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Love Songs (Les Chansons D'Amour)

By Harry Forbes
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- "Love Songs" ("Les Chansons D'Amour") (IFC/Red Envelope) is a melancholy semi-musical (with 13 songs by Alex Beaupain) about Ismael, a rather callow young Jewish man (Louis Garrel) grieving after the sudden death of his longtime girlfriend, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), who collapses outside a nightclub from cardiac arrest.

In the days that follow, he turns for comfort to the girl's loving family including her sister Jeanne (Chiara Mastroanni), his newspaper coworker and sometime lover Alice (Clotilde Hesme) and a young male student, Erwann (Gregoir Leprince-Ringuet), who, improbably, develops a romantic crush on the heterosexual Ismael, virtually stalking him with puppy-dog ardor.

In style, director Christophe Honore's film -- divided into three distinct sections, "The Departure," "The Absence" and "The Return" -- bears faint echoes of Jacques Demy's now-classic 1960s films like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "The Young Girls of Rochefort," both incidentally starring Mastroanni's mom, Catherine Deneuve.

But even those trifles had far more dramatic interest and charm. The characters' reaction to Julie's death and subsequent healing are portrayed with integrity, and ring true up to a point. But much of Ismael's behavior, and that of the other characters, feels contrived.

The casual sexual attitudes displayed by several of the characters here are, of course, morally problematic starting with the "menage a trois" with Ismael, Julie and Alice in one of the film's early scenes.

In French. Subtitles.

The film contains nonmarital sexual encounters including same-sex couplings, though nongraphic, and some frank sexual talk and occasional crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O -- morally offensive. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

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Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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