This musical romance interweaves the lives and loves of a mother and daughter (Catherine Deneuve and real-life daughter Chiara Mastroianni) across Paris, Prague, London and Montreal. Too long by a third, Beloved will appeal to those seduced by director Christophe Honoré's 2007 Love Songs (Les chansons d'amour) and vintage Jacques Demy (Umbrellas of Cherbourg etc.). And of course, to lovers of le cinéma français, Deneuve can do no wrong, which makes Beloved a fitting closing choice for this year's Cannes Film Festival and a film with considerably earning potential in American arthosues.
Only the French could get away with making characters burst into song and then resume conversations as if nothing happened. This is not a musical in the highly produced style of Busby Berkeley or Gene Kelly, it utilizes a looseness unfamiliar to most American audiences—the style's closest relation in American cinemas is Woody Allen's 1996 musical Everyone Says I Love You.
Beloved owes allegiance to the tradition established by Gallic auteur Jacques Demy in the '60s with Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Young Girls of Rochefort (both also feature Catherine Deneuve). Here she stars with her daughter Chiara Mastroianni (an Honoré regular) to play fictional mother and daughter, Madeleine and Vera.
Beloved begins in the 1960s when shoe shop assistant Madeleine (Ludivine Sagnier playing the younger Deneuve) falls head over heels for a Czech doctor (Radivoje Bukvic) who's completing his medical studies in Paris. They marry and he takes her back to Prague just as the Russian tanks are moving in.
He's unfaithful and the marriage ends. Madeline returns to Paris with her infant daughter to settle down with a gendarme. A decade or so further on, the daughter, now played by Chiara Mastroianni, also has romantic complications-with an American veterinarian in London (Paul Schneider) who turns out to be gay and still relies on her younger amour (Louis Garrel) for support. Meanwhile, her mother (Deneuve now in bloom) is still pursued by her Czech first love—now older, distinguished and retired, here played by the veteran filmmaker Milos Forman.
The strands of relationships and emotions are deftly and delicately woven by Honoré, but the film, spanning more than 40 years, is too lightweight in content to stand scrutiny for more than two hours.
Alex Beaupain's original music binds it all together, but the lyrics probably sound better in French than in sub-titled translation.
For all its occasional shortcomings Beloved has much to treasure, especially in the onscreen relationship of Deneuve and Mastroianni, and Honoré's depiction of l'amour fou in all its variations.
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Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel, Milos Forman
Director/Screenwriter: Christophe Honoré
Producer: Pascal Caucheteux
Genres: Romance/Musical; French-language, subtitled
Running time: 140 min.
Release date: Unset