"Love Songs," which follows the impulse-driven shenanigans of three lovers in contemporary Paris, has its own peculiar quality. The characters sing as casually as they speak, without a trace of irony or self-consciousness. There's no sense of camp at all, even as they variously break into song, smoke or climb into bed with whoever is in front of them.
Yes, it's weird. But it's wild card weird, with that thrill of never knowing what's coming next or when these Parisians are going to get musical on us. From the story's early dark turn, we realize that the strange is commonplace. And even if we're not particularly touched by the drama that unfolds, we're drawn to these almost-saccharine songs. They make us contemplate their deeper subjects, including sexual jealousy, abject loneliness and grief.
Written and directed by writer-director Christophe Honoré, "Love Songs" is also an homage to the new-wave films of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut in the 1960s. Those early movies, which often paid tribute to Paris, were cinema's first attempts to probe the political and romantic impulses of the 20-something generation. So this imaginative updating, with Paris serving again as a visual motif, is not only appropriate, but it's also an art-house-moviegoer's special pleasure. Cinéastes can listen, too, for a passing Steven Spielberg reference, when Ismaël (Louis Garrel) briefly whistles the theme from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the 1977 movie that featured Truffaut. In this world, it seems, everything comes around.
-- Desson Thomson (June 6, 2008)
Contains sexual scenes, nudity and profanity. In French with subtitles.