Writer-director Christophe Honore follows his bold attempt to make a movie out of George Bataille's fevered novel Ma Mere with this winking homage to French New Wave cinema and the City of Lights.
Devastated by his break-up with Anna (the excellent Joana Priess), a beautiful model who knew it their relationship was over once he started hitting the shower immediately after sex, photographer Paul (Romain Duris) returns from the French provinces to the Parisian apartment his divorced father, Mirko (Guy Marchand), now shares with Paul's considerably younger brother, Jonathan (MA MERE's Louis Garrel). Paul kicks Jonathan out of his own bedroom and throws himself a yuletide pity party that leaves everyone else concerned for his well being. Unshaven, barely speaking and refusing to eat what Mirko cooks for him, Paul lies around listening to old Kim Wilde records and pining for the woman whom he effectively drove away with his cruel jealousy. Jonathan, meanwhile, tries to get his brother out of bed by arranging to meet him at the Galleries Lafayette where they used to go as kids to see the Christmas windows. Paul, however, doesn't budge, and Jonathan instead embarks on a day-long sexual escapade through Paris that finds him in the beds of no fewer than three women, including an adorable old girlfriend, Alice (Alice Butaud).
Honore counts CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING as an influence (he even casts Marie-France Pisier as Mirko's ex-wife), but Jacques Rivette is hardly his only source. Jean-Luc Godard is most definitely dans la maison aussi: There's an entire scene structured around that archetypal Godardian shot -- a guy and a girl in bed with a book-- and Honore incorporates a lot of A WOMAN IS A WOMAN's loopy hijinks into the scenes in which Jonathan and Alice goof around Paris. (Honore also somewhat gratuitously uses Godard's technique of allowing a character to directly address the audience.) But that's not all: The carefree, oversexed Jonathan (who couldn't be anymore different than his morose brother, and is obviously meant to represent an opposite attitude toward the subject at hand -- l'amour) could have been written by Godard or Francois Truffaut for Jean-Pierre Leaud, while the climactic moment when Paul and Anna break out into song is probably meant as a nod to the bittersweet musical confections of their contemporary, Jacques Demy (though now it'll probably recall the ending of I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE, Chris Rock's dreadful remake of Eric Rohmer's New Wave classic CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON, to anyone unfortunate enough to have seen it). Needless to say, this is a film for hardcore film fans and Francophiles. Everyone else may find little to sustain them beyond the pastiche and shots of Paris.
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