aka IN PRAISE OF LOVE
Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Bruno Putzulu, Cecile Camp, Jean Davy, Francois Verny
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
To film buffs, Jean-Luc Godard, as his name imparts, is a god. But if you’re thinking that this is another BREATHLESS or BANDE A PARTE, read this review all the way to the bottom before shelling out to see it.
Twenty minutes into this film and I still had no idea what it was about. Judging from the fact that the man next to me was snoring in time to the trembling double bass on the soundtrack suggested that I was not alone in this thought.
ELOGE DE L’AMOUR (IN PRAISE OF LOVE) charts the story of Edgar, a young man who plans to stage a production (though not specified what type) that follows the course of love in four key moments (the initial meeting, the passion, the separation and the reconciliation) through three generations: young, adult and elderly. It is also split into two time frames. The first hour, in black and white, represents the present and goes through the “audition” process where he meets Eglantine, his heroine. The second, shot on digital video and set two years earlier, shows Edgar meeting Eglantine for the first time whilst researching his production during an interview with an elderly couple who recount their experiences of the Nazis and the resistance. If this sounds complicated, it is. And herein lies the sense that this film is ostensibly French.
If ever we have a cinematic cliche of what French cinema is supposed to be then this is it: incongruous dialogue (“Is that Edgar?” “Maybe, but he’s the only person trying to be an adult”); static camera direction; a melodious, if bland, soundtrack; and a concluding voice-over monologue that attempts to put the world to rights. Doesn’t sound much like the type of fayre that would draw in the crowds, does it? Godard himself, when asked why the film took so long to make, commented, “Because I was a bit lost, but I kept trying to do it anyway”. That said, the film is not without its virtues. The cinematography is refreshing – a world apart from the perpetual gloss Hollywood throws at us – if smacking of low-budget (the colours are far too over-saturated in the video section), and there are also some wonderfully dry comedic moments.
To be honest, I didn’t know if I was alone in my thoughts that this is a turgid, plodding film that didn’t leave me any more the wiser about the virtues and iniquities of love. Perhaps I was missing the point.