[Review] – Beloved

14 Sep

Title: Beloved
Year: 2012
Director: Christophe Honoré
Writer: Christophe Honoré
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Milos Forman, Paul Schneider, Michel Delpech
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 139 min
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Metacritic: 55

Beloved, which closed last year’s Cannes Film Festival and also screened at Toronto in 2011, is a very interesting French production. The film is directed by French auteur Christophe Honoré, stars both Catherine Deneuve and her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni (daughter, also, of Marcello Mastroianni), alongside them you have Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel (making his fifth appearance in a film by Mr. Honoré), director Milos Forman in an acting role and Paul Schneider. So yeah, this really kind of eclectic cast lined up for this one that definitely had me interested in seeing just what it had in store.

The film moves around quite a lot, from the 60’s to the 90’s, from Paris to Prague to London as we trace the lives of all the characters involved and the lives, as the titles suggests, of their beloved. In the 60’s we meet Madeleine, played then by Ms. Sagnier, who falls for a Czech doctor, Jaromil, whom she then joins in Prague, marries and has a baby with, but then, torn by infidelities and the threat of war, she goes back to Paris. In the 90’s Madeleine, now played by Ms. Deneuve, is rekindling her relationship with Jaromil even though she’s married, and her daughter, played, naturally, by Ms. Mastroianni, is in London, totally in love with a musician, played by Mr. Schneider, who, being gay and all, doesn’t really love her as much as her co-worker past lover, played by Mr. Garrel, still does.

That’s obviously a very short version of what goes on in Beloved, in reality this is a rather epic kind of story, clocking in at 139 minutes, giving us a look at all of these interlocked lives of love across two different decades and various locations. And, for the most part, this actually works splendidly well, to be honest. Oh and, by the way, Beloved, much like another of Mr. Honoré’s films, Love Songs from 2007, acts as something of a musical. It’s not a straight-forward musical though, it’s not your typical song-and-dance affair, it’s more modern and sophisticated when the characters here start singing, as though talking just weren’t enough to express their feelings. And considering all the stuff that’s dealt with in this film, feelings abound.

There really are some heavy themes on display here. I mean, it may all seem super charming and whimsical because it’s being displayed in sudden bursts of songs and what not, but once you get to the bottom of it the subject matter here, from mortality to utter heartbreak, is at times quite tragic, and there’s this kind of bittersweet tinge to the entire proceeding. It’s undoubtedly a rather messy film, but it works because this is a rather messy mother and daughter we’re dealing with here, women who love to a fault and the film celebrates that love and the fact that sometimes it leads to uneasy things.

Like I said, this film touches upon the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in that late 60’s, it also touches upon the AIDS epidemic and the 9/11 attacks, all things that obviously add a lot of weight to this musical epic Mr. Honoré’s constructing here. I liked how even though the director sometimes has a hard time balancing all of these events and relationships and time and space, this is always a film about love, and it’s a film about love that acknowledges that true love does exist but that a happily-ever-after is not what always happens at the end of it.

I also quite liked that even though some of these triangles and other love situations maybe a bit too much and absurd, especially when you consider the fact that songs are a big part of it, I liked it that Beloved played it straight, it took it all very seriously and, as a result, we do get these heartfelt moments full of intense human emotions that made this work for me. I said that the film is messy, that much is true, it misses many steps and at times it feels as though it loses some focus and becomes an iffy movie. You know what keeps it going even then, though? The performances of Ms. Deneuve and Ms. Mastroianni, the chemistry they have on-screen just shows that they really share a mother-daughter bond.

As we follow these characters who know only to follow their hearts, accompanied by a dozen pop tunes along the way, we’ll get to see them experience so many things that at least it keeps itself busy. But maybe the film didn’t need to be this long. Even though it does bring forth explorations of some really big emotions and taps into a melancholy of sorts, I think the particular storylines, as far as actual material to them, feel a bit thin as they’re stretched out throughout such a long running time.

Still, I liked Beloved a good deal. I wouldn’t call it great because it’s too uneven at parts, but Mr. Honoré continues to prove that he’s a very talented filmmaker, giving us an at times heartbreaking musical about the romantic lives of a mother and daughter, with songs that feel super spontaneous and that help in the exploration of these emotions. Chief amongst the emotions explored, of course, is love itself; the emotion so many French films deal with. Mr. Honoré is a fan of love, you could say, he knows how it’s the best feeling the world, that’s why he constructs his characters so that they’re always in the hunt for it, no matter the cost, and why he makes them realize that just like it can provide the best feeling it can also feel pretty sad and bitter at times.

Grade: B

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