Like most of Christophe Honore's movies, "Beloved" is a work in frustration. However, it comes closer to being a success than his other maybe-sort-of-musicals. That's not because he fully commits to the genre for once or the songs being better but because of the emotionally precise performances of Chiara Mastroianni and Paul Schneider.(You have not lived until you have heard Paul Schneider sing in French.) But then Honore reaches too far, not realizing he does not have the skill or the focus to fully realize a multi-generational epic like this one. That just leaves it for the self-involved characters to wander the globe aimlessly.
Catherine Deneuve is not even utilized properly. Ludivine Sagnier is charming; it's amazing how much she has grown up since Ozon's 'Swimming Pool'. And it was delightful to see Paul Schneider in this French musical. The remaining cast just does their job, which is not much.
Even though it's a musical, the songs are quite average. The only song I actually loved is 'Ici Londres (Heaven Knows)', sung by Chiara Mastroianni and Paul Schneider.
Truly it is one of the worst films I can remember without a single redeeming factor.
Spanning decades, Ludivine Sagnier as "Madeleine": young, vivacious prostitute who marries a "John" has a daughter, divorces; ingénue "Madeleine" matures into seasoned adulthood; Catherine Deneuve, still luscious, imbues the character with salty sinuousness, balancing her ex-husband (delightful depiction by Milos Forman) and present mate; she watches her adult daughter "Vera" (Deneuve's actual daughter, Chiara Mastroianni) fall tragically in love with a homosexual musician. The successful, subtle nuances between the two should have been capitalized upon; gracing the screen with compelling chemistry.
"Beloved" is too ambitious, indecisive and flounders between monumental issues: infidelity, Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia , AIDS, heartache, all set to music; the lyrics are hummable, recognizable and struggle to compliment the scenario, but only "aid" the melodramatic, meandering, predictable outcome.
TWO & 1/2 STARS
However, it is very apparent Honore has been repeating himself, from storyline, subject explored to narrative with music & songs, cast; & even this film itself. Narrative can be made much simpler, shorter & quicker rather than diverting into so many sub-plotlines & running in circle with so many back & forth, whilst what meant to be addressed remains obscure till the end.
Though, the music department leading by Alex Beaupain (Honore's longtime sidekick in his filmwork) still helps a lot upgrading the film's level, once again.
In "Beloved" there also is the added delight of seeing the real-life mother-and-daughter team of Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni on screen together for what I think is the first time -- and playing a mother and daughter! Masterful casting.
One can't help but think of Marcello Mastroianni either (Chiara's late father), who seems to be lurking around every corner -- and through him, of course, Federico Fellini. And it gets better. The man playing Chiara's father is none other than Milos Forman. Yes, THE Milos Forman ("Amadeus"). The casting is almost too inspired. It threatens to drown the film in nostalgia for the halcyon days of European cinema.
Representing young Europe are, in addition to Mastroianni, Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier. Garrel has appeared in just about every Honore film, perhaps even all of them. It's safe to say that Garrel is Honore's muse. But here, for a change, Garrel is not the focus. The focus overwhelmingly is on girls this time.
Sagnier plays the main character in her youth: a prostitute in 1960s Paris who falls in love with and marries a Czech doctor. In her later years, she's played by a still-randy Deneuve. Forman (who in real life is Czech) plays the Czech doctor in his later years. Mastroianni plays their daughter.
Garrel plays Mastroianni's on-and-off boyfriend.
Moving things in a really different direction (and bringing America into the mix) is an American played by Paul Schneider, a gay man who has a boundary-breaking hard-to-define romance of sorts with Mastroianni -- even while she's dating Garrel.
I know what you're thinking. Too many characters. It's true. That's a big reason for the 7 rating. The film does get overblown with confusing inter-relationships, and I haven't even explained all of them. I didn't mention the man Deneuve marries later in life after divorcing the Czech doctor. And did I mention that the Czech doctor returns to court Deneuve, and her husband allows it?
The film is also not edited well and too long (2 hours and 10 minutes).
"Beloved" is a musical kaleidoscope of love. At times, it's a sloppy mess. But at times it beautifully captures 21st-century love, in all its shape-shifting glory. Name one interesting person in a big city today who has a standard relationship that perfectly fits into the neat box of marital fidelity or even sexual orientation. I'm a gay man, and my greatest loves in the 21st century have been with single straight men and married straight women.
As I was just remarking in a review of Oliver Stone's "Savages," the human species is evolving at lightning speed. We're reinventing love in a fearless and exhilarating way. Honore revels in this and throws us into the euphoric thrum of it all with "Beloved." But it's not all glee. One character commits suicide. The breakdown of sexual orientation and bourgeois forms of relationship comes at a price. It can be profoundly disconcerting. When you love someone outside your sexual orientation you do most of the time go home alone -- both of you do. Both of you know that you're loved, but you don't have each other to hold onto in bed.
Making it even more complicated, the person who is in your bed knows your real love is someone else. Radical forms of love are not for the weak.
It is flawed, but "Beloved" is also a wonder -- a joyful but conflicted embrace of the future.
Did I mention the music?