Paris, city of love – or so its reputation goes. That said, it’s hard to know precisely what is felt – or, indeed, how deeply – by Ismaël (Louis Garrel), Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) and Alice (Clotilde Hesme), bright young things caught up in what may seem from the outside to be a somewhat self-consciously Bohemian ménage-à-trois of drifting, shifting allegiances. Still, they’re apparently happy enough to break into song at the drop of a hat – until, that is, death strikes without warning and grief, guilt, recrimination, compassion and confusion take hold of the remaining pair, the departed’s family and various friends. And lovers, inevitably…
This writer is as fond of musicals – French ones included – as the next person, but from the opening credits, with Christopher Honoré trumpeting his own creative input and that of his collaborators by means of surnames alone (we’re apparently expected to recognise them all), the writer-director’s fourth feature feels at best like misguided folly, at worst an act of arrogance. Things don’t improve when the first of the three parts (‘Le départ’, later followed by ‘L’absence’ and ‘Le retour’) is announced in words and typeface echoing ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, Honoré courting comparison as he pays hommage. If only this had even a third of the subtlety, charm, inventiveness, sincerity and depth of feeling as Demy’s classic.
But no: the songs are poor, the faddishness (folk parading books passim, à la Godard) and Garrel’s performance are irritating, and only Chiara Mastroianni as a grieving sister brings any real sense of conviction to her role. The allusions to Sarkozy do nothing for the film’s credibility either.