If the great movie musicals of yesteryear put a song in your heart, Christophe Honoré's Love Songs leaves you with a funny taste in your mouth. How else to describe Honoré's orally fixated post-postmodern operetta, whose libretto includes lyrics like “Keep your saliva as an antidote/Let it trickle like sweet venom down my throat”? Those bon mots are sung by Alice (Clotilde Hesme), a sprightly Parisian newspaper worker, to her colleague Ismaël (Louis Garrel) — two-thirds of a ménage à trois rounded out by the ill-fated Julie (Ludivine Sagnier). Round and round the bedroom they go, coupling and tripling in various permutations, including the seduction of ostensibly hetero Ismaël by a blond high-school gay boy. Styled, very consciously, by Honoré in the minimalist musical tradition of the French New Wave (and Jean-Luc Godard's bed-hopping A Woman Is a Woman in particular), Love Songs has been stripped of everything but its pastiche, as if Pulp Fiction had wandered into Jack Rabbit Slim's and never left. The actors — especially Garrel, once more doing his preening, neo–Jean-Pierre Léaud routine — wink and nod at the audience when they're not sulking about in cooler-than-thou ennui, nulling any investment we might feel in their assorted trysts. That Honoré knows a lot about movies is beyond question — but from first frame to last, Love Songs stays as icy to the touch as one of its characters' premature corpse.
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