Of all the French New Wave’s cinephilic flourishes, none set movie-loving hearts aflutter like the born romantics rubbing their lips, dancing the Madison and generally acting extravagant in the knowledge that their lives were movies. Neo-New Waver Christophe Honoré’s Love Songs begins with an opening-credits overture and a young woman buying a movie ticket, cuing a fashionably bisexual modern ménage whose trois burst out into song because they’re too charismatic — too cinematic — not to.
Act One — “The Departure”— is love on the run, as Ismaël (Louis Garrel), live-in Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) and sleepover buddy Alice (Clotilde Hesme) sing out restless lyrics, between Honoré’s one-for-the-show digressions and energetic clowning from Garrel (Philippe’s son, Jean-Pierre Léaud’s godson, and, post-The Dreamers and Regular Lovers, casting shorthand for 60s-vintage poetic seeking). It’s just as hearts are settling down, though, that one stops completely.
In Acts Two and Three, Honoré is still name-dropping books for sheer pleasure, Alex Beaupain’s score still swings from chamber strings to earbud rock, and the players are still young, beautiful and selfish — but anguished over the post-[spoiler!] knowledge that the former two attributes won’t excuse the latter forever. As one duet has it: how to bite into the apple and avoid the worm? Some answers come from a large and warmly attended-to supporting cast, especially Chiara Mastroianni, a sad-eyed soloist as Julie’s older sister (though Honoré’s still rambunctious enough to write in a character just to recite a poem). As the house lights come up on Honoré’s movie-musical world, he hits a harmonious compromise: a (spoken) declaration of scaled-down love — delivered on a balcony, in a spotlight.