Honoré’s Magical Musical Melodrama-Beloved out this Friday

From Prague in the 60s, to Paris in the 70s; from London in the 90s to New York in the noughties, Christophe Honoré’s latest film Beloved (Les Bien Aimés) is a lyrical, musical epic of two women – mother and daughter Madeleine and Vera, and their search for love and stability with the various men who appear (and re-appear) in their lives. Starring real-life mother and daughter team Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, Honoré’s film pays homage to Jacques Demy’s iconic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with a nod to Nouvelle Vague giants Godard and Truffaut.

Paris, 1964. Madeleine (Sagnier) a young Parisian shop-girl steals a pair of shoes from her workplace and wears them on her way home. Mistaken for a prostitute, she meets the devilishly handsome Jaromil, a Czech doctor, whom she marries, has a child by and accompanies to Prague. But after Jaromil’s philandering results in the end of the marriage, Madeleine returns to Paris with their daughter, Vera.  Jaromil remains a presence in the both their lives however, continuing a sexual relationship with Madeleine even into her remarriage with a policeman. As Vera grows up (to be played by Mastroianni, as Denueve takes over from Sagnier as Madeleine), the film’s scope broadens further, following Vera as she travels to London, where she meets and falls for a gay American drummer, Henderson (Paul Schneider), whose inability to requite her affections is mirrored in the predicament of Vera’s ex, Clement (Garrel), who is still frustratedly in love with her.

Confused? It all sounds terribly complicated but Honoré successfully manages to steer clear of soap-opera antics or kitsch, mkaing it deeply moving. An original melodrama, the film reunites Honoré with talented composer Alex Beaupain (songwriter from Honoré’s earlier film, Les Chansons d’Amour). Many of the musical numbers are indeed fun and catchy; reflecting both the characters’ inner conversations and thoughts. Ici Londres sung by Mastroianni and Schneider and Sagnier’s opening song Je Peux Vivre Sans Toi being particularly strong.

However one does question how much more Beloved adds to the Honoré body of work ? Following his previous films Les Chansons d’Amour and Homme au Bain, one feels that the director is revisiting old, familiar ground – even to the point where one scene from Honoré’s last film Homme au Bain (a tender three-some between the film’s two gay lovers and Mastroianni) is recreated in Beloved.

Spanning monumental historical events from the 1968 Russian invasion in Czechoslovakia to the 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, Beloved is nonetheless an impressive, ambitious effort that doesn’t sag under the weight of its 150 minutes. Re-assembling Honoré favourites Sagnier, Garrel and Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve is a worthy addition to the film maker’s oeuvre; each one successfully navigating their way between spoken dialogue and songs. At times light and fluffy, brooding and despondent, this inspired film is a fascinating paean to the pursuit of love that mixes whimsy with tragedy, history and the contemporary.

Beloved(15) Les Bien Aimés

France 2011 Dir: Christophe Honoré 150mins In French with English subtitles

With: Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Paul Schneider

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~ by cinemalicious on May 8, 2012.

2 Responses to “Honoré’s Magical Musical Melodrama-Beloved out this Friday”

  1. It sounds brilliant! I would love to see it (if I can snatch the 150 minutes away from my duties)…

    • Thanks Lycra Mum. Hope you manage to find time to catch the film – ca vaut la peine mais je me suis trompe sur un petit detail du film. Il dure 138minutes, pas 150 minutes comme j’avais deja remarque

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