Oct 24, 2011

Despite a v embarrassing and awful

Montage sequence that inexplicably included what sounds like an emo American indie song (plop in the middle of a French film), Le Noms des Gens (The Names of Love [US title]), is one of the best comedies I have seen in years.

Right from the beginning, with actor, Jacques Gamblin, lamenting his plight of having the most common name in France, Arthur Martin, comparing his situation to that of the North Korean football team in the most recent World Cup (nine of their starting eleven had the surname, Kim), I knew this was going to be my kind of movie.
"Look at my GIANT, gaudy trophy. And my Cuh-razy pumps."

Of course, just the premise of the film is right in my wheelhouse:  Gamblin (Martin) is "seduced" and falls for a French/Algerian beauty, Sara Forestier (her character's name is Baya), who sleeps with Right-Wingers in order to convert them to the Left and cure them of their fascisme.  Gamblin is not a Right-Winger, he always votes for the Socialist, Jospin, who always finishes a v distant third in every general election (the bulk of the film of the film is set in the late 1980s) but Forestier "likes" him, probably due to the fact that, like her, there are "taboos", secrets in his family's past.

Both families, and those dreaded "taboos", are used to hilarious effect throughout the film.  Gamblin's parents, in particular, who are obsessed with all the "superior" technologies that ultimately flop, i.e. Betamax and the first giant laserdiscs that came out.

The film, co-written and directed by Michel Leclerc, is obviously influenced by Woody Allen's work, especially Annie Hall, even including some crustacean scenes.  It is a delight to watch, very sexy, and extremely funny.  And also, like a lot of really good comedies, it has a crucial, serious center, regarding immigration, religion, and the "secrets and lies" that all families share.


A couple of years ago I was channel hopping late at night and happened upon a famous, modern French film star (I do not remember his name) on Charlie Rose's awful program.  The actor was bitching about the "new French cinema" and how it was just like Hollywood now, homogenized, and "safe".  "Where are all the Godards and Truffauts and Melvilles and Rohmers these days," he seemed to be suggesting.  And, yes, I know that Godard is still alive and just came out with a new film (which I am still hoping I get a chance to see soon).  But back then, I really had no idea what he was talking about.  I was not watching a lot of French cinema then.  Now that I am watching a good deal more French films these days, I see exactly what he was talking about.  As much as I love Le Nom des Gens or Love Crime or Carlos or Potiche, it is plain, that unlike the Cahiers du Cinema gang, who took the ideas of Hitchcock, Ford, Welles, and others to new and stratospheric heights, that the contemporary French cinema is tending to "copy" Hollywood style and directors, as opposed to using that style and those directors as inspiration.  Except, now, that I think about it, I might take Carlos (and Assayas) off that list because Assayas tackled the extremely difficult subject of terrorism in a moving, yet still, entertaining way.  Carlos' story cannot help but be entertaining and edge-of-you-seat viewing.  There is no way a film as good, like Carlos, could be made in Hollywood, no way.

Having said all that, I must admit that I am sure there are French auteurs today that I am not seeing here in the States, and that my access is limited.  It could v well be the case that I am merely getting access to the most US-friendly, Hollywood-ized French films there are.  I am hoping that is the case, and that I will eventually find all those "grimy/arty" films in the future.

And where are all the Jean-Pierre Melvilles these days? Although the style (espec the lighting) and music would have been decidedly different, Carlos, would be a topic that Melville would have relished.  (And he'd prob have done it in a hundred minutes, to boot.)

Mwah, ... 

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