Award-winning 1997 French film directed by Alain Resnais, in tribute to actor Dennis Potter (Singing Detective). Perhaps best described as a musical comedy, it won 7 César Awards in 1998. The film is also known as Same Old Song, the English translation of the title.
The story centres around the lives of a group of middle-class trendies living in Paris. Odile Lalande (Sabine Azéma) is desperate to move out of her dingy little flat, and has enlisted the services of a slimy estate agent, Marc Duveyrier (Lambert Wilson) despite the decidedly luke-warm attitude of her husband Claude (Pierre Arditi). Her gifted sister Camille (Agnès Jaoui) has just completed her lengthly thesis on an obscure historical topic, and duly prey to Marc's dubious charms.
What makes this film unique is the way that French popular music, from a variety of genres and periods, is used to represent the feelings and emotions of the characters. The actors lip-sync to the songs, which cut in unexpected and sometimes last only a few short lines. The effect is somewhat jarring at first and seems very cheesy but is surprisingly effective in conveying the mindset of the character. Moments like a Nazi general breaking into falsetto in the film's bizarre opening sequence are somewhat less deep but nevertheless hilarious. The pacing is leisurely, and for a while the story seems to be going nowhere; however it manages to be engaging whilst avoiding the trap of cramming in too much narrative.
The darker undertone of the film lies in the mysterious conditions afflicting Camille and Nicolas (a friend of Odile's, excellently played by Jean-Pierre Bacri); both are prone to sudden attacks of overwhelming nausea. In this there is a suggestion of the dangers of independence; both Camille and Nicolas are fiercely independent people, and perhaps their inability to accept help and acknowledge their occasional inability to cope is responsible for their fragile conditions. In a broader perspective the film also examines the relationships between the characters and the faults and insecurities that afflict them, and cause rifts between them.
Overall, a very entertaining and interesting film. It turned out to be a great deal more emotional and affecting than I expected. The plot is skillfuly developed and the acting is excellent throughout. Definitely worth a look if you get the chance.
Sources: Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)