Alice (Alice Togliani), whose name was the title of a 1990 Woody film and who is a dead ringer for Julie Hagerty of "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," has been obsessed with the "handsome" director, "the one who makes me laugh," since college. She's never married, works as a pharmacist with her worrywart father in Paris, and hands out DVDs of Woody's films in lieu of medicine, on occasion.
"Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" is a particular favorite.
Claude Lelouch is a populist filmmaker no longer popular with audiences either in his native France or among the large international following he created once upon a time with such hits as A Man and a Woman and And Now My Love.
Men and Women, which opened this week's annual French film festival in Los Angeles, finds Lelouch struggling to rediscover the formula of Gallic charm and star-crossed lovers that made him such a boxoffice favorite. The film has strong moments where he does reclaim the old magic. But the picture wears out its welcome long before the final reel and fails to make the necessary tonal changes to include episodes of depression, murder and suicide in an otherwise lighthearted ode to the glories of romantic love.
The film's theatrical outlook is problematic. It actually is a cannibalization of the first two films in an apparently now-abandoned trilogy called Genre humain, or Human Kind. The first film, Les Parisiens, disappeared within a month of release, so Lelouch scrambled to save the project by pulling together footage from the two films to create the version that debuted here. Without having seen Les Parisiens, it is hard to say whether he has helped or harmed his cause. But Men and Women definitely jumps around among too many characters and subplots to diminishing audience involvement.
What emerges as the central romance or romantic triangle of the piece belongs a pair of street singers and the barmaid who falls for the male. Shaa (Maiwenn) is a vagabond and petty thief who spots Massimo (Italian pop singer/actor Massimo Ranieri) singing on the street one day. She seduces him into turning his act into a duo. In the best tradition of old Hollywood musicals, the two swiftly find success in a nightclub, where Anne (Mathilde Seigner) can't take her eyes off Massimo between serving cocktails.
A music impresario soon takes Shaa aside and offers her -- but not them -- a contract. Without a moment's thought, she dumps Massimo for a chance at stardom. Massimo goes into an emotional tailspin (while at the same time writing a great song about lost love), threatens suicide or a return to Italy before Anne rescues him and -- voila! -- he becomes a star and Shaa turns into such a flop that she is able to pen a mea culpa memoir that becomes -- yes, it does -- a best seller.
And that's only one of the stories in "Men and Women!"
Anne's identical twin (also Seigner, of course) works for a pizza-parlor magnate (Michel Leeb), an uneducated, self-made man who on whim marries a beautiful stage actress and sophisticated aristocrat (Arielle Dombasle). His wife eventually takes up a clandestine affair with the chauffeur (Yannick Soulier), who is really a thief. There's a police detective who dies of cancer early in the movie, so his wife can marry her lover, who works as a singer at the same nightclub where Anne works. Later, a movie director (Lelouch himself) shows up to buy rights to Shaa's memoir to turn it into a film starring Shaa and Massimo, and the movie threatens to start all over again.
So a million things are going on with different levels of reality, but weary viewers can be excused for no longer caring. If the characters would simply sit down with a glass of wine and talk to each other, half their problems would get solved. The exuberant, new wave style of early Lelouch, where the camera pirouettes all over the set, is, thankfully, gone. In its place, though, is this mad hopping among subplots so that the focus never stays on anything for too long.
As a pop stylist, Lelouch must confront the fact that for French moviegoers he has been eclipsed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Jean-Paul Salome (whose exotic Arsene Lupin plays in the festival). At one point in this move, Anne tells Massimo that most of his songs are "too old." One wonders whether Lelouch, when he wrote that line, winced a little.
MEN AND WOMEN
Les Films 13 in association with Canal Plus
Director: Claude Lelouch
Writers: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven
Producers: Jean-Paul De Vidas, Claude Lelouch
Director of photography: Gerard de Battista
Production designer: Francois Chauvaud
Music: Francis Lai
Costumes: Karine Serrano
Editor: Stephane Mazalaigue
Massimo: Massimo Ranieri
Clementine/Anne: Mathilde Seigner
Sabine Duchemin: Arielle Dombasle
Michael Gorkini: Michel Leeb
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 128 minutes
IMDb.com, Inc. takes no responsibility for the content or accuracy of the above news articles, Tweets, or blog posts. This content is published for the entertainment of our users only. The news articles, Tweets, and blog posts do not represent IMDb's opinions nor can we guarantee that the reporting therein is completely factual. Please visit the source responsible for the item in question to report any concerns you may have regarding content or accuracy.