I feel a song com­ing on

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

EARLY in this year’s Cannes fes­ti­val, writer-di­rec­tor Christophe Honoré was philo­soph­i­cal about the prospects for his mod­ern-day mu­si­cal in the com­pe­ti­tion for the Palme d’Or. He com­pared the fes­ti­val to the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test be­cause “France usu­ally comes sec­ond or third last.”

Honoré’s pre­dic­tion was not far off the mark: Love Songs was passed over by the jury, and it di­vided the crit­ics more than any other film, as mu­si­cals tend to do.

Re­ar­rang­ing 13 poppy tunes com­posed by Alex Beau­pain, Honoré al­lows his char­ac­ters to ex­press their emo­tions through burst­ing into song, spon­ta­neously in the man­ner of orig­i­nal screen mu­si­cals from Jac­ques Demy’s The Um­brel­las of Cher­bourg to the re­cent Once.

Love Songs is set among the self-ab­sorbed young bour­geoisie of Paris, talk­ing and smok­ing pro­fusely as they try to deal with their com­pli­cated sex lives. In his third film for Honoré (af­ter Dans Paris and Ma Mère), Louis Gar­rel dis­plays a de­cent singing voice as he en­gag­ingly plays the piv­otal char­ac­ter, a charm­ing but emo­tion­ally im­ma­ture young man who works as a mag­a­zine sub-ed­i­tor.

Bor­row­ing from the struc­ture of The Um­brel­las of Cher­bourg, Love Songs is in three sec­tions. At the out­set, Gar­rel’s Is­maël is in a re­la­tion­ship with Julie (Lu­di­vine Seigner) when his bi­sex­ual col­league Alice (Clotilde Hesme) joins them to form a menage à trois. Tragedy strikes abruptly, and Is­maël is on his own again and heartbroken.

When Julie’s sis­ter (Chiara Mas­troanni) ex­presses con­cern for Is­maël, he re­jects her ef­forts, just as he re­buffs the ad­vances of a gay young Bre­ton (Gré­goire Leprince-Rin­quet) who has fallen head over heels for him. Is­maël must fi­nally come to terms with life, love and loss.

De­spite the sad­ness at its core, Love Songs is by some way the light­est, most up­beat film to date from Honoré, buoyed with good hu­mour in its sung and spo­ken lines. All the ac­tors pro­vide their own singing voices and ac­quit them­selves re­spectably, and they in­habit their char­ac­ters with ea­ger com­mit­ment in this ap­peal­ing di­ver­tisse­ment.

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