One of the underrated qualities of many films of the French New Wave is their playfulness. Christophe Honore is one working director who's unapologetic about his debt to the genre. His New Wave-inspired films are worth watching in their own right. But they also remind us of how gloriously fun those films could be.
There's some seriousness in his latest, "Beloved." The beautiful Parisienne Madeleine (Ludivine Sagnier) flees Prague when she discovers her Czech husband is unfaithful and Russian tanks are entering the city. But Honore's musical drama -- clearly inspired by the work of his fellow Frenchman Jacques Demy -- is also as beguiling as the women who people it.
Madeleine meets her husband, Jaromil (Rasha Bukvic), first as a client. She's an accidental prostitute, mistaken for one of the profession when she paces down a street admiring the heels she's just stolen from the store at which she works. She introduces him to her fellow clerks with the explanation, "He's a doctor, not a Communist."
|3 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni|
|Director: Christophe Honore|
|Rated: Not rated|
|Running time: 139 minutes|
Madeleine takes the daughter of the union, Vera, with her. Fast-forward 30 years. Vera (played by Chiara Mastroianni) has the same hopelessly romantic sentimentality of her mother, in love with a man who can't share her feelings, ignoring the guy who can. Her mother (now played by Mastroianni's real mother, Catherine Deneuve) is remarried but once again can't resist the charms of the Czech (now played by Czech director Milos Forman).
It's such a shame these women must go through romantic drama. They're so lovely and elegant, the men barely seem worthy of them. But perhaps Europe is full of such beauties. Deneuve still charms us, and the talented young Sagnier (who starred in New Waver Claude Chabrol's 2007 "The Girl Cut in Two") has a delightful mix of innocence and sauciness.
The movie, at over two hours, is overlong, and the musical elements won't be to everyone's taste. And really, the more serious "Dans Paris" was a better Honore film. But the director embraces everything that the best of his country's cinema has given us. For reminding us of that heritage and continuing the tradition -- not to mention keeping Deneuve on screen and giving more work to Sagnier -- he's allowed a little self-indulgence.