers.” “Young people have a certain immediacy when it comes to their emotions,” he allows, adding that the medium of song expressed this openheartedness as well. “When someone dares to ask someone to love them more, they risk that they may be loved less.” Without revealing any spoilers, suffice it to say “Love Songs” tackles this danger directly, in an almost literal way.
Asked whether he perceives himself a provocateur or a subversive, he laughs. “In France right now I am considered hip,” he admitted. “And I find that funny, because I really am a bit of a peasant. I’m Breton, (a person native to the French region of Brittany) and only came to Paris as an adult, so I view it as a bit of an outsider. But to provoke is to embarrass someone, and I don’t like to do that.”
That said, his films, especially “Love Songs,” entail a sexual fluidity that flouts any conventions, gay or straight. “It’s more that I am stubborn like a child in my films, and am concerned with imposed values in terms of sexuality,” he says, quoting Marguerite Duras: “Beware the morals of others.”
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