Another Parisian delight by Christopher Honoré, Love Songs confirms that Ma Mère was but a nasty bump in an artistic path ardently committed to exploring the winding avenues of contemporary romance. Divided into three parts that chart the effects a woman’s love and death has on friends, family, and flames, the film has invited obvious comparisons to Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but really it’s continuing where the splendiferous A Woman Is a Woman left off, detailing the complexities of the ménage à trios Jean-Luc Godard’s film was preluding to and seemed impossible more than 40 years ago.
Honoré playfully details the complexities of carrying out a threesome, most snootily—which is to say, frenchily—and delightfully in a scene set on a bed, where the varied sexual and intellectual desires of two girls and one boy come to a head. When Julie Pommeraye (Ludivine Sagnier) is struck dead by a mysterious blood clot outside a nightclub, oblivious to her boyfriend Ismaël (Louis Garrel) and girlfriend Alice (Clotilde Hesme), she scatters her lovers to the wind and into the lives of others, with Alice embracing the hetero affections of the gorgeous Gwendal (Yannick Renier) and Ismaël resisting but finally submitting—yes!—to the homorific come-ons of Gwendel’s brother Erwann (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet). AIDS does not rear its ugly head, but through Julie’s death, Love Songs reveals itself as a kissing cousin of André Téchiné‘s trenchant The Witnesses, evoking how people are brought together by their attempts to transcend tragedy, reclaiming their soulfulness and living for the future.
The songs that pepper the film may be slight, and an uncertain Honoré appears to be fulfilling a quota by having postcard-pretty cutaways of Parisian daily life account for the presence of the city’s nonwhite populace, but Love Songs is impossible to dismiss given its thrilling flights of artistic fancy (note the alternations of speed and shifts in stock, and relish the way the red, blue, and white of Ismaël’s scarf buoyantly connects to his search and sense for liberty, fraternity, and equality) and plethora of emotion. The love affairs of the film’s characters aren’t merely expressions of fluid sexual desire but an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of human life, a point that is made evident whenever Honoré poignantly filters members of Alice’s family through the fabulous mess of Alice and Ismaël’s lives.