The Names of Love

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Time Out says

Tue Jun 21 2011

There are innumerable ways to set up a romantic comedy meet-cute; only the French, perhaps, would think to stage one involving political talk-radio, the avian flu and beaucoup screaming. When Arthur (Gamblin) and Baya (L'Esquive motormouth Forestier) first lay eyes on each other, he---a veterinarian---is appearing on a call-in chat show. Working the station's phones, our lefter-than-left-wing heroine gets fed up with stupid questions about deceased birds (what about the suffering people of France?) and treats the shocked guest to a loud on-air litany of vulgarities. Thus is born a tempestuous amour, and viewers should savor this spiky, unpredictable scene as if it were a delicious bordeaux. It's the last such ecstatic moment they'll get here.

Before these two mismatched lovebirds take their inaugural roll in the hay, we're treated to both characters' backstories, delivered in the most eye-gougingly self-conscious manner possible. (Can we retire the whole characters-conversing-with-their-younger-selves trope, please?) The Holocaust looms large in Arthur's past; Baya, the child of an Algerian immigrant and a French hippie, charts her defining moment as being molested by a piano teacher. She now screws right-wingers in an effort to convert them to radicalism, and her free-spirit ideology chafes against Arthur's uptight bourgie persona. The question of whether the couple can overcome respective traumas and inbred social attitudes is essentially moot; the real query is how much insufferable Gallic tweeness you can stand before simply shouting "no, merci!"

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