Love Affair(s)

****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Love Affairs
"Too much and over the top, the film nevertheless finds its rhythm."

Emmanuel Mouret’s semi-circular Love Affair(s), aka The Things We Say, The Things We Do (Les choses qu'on dit, les choses qu'on fait) starring Camélia Jordana, Niels Schneider, Vincent Macaigne, Guillaume Gouix, Julia Piaton, Émilie Dequenne, and Jenna Thiam, produced by Frédéric Niedermayer (Ludovic Bergery’s Margaux Hartmann, starring Emmanuelle Béart) has received a record 13 César nominations and is an éclair of a highlight in New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.

Unlike Nicole Garcia's Lovers, Mouret presents us with characters who seem to be under no economic or, God forbid, existential straits. Love Affair(s), not as circular as Marcel Ophüls’ La Ronde based on Schnitzler’s play, but with just as many entanglements, explores love lives in turmoil. Shot by Laurent Desmet (Mouret’s Lady J), the soundtrack runs the gamut from Clair de Lune to Peer Gynt and back. Their jobs (documentary editor, translator, in the building business) are like accessories to meet the next person to become obsessed and then bored with. Too much and over the top, the film nevertheless finds its rhythm.

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The frame narrative is simple. Maxime (Niels Schneider, whom I kept calling Maxence in my notes, because he reminded me of Jacques Perrin’s character in Jacques Demy’s Les demoiselles de Rochefort), a translator and aspiring novelist, visits the countryside, where the pregnant Daphné (Camélia Jordana), partner of his cousin François (Vincent Macaigne) plays host. François is held up and the two strangers take turns telling each other their respective love stories.

The landscape around Avignon is lush and the “stories of emotions” give plenty of food for thought. There is Victoire (Julia Piaton), who likes to keep control and has a relationship with a man in Japan. Her sister Sandra (Jenna Thiam) begins a fling with Maxime’s roommate and translator colleague Gaspard (Guillaume Gouix). When the two move into the fantastic gigantic townhouse Sandra inherits, Maxime comes along, living out his tortured masochism in close proximity to the woman he had fallen for a long time ago. Could it actually be the living quarters he wanted?

When it is Daphné’s turn, she tells Maxime about her crush on David (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) a documentary filmmaker she worked with. After David takes her to the cinema to see Roberto Rossellini’s The Flowers Of St. Francis, he cries. Things don’t turn out the way she expected as a chance encounter on the street changes her life. At some point Daphné explains the mimetic theory to François and that we desire the desire of the other. Does being human mean not resisting temptation or resisting it?

Such are the discussions inherited from master Rohmer but the tone remains amusing as nobody ever really delves into anything too real. Louise (Émilie Dequenne), who has the best style in teapots and boots, maybe not in husbands, gives the film its most surprising twist, triggered, of all things by the documentary about a philosopher of love and possession (played by Claude Pommereau) that got the ball rolling earlier in The Things We Say, the Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s).

In addition to its New York Rendez-vous With French Cinema screenings, the film will also show as part of the French Film Festival at home in the UK, for 48 hours from March 12

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2021
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Love Affair(s) packshot
François has to rush back to Paris to cover for a sick colleague, leaving his partner Daphné, three months pregnant, to welcome his cousin, Maxime. In the four days till Francois’ return Daphné and Maxime get to know each other, sharing increasingly intimate stories that bring them closer.


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