Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Names of Love (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Names of Love

"The Names of Love" is a Woody Allenish comedy that is light on its feet. It is bright and airy but just when you think it is going to be all puff pastry, it jabs you with some pointed social commentary about France and provincial attitudes, namely the suspicion and dislike of Arabs and Algeria.

The film focuses on the odd pairing of Baya (Sarah Forestier) a radical free spirit and Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) an anal retentive neutral man who works on an avian disease control board.  Forestier is like Audrey Tautou except she has more spunk, verve and well...personality than her double. (comment ose-t-il!, you exclaim? Well I said it.)
Like a female Bill Maher, the young woman Baya is never one to hold her tongue or gird her loins. She says what people might want to say. She walks through the Paris streets in full nudity not because she is amoral but simply out of absentmindedness. That is not to say she doesn't try and do the "correct" thing. The straight path simply wasn't drawn for her.
Arthur is a wet noodle, bound up and tight, a walking piece of toast. He stumbles, he frets and smiles, and always does what is expected . Arthur cares more for his besieged mallards  than he does for romance. 
D'accord! You might sigh in French. I  have seen this before and indeed you have but Forestier and Gamblin have such a sparkling chemistry that they go together like Brie and Dom Perignon.
Baya is an electric wire with deep dark tumbles of hair. She is prone to sudden compulsions to upset the Status Quo and then just as suddenly she might burst into tears. Poor Arthur, who comes from a family that was terminated by the Vichy regime, strives to stay mellow. His family is surrounded with all the latest electronic gadgets and tv sets so as to avoid any confrontation.
Just as "Annie Hall" poked fun at neurosis and what its like to have Jewish guilt, "The Names of Love" jab at Muslim and Jewish hostilities in France and the absurdity in holding staunch political agendas, be they right wing or left. Each side has the potential for idiocy.
The jokes in the film have Woody Allen's technique down to a scientific adoration. The characters converse with their childhood selves during many quirky asides. And even though we know the trick well by now, it is still a delight to see it in practice once again.
Michel Leclerc's "The Names of Love has genuine charm and attack.  The family discord scenes in particular, begin with apprehension but then punch you in the arm with a charmed sarcasm. The normally taboo subject of pedophelia are juggled about by Baya with such irreverence that it is impossible not to chuckle and see the truth. This movie has more disarming jokes on race and culture than ten viewings of "The Guard". Baya Benmahmoud could reduce Sargeant Boyle to a puddle of jelly in one disrobing. No contest. She is a force to be reckoned with.
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