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  Beloved Songs Of Sadness
Year: 2011
Director: Christophe Honoré
Stars: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Milos Forman, Paul Schneider, Radivoje Bukvic, Michel Delpech, Omar Ben Sellem, Dustin Segura-Suarez, Guillaume Denaiffe, Clara Couste
Genre: Musical, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1964, Parisienne shoe shop assistant Madeleine (Ludivine Sagnier) was enchanted by the fashionable footwear she had to deal with on a daily basis, so much so that one afternoon at closing time she decided to steal a pair that particularly captivated her. She put them on out in the street, and while admiring them in a reflection of a shop window a man came up to her and asked her how much she charged, having mistaken her for a prostitute. She was offended at first, but when she heard how much the man was willing to pay, she found a new way to supplement her income, and in doing met the love of her life, Czech doctor Jaromil Passer (Radivoje Bukvic)...

Director Christophe Honoré had tried the musical form before in Les Chansons D'Amour, a film which had won him new fans as he took the style to his own lovelorn yet adult concerns, but for Beloved, or Les bien-aimés as it was originally known, those fans were less impressed, and this didn't attract as big a cult following as some of his other efforts, that in spite of it being at least better than Ma Mère. This was no Hollywood musical tribute, as by casting Catherine Deneuve you could see the tribute paid not only to her but to her film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the beautiful and heartrending classic of the sixties which was a lot less romantic in its outcome than what we had come to accept as the typical musical.

Not that Honoré was quite as accomplished as that, and part of this was down to his wish to depict his characters as complex human beings, subject to all sorts of whims, bad choices and yearnings for what their heart may have wanted but their head told them they would be better doing without. It was a tale of two generations, starting with Sagnier all ultra-glamorous in her sixties chic and then, also playing Madeleine, Deneuve as the older but no wiser version who has seen her daughter Véra grow up, this one of the many films where she starred alongside real life daughter Chiara Mastroianni, here in the actual offspring role. Coming from such a confusing background with her mother a whore and father absent in Czechoslovakia, it's little wonder Véra turns out the way she does.

And all the way through we are privy to the confusions and conflicts raging in these women's souls thanks to the songs they sing, composed by Alex Beaupain especially for the movie. That said, Madeleine copes with heartache better than her daughter, though as time goes by and the incidents pile up it becomes more and more difficult to accept that life is not turning out the way you expected, though what they did plan for is frustratingly vague, maybe to them as well as us. Jaromil, played as an elderly man in the nineties sections by famed director Milos Forman, continues to drop in on his ex-wife, even as she is married to someone else by this time, and the implication that she was never truly satisfied with the safe François (Michel Delpech) resonates throughout.

But then, Véra isn't entirely happy with her boyfriend Clément (Louis Garrel) either, and he's a pretty stable sort himself, which leads her while on a London jaunt to the arms of Henderson (Paul Schneider) who happens to be gay, which is a problem when she loves him in a way he could never reciprocate (though he does have sex with her). The theme here was that the more time goes on, the more issues you have to deal with, not only personally but as a society, the latter made explicit in the twist that Madeleine could enjoy a promiscuous lifestyle back in the Swinging Sixties, but nowadays AIDS has raised its ugly head, and also that the terrorism of September 11th 2001 has changed the world for the worse too. So you could view Beloved as a bleak drama little enlivened by its melancholy French pop tunes, and it was true there was not enough to really make the heart soar, but oddly if you stuck with it and were sympathetic to the capricious women it could turn quite moving. Not everyone was going to, though.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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