Short Takes: Beloved
(Christophe Honoré, France/U.K./Czech Republic, 2011)
Written by Chris Chang
Picture this: Chiara Mastroianni catches Milos Forman and Catherine Deneuve in flagrante delicto. Yes, indeed, a bit of selfreflexive playfulness is afoot. Mastroianni’s real-life mother (Deneuve) is playing her onscreen counterpart, while the Czech-born Forman plays the role of her character’s Czech father. It’s a primal scene for cinephiles: “Dad, put on your underwear!” Mastroianni sputters. Forman’s bizarre caught-in-the-act expression (guilt-ridden glee?) is one of the many peculiar diversions in Christophe Honoré’s Beloved, a film with a few parallels to his 2007 romp-slash-oddity, Love Songs. It is a musical (of sorts), and it co-stars (again) Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier.
The movie encompasses four-or-so decades and countries in a noticeably protracted 138 minutes. It begins in Sixties Paris with the young Madeleine (Sagnier) and her Czech lover Jaromil (Rasha Bukvic). Their daughter will grow into Vera (Mastroianni). The first half of the film is Madeleine’s story; the second, Vera’s. As such, the narrative tone shifts from a carefree Sixties vibe to considerably more sober matters such as AIDS and 9/11.
Even with its historical detail and dialectical plotting, Honoré’s film appears less interested in story per se than in teasing out melancholic sentiments. In particular, the director highlights the eternal scrimmage between unconditional, unrequited, and unobtainable love. The supporting role played by Garrel (as an ex-paramour of Vera’s) seems to offer the most pragmatic broken-heart strategy: spurn the past and find another lover. And then cry into your beer.