On Connait La Chanson Review

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Odile (Sabine Azéma) is looking for a new, bigger appartment. Her younger sister Camille (Agnès Jaoui) has just completed her doctoral thesis and fallen in love with an estate agent who is responsible for Odile's apartment and who has an elder employee…


Camille (Jaoui), a tour guide, has a secret admirer in Simon (Dussollier), a radio dramatist and - although he neglects to tell her - a part-time estate agent. She, however, falls for his smooth yet scheming boss Marc (Lambert Wilson) who, coincidentally, is trying to con her sister Odile (Azema) into buying a dodgy pad. Odile, meanwhile, has her passions stirred by the return of old flame Nicholas (Bacri), much to the ire of doleful hubby Claude (Arditi), who proves to be a dark horse himself. And so this intertwined sextet go about their daily business of secrets, half-truths and self-delusions against the backdrop of a wintry Paris. How awfully Gallic.

Where Resnais adds vim - and where he pays direct homage to the musical dramas of the late Dennis Potter - is by having the characters' conversations peppered with lip-synched snatches of popular French songs. Audience reaction is likely to be divided along similar lines to the director's Last Year In Marienbad, which, depending on one's persuasion, was either the cat's pyjamas of modernist cinema or pure cod.

For those unfamiliar with the songs' cultural connotations and resonances, two hours of sporadic operatics could get a little wearisome, upsetting the otherwise steady flow of action. Making a case for the defence, Resnais' sheer stylistic bravado and precisely choreographed execution are to be applauded, not to mention the sparky wit, emotional inflection and narrative intrigue he extracts from a middling plot.

If you can get over the initial shock, under it all may be Resnais' most whimsical and charming film for ages.