Parallel storylines tell the current state of affairs for two ex-lovers: Nora's a single mother who comes to care for her terminally ill father; holed in up in mental ward, Ismael, a brilliant musician, plots his escape.
In 1950s France, Gabrielle is a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man when she is sent away to the Alps to treat her kidney stones. Gabrielle yearns to free herself and run away with André.
Paul is preparing to leave Tajikistan, while thinking back on his adolescent years. His childhood, his mother's madness, the parties, the trip to the USSR where he lost his virginity, the friend who betrayed him and the love of his life.
Luc Bondy's final feature film as director draws talent from both stage and screen to bring Pierre de Marivaux's 1737 play into 21st century Paris. Isabelle Huppert commands the screen as ... See full summary »
Having run away twenty-one years ago, Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) is back out of the blue. Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) has been busy rebuilding a life for himself next to Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) while working on his next feature film. As Ismael's trials and tribulations unfurl, so do those of the main character of his film: the idle, funny and reckless diplomat Ivan Dédalus (Louis Garrel). The character is a nod to the ghost of another of Desplechin's creations, the brother of Paul Dédalus, three-time hero of "My Sex Life - or How I Got Into an Argument," "A Christmas Tale" and "My Golden Days." A film within a film - and then some, Desplechin layers narrative upon narrative. With ISMAEL'S GHOSTS, Desplechin returns once again to the past, creating film after film as his way of stepping back in time, and proving yet again that his brand of genius lies in his ability to find light in the darkest of places.Written by
The basis for a good film is always a good screenplay. Because the screenplay of 'Les fantômes d'Ismaël' is a mess, the film is a failure. What is undoubtedly meant as an intelligent multi-layered story highlighting the many aspects in the life of a film maker, is in reality an incomprehensible hodgepodge of subplots going nowhere.
Right from the very beginning, the viewer is confused. The first few scenes are not scenes from the film we're watching, but from a film within the film, which is being shot by lead character Ismaël. The main plot item, however, is the return of his wife, who has been missing for 20 years and was presumed dead. This in itself can be fine material for a well-acted drama, exploring the way the husband, his girlfriend and his long lost wife cope with this new situation. With multiple award winning actresses like Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marion Cotillard on hand, this would seem to be the most logical option.
Instead, the viewer is offered a myriad of increasingly complicated side-stories, flash backs and dream-like sequences, culminating in a laughable scene of the tormented film maker shooting his own executive producer by accident. I have no doubt this film tries to make a point, but I'm afraid only the director knows which one. Unless you're a fan of French pseudo-intellectual art-house dramas, this film is to be avoided.
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