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
"Ismael's Ghosts" (2017 release from France; 135 min.; original title "Les Fantômes d'Ismaël" ) brings the story of Ismael. As the movie opens, we follow the conversation among several bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the mysterious disappearance of a certain Ivan Dedalus, who had just started his career there. As it turns out this story is being developed in the mind of Ismael, a film maker. We get to know Ismael, as he carries on with his girlfriend Sylvie. We learn that Ismael's wife Carlotta, who mysteriously disappeared 20 years ago, and Ismael had her officially listed as "missing". Then one day at the beach, Sylvie runs into a woman she thinks is Carlotta... IS it the real Carlotta? how will this affect Ismael? and what about the movie-within-the-movie? At this point we are less than 15 minutes into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from director (and co-writer) Arnaud Desplechin, whose previous movie was the likable "Golden Days" (original title "Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse"). Here, Desplechin rides several parallel story lines: the complicated life and relationships of Ismael, whether or not the real Carlotta has come back, and the movie-within-the-movie. It should make for an appealing mix, but alas, you might be wrong. First of all, I just don't "get" the point" of the movie-within-the-movie, which simply doesn't seem to have any connection with the real movie--and if it does, I completely missed it. Second, the relationships that play out between the three main characters never came across as genuine or believable. And that is a darn shame for Charlotte Gainsbourg (whom I otherwise absolutely adore) in the role of Sylvie, Marion Cotillard as Carlotta, and Mathieu Amalric as Ismael. I mean, those are top notch names, but even they cannot save this movie. Bottom line: "Ismael's Ghosts" is a giant waste of acting and creative talent.
"Ismeal's Ghosts" premiered at last year's Cannes film festival, to ho-hum acclaim. Almost to the day a year later, the movie opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. Truthfully, if it weren't for the fact that this stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, I doubt I would've gone to see it. As it was, the Monday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (3 people, including myself), and I cannot see this playing longer than one week in the theater (at least here in Cincinnati). I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater (not very likely at this point), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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