As in last year’s Dans Paris, 37-year-old filmmaker Christophe Honoré ventures back to that lost Eden known as the French New Wave, this time to punch up a featherweight tale of young love and loss with high-concept tomfoolery. And though Love Songs (or, if we could please use its original, more melodic title, Les Chansons d’amour) better evokes that era’s carefree cinematic spirit, it’s similarly bound by dictates and referents, twice-removed and over-rehearsed. Hence Love Songs is not merely a musical—in which passionate, lost twentysomethings wend their way through difficult times by breaking into pop tunes with puppy-love ingenuousness—but also a riff on musicals, performance, play-acting, etc. Part of this is just by postmodern design, yet often the result is simultaneously ingratiating and distancing. Those looking for the exhilarating crescendos of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (the film’s declared inspiration: Honore borrows Jacques Demy’s structure, separating his narrative into the same three distinct chapters—Departure, Absence, and Return) might be put off by the film’s less dramatic swooniness; Love Songs is the brief dalliance to Cherbourg‘s intense affair, perhaps too shy to fully take the plunge, but nimble enough to give off a flirtatious buzz.
Dans Paris winked and nudged itself to the edge of oblivion, while Love Songs merely wants to smile and shrug its way into your heart. Thanks to a magnetic cast of up-and-coming certified French hotties frolicking through a roundelay of appealing polysexual pleasures, it almost gets there. Click here to read all of Michael Koresky’s review of Love Songs.