out of Five
Running time: 95
Les Chansons d'Amour starts well but loses its way in the middle section and never quite recovers, despite some catchy songs and decent performances.
What's it all about?
One of those French films where all the characters keep bursting randomly into song (see also Eight Women, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, etc.), Les Chansons D'Amour (that's Love Songs, translation fans) stars Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier as Ismael and Julie, a couple who have recently entered into a menage a trois with Ismael's friend and co-worker Alice (Clotilde Hesme). At a family dinner, it emerges that Julie's family (including Chiara Mastroianni as her sister Jeanne) aren't too keen on the idea, while neither Ismael nor Julie are entirely sure that that's what they want.
However, just when you think you know where the film is going, tragedy strikes, sending all the various characters off in different directions, particularly Ismael, who finds unexpected comfort in a developing friendship with the persistent Erwann (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet).
To be fair, the songs (by Alex Beaupain) are extremely catchy for the most part, though they do eventually wear out their welcome. The performances are good too, particularly Ludivine Sagnier, though the film loses its way after her character disappears and never fully recovers.
A major problem is that Ismael himself isn't an especially likeable character – his constant clowning around with impressions and puppetry is meant to be charming and amusing, but it's actually incredibly irritating. Similarly, the songs are unimaginatively staged and after the novelty wears off, they don't really seem to add anything to the film – at least until the final number.
In short, Les Chansons D'Amour has some nice ideas and some decent performances but it's neither as clever nor as emotionally moving as it should have been.