10 July, 2008

All in "the City of Love" is fair

An original musical that goes straight to film? Is that something worth watching? Is it even something with which you really want to be associated?

Love Songs (Les Chansons d'Amour) is just such a movie. Written and directed by Christophe Honore, the film was released in France in 2007, but the soundtrack was just released in the United States a couple months back. The story follows the entanglements of three people (sometimes four) who are in a relationship. Yep, you read that correctly: one relationship with three (sometimes four) people. It's called polyamory, and it forms the foundation on which the drama of Love Songs plays out.

Here's the basic plot. Ismael is in a relationship with Julie, but they both decide that Alice should join them (now I haven't seen the movie, but I get the feeling that this is about more than just sex, although sex seems to play a big role.) It gets more confusing when Julie sleeps with a random guy, whose name I cannot recall now, Ismael is hurt and decides that it might be a good time for him to find someone else as well. Enter Erwann (in case you were wondering, Erwann is a guy). So, I'm pretty open-minded, but at this point I'm also pretty confused. Love Songs has all of the potential to be more confusing than Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, and probably less visually pleasing (although it does take place in Paris). I'm still willing to give it a shot at some point, but for now I think I'll stick to the soundtrack.

It starts with "De bonne raisons" which is Belle & Sebastian meets Carla Bruni. It's a rock song in composition, but in execution it's much too soft to be a "rock" song, and it kind of trickles into folk-rock territory. "Inventaire" reminds me of some of the music from RENT. It's more spoken than sung, and the melody bounces from edgy and dramatic to coy and almost twee. It's a story driving song, and you can tell that it loses some of its character outside of the story. "La Bastille" is morose and pretty, while "Je n'aime que toi" is a song of possibility (as you can probably guess from the title). "Il faut se taire" is gentle and sad, as is "Au parc". In fact, following "Je n'aime que toi" every song has an air of sadness and regret mixed with a smattering of other emotions. It gives me the feeling that this movie does not have a happy ending.

One interesting thing to note about this album, is that the "musical theatre" style music seems to flow much more smoothly in the French language than it does in English. Don't get me wrong, I love musicals, but I often must suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy the seemingly random group singing. It may be that French is a more musical language than English (which I believe it is), and therefore it is more difficult to hear the difference between singing and speaking. To me, it almost always sounds like the French language is being sung, and placing music in the background is altogether natural. There's no doubt in my mind that you could play this album for a friend and not have them realize that it is the soundtrack to a musical. At the same time, I wouldn't recommend listening to the whole album unless you're in the mood for something melancholy. The great soundtrack to a rainy day in Paris is not always synonymous with the soundtrack to a sunny summer day in New England.

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