Having recently moved back to India, I have found myself on a mini quest of sorts – to re-learn how to just be. It has been a while since I’ve done that. This Saturday had me on one such excursion – to the Chennai Rainbow Festival organized by the warm folks at Chennai Dost and hosted by the Alliance Française Chennai. I wanted to both, lose myself in the cinema and remind my queer self that it could exist at home without much angst. I ambled in a little past 4 pm – secretly tickled that the movies hadn’t started yet. Then, it was a sparsely populated theatre but by the end of the evening it filled right up to the brim with a diverse set of folks. And, perhaps that was the charm of it all. A shout-out here to Chennai Dost’s Vikranth Prasanna – A friend on the interwebs, but this evening I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person.
I saw a wonderful assortment of short films that evening and I’ll write a separate blog post discussing them later. Today, however, my words revolve around a particular film – the main feature of the evening: Les Chansons D’Amour (Love Songs) by Christophe Honoré. Perhaps its my wannabe francophone, perhaps its the shadow of heartbreak, perhaps its just me wishing I broke out into lil ditties more often for no reason whatsoever- whatever it may be, this movie in all its foreign euro-pop enchantment in 90 minutes became an All Time Favourite.
Les Chansons D’Amour (English: Love Songs)
Duration: 90 mins
Director: Christophe Honoré
Les Chansons D’ Amour is a story in 3 parts – The Departure, The Absence and The Return. It tells the tale of Julie Pommeraye (Ludivine Sagnier) and Ismaël Bénoliel (Louis Garrel) .Young Parisian somethings in a strange relationship and privy to an even stranger love. Julie and Ismaël are in a 3 way relationship. With Alice (Clotilde Hesme), Ismael’s work colleague. Go ahead, you can think How French! I won’t judge. At the start of the movie, Julie and Ismael appear to be facing turbulent times, yet not lacking in their quirky affection and want for the other. Having Alice in their bed and relationship is an attempt to salvage, save, spice – its not entirely clear what – Julie and Ismael’s accord. Yet, sorrow strikes the threesome and rather, quickly at that. How they cope forms the cadence of the rest of the movie. I won’t say any more…except to suggest that by the end, - no matter where on the wide spectrum of sexuality you fall, you will feel the same.
Here is the clincher – its a musical. As the director weaves a story both humorous and sorrowful, the characters break out into song without irrelevant choreography or missing a step. The catchy beats, the wistful violins, the lachrymose piano and campfire guitar elicit much out of the lyrics the main characters speak. I like to think they are wondering out loud. Ah! if only we could all do that as alluringly in real life. There are many things to love about this movie – if you don’t think too much that is. As starkly as the main characters emotions are painted on the screen, the movie breezes through them at a rather rapid velocity. To begin, the main characters and the actors who play them – are awfully endearing. Louis Garrel, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet are in turn effortlessly the emotions they convey, and are the life of the movie. Louis Garrel, in particular ( who’s foppish hair should have been given its own casting credit ) brilliantly conveys the melancholy of a young, heartbroken man and the utter cluelessness one faces when dealing with strife.
And he walks. In this movie, he walks and walks and walks. So much so that at one point, I found myself aching for the familiarity of donning a fall coat and stepping out into a chilly Chicago evening. Muttering the same poem under my breath again and again. Just to walk and yearn for I-haven’t-a-clue-what. This is what is hardest to describe about the appeal of this movie. It is quite brazen in the way its characters deal with each other, yet never once do you feel that it may not be something you yourself would not do. You see threads of pansexuality, death from a broken heart, very real relationship problems with ridiculous solutions, waif thin pretty people spouting truth and beauty – and in its own convoluted way in the same way that life rarely does, Les Chansons D’Amour makes sense.
And since you are here, have a listen to one of my favourite tunes from the soundtrack…
A l’heure de l’inventaire
De quoi avons nous l’air