Friday, June 21, 2024

“FILMLOVERS!”

THE STORY – Celebrating movie theaters’ magic, a film enthusiast follows the footsteps of Paul Dédalus. Memories, fiction, and discoveries intertwine in a torrential flow of cinematic imagery.

THE CASTMathieu Amalric, Françoise Lebrun, Milo Machado-Graner & Arnaud Desplechin

THE TEAMArnaud Desplechin (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 88 Minutes


In 1996, with his second feature film, “My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument,” Arnaud Desplechin introduced the world to his alter-ego Paul Dédalus, a PhD student struggling with academic and personal issues. Originally played by Mathieu Amalric, the character reappeared in a minor role – portrayed by a different actor – in 2008’s “A Christmas Tale” (where Amalric played Henri Vuillard, a member of the main family depicted in the movie). He then reclaimed center stage in “My Golden Days” (2015), essentially a prequel to his debut appearance, with Amalric once again playing Dédalus in the present-day framing device, while Quentin Colmaire portrayed the younger version. Nine years later, the scholar is back as our guide in the documentary “Filmlovers!,” which premiered in Cannes’ Special Screenings section. 

Once again, Amalric is onboard, albeit primarily as one of the film’s narrators. He shares this duty with Desplechin, who blurs the lines between fiction and reality; the director himself appears on camera in some sections, making it clear he’s talking about his own life. Ditching the traditional narrative structure of the previous films, this fourth installment in the Dédalus series is more akin to an essay film. Paul’s story, going all the way back to his childhood – basically Desplechin’s take on “The Fabelmans,” with the young boy falling in love with the magic of cinema when his grandmother takes him to the movies for the first time – and then told through unseen bits of his adolescent and young adult year. Here, he’s played, in part, by Milo Machado-Graner, who rose to prominence in 2023 as Sandra Hüller’s son in “Anatomy of a Fall.” This is intercut with interview segments and musings on various images that have stayed with Desplechin over the decades, not unlike what one would find in a Mark Cousins documentary. Naturally, some shots were captured inside the venues of the Cannes Film Festival, where the director has premiered most of his work (only once did he stray from the Croisette and opt for Venice instead, with 2003’s “Kings and Queen”). 

While the crux of the film is Desplechin’s individual experience – best exemplified when he discusses Claude Lanzmann’s landmark documentary “Shoah” – he’s clearly also interested in the collective moviegoing ritual, hence the original French title of “Spectateurs.” Much like Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Kenneth Branagh, and other filmmakers in recent years, the director reacted to the shift in viewing habits induced by the pandemic by helming a love letter to the habit of cinema-going. And, when he really nails it, such as with the shot of Paul as a child enthralled by the light emanating from the projector while his grandmother (lovingly played by Françoise Lebrun) objects that he should be staring at the screen, there are a few moments more moving than that in his entire filmography. 

And yet, there is a sense that Desplechin has tried to cram too much into a single, comparatively short (88 minutes) project. Individual moments are very powerful, and the overall film flows quite efficiently. Still, it never really amounts to more than the sum of its parts, as the documentary segments cut into the Dédalus narrative and vice versa. And, while the blend is intriguing, it’s also a bit alienating, especially for Desplechin fans who may have – not unreasonably – expected a more conventional expansion of his alter ego’s sentimental and philosophical journey. But, at the end of the day, it gets the job done: inspiring a desire to step into the nearest theater for another serving of big-screen delight. 

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Arnaud Desplechin goes into detail about his love for cinema, and the blend of autofiction and documentary is fascinating.

THE BAD - The essayistic style might be a turn-off for viewers unfamiliar with Desplechin’s work. If you haven’t seen one of his films before, this is not a good starting point.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Arnaud Desplechin goes into detail about his love for cinema, and the blend of autofiction and documentary is fascinating.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The essayistic style might be a turn-off for viewers unfamiliar with Desplechin’s work. If you haven’t seen one of his films before, this is not a good starting point.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"FILMLOVERS!"