Title: BELOVED (Les bien-aimés)
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten
Director: Christophe Honoré
Screenwriter: Christophe Honoré
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Milos Forman, Paul Schneider
Screened at: Broadway, NYC, 8/1/12
Opens: August 17, 2012
The not-so-big secret is that men and women think of sex in different terms. To a man, sex is…sex. To a woman, it’s love, or in the case of one of the characters in Christophe Honoré’s “Beloved” a way to make a living. What happens in this romance-cum-music is that one man thinks he has fallen in love with a woman particularly after their first sexual encounter. The woman has clearly fallen in love with the man, after the first and several other encounters unable to get him out of her mind. Ultimately this is a recipe for disaster, as we see in a story that begins light and fluffy as a cumulus cloud, the cloud turns nimbus, and when it rains, it pours.
Though Honoré states in the notes that he is not particularly fond of filming sectors as period pieces, he does quite well when starting his story in the mid-1960’s. By the time the drama ends in 2007, the ambiance is pretty much the same; no matter that one part of the film takes place in Prague (which finds Russian tanks putting invading in 1968), the major segments in Paris.
With a bright international cast that includes North Carolina-born Paul Schneider, the great Czech director Milos Forman (creator of “Amadeus,” one of the great movies of all time), and French stars Louis Garrel, and particularly Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier and Deneuve’s real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni, Honoré takes us from a happier time in Paris when a carefree Madeleine reinvents herself as a high-priced call girl to a deadly serious era when all principal characters are visited by depression.
In the movie’s lightest moments in 1964—those that I think are its best and least pretentious—Madeleine (Ludivine Sagnier) has just lifted a pair of elegant shoes from the high-end Paris store where she is employed as a sales clerk, when she is approached on the street by a young man who offers her money for sex. At first resistant, the ambitious Madeleine takes up the offer, therein creating for herself a new and more lucrative career, using her hotel for business. Her prize customer, a smooth-talking, chain-smoking Czech doctor, Jaromil (Rasha Bukvic), changes from just another john to her steady boyfriend. Joining him as his wife in Prague at a time that Russian tanks patrol the streets, she returns to Paris, bringing up their fourteen-year-old daughter, Vera (Clara Couste), who morphs into a complex woman (Chiara Mastroianni), in love with a gay musician (Paul Schneider), while her co-worker (Louis Garrel) burns a candle for her. Vera’s mom, Madeleine (Catherine Deneuve, thirty years later) renews her love for Jaromil (now played by Milos Forman).
In an homage to the French director Jacques Demi (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “The Young Girls of Roquefort”), Honoré mixes a number of songs throughout, each interpreting the feelings of the men and women who populate the story. However the songs, many of which point to loneliness and sadness, sound more or less alike and though the timeline is some thirty years, the film does not merit its length of two hours and one-quarter. There are no dance breaks, and as the numbers of characters add up, the tale becomes increasingly portentous. Still, Ludivine Sagnier in her youthful days as a salesgirl-turned-hooker, is pure delight to watch.
Unrated. 135 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B