Names of Love | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Names of Love 

L to R: Jacques Boudet, Jacques Gamblin, Sara Forestier and Michèlle Moretti

Photo courtesy of Music Box Films

L to R: Jacques Boudet, Jacques Gamblin, Sara Forestier and Michèlle Moretti

Viewers of The Names of Love may be left wondering if America's liberals should consider deploying armies of attractive women to seduce and transform our Glenn Becks and Rick Perrys. That's a ridiculous notion, of course, but it's the slender, occasionally rewarding comic conceit behind Michel Leclerc's film, co-written with Baya Kasmi.

We meet wan, dull Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin), saddled with a name that seems to be the French equivalent of Bob Smith. He's an animal epidemiologist, the government expert who discusses bird flu on the radio every time a dead goose or chicken is discovered. And it's when he's on the radio one day that he's interrupted by a wild-eyed, impetuous and fetching young woman named Baya Benmahmoud, which seems to be the French equivalent of, well, Baya Benmahmoud.

After this meet-cute, the two of them sit for a drink and Baya propositions him, saying that she always sleeps with men on the first date, "on principle." Baya turns out to be the child of an Algerian laborer and a rebellious, upper-class French mother, and her ambition is to sleep with as many fascistic men as possible, hoping that her multicultural appeal and sexual favors will turn them into decent human beings. And indeed, it's difficult for anyone—fascists, Arthur or the audience—to resist the charms of Baya (exuberantly played by the generously underdressed Sara Forestier).

But Baya's lack of inhibition turns out to be a response to a childhood trauma, a theme that runs through the film. Both Baya and Arthur are the products of troubled parents—Baya's father suffered terribly as a child in Algeria, while Arthur's mother was orphaned during the German occupation when her Jewish parents were deported to Auschwitz. The rest of her life, we learn, has been a project of repression, denial and attempts to forget. (Michèlle Moretti's performance as the mother is almost shocking in its unrelenting self-abnegation—there is not an ounce of bathos.)

At its narrative essence—a neurotic nebbish proves irresistible to a kooky sex kitten—The Names of Love follows the classic Woody Allen template, minus the Schopenhauer jokes. There's a light, breezy touch throughout, and a nice use of Woody-ish imaginary characters. A running gag about Lionel Jospin, France's underachieving Socialist leader, results in a memorable payoff, while the film's exploration of France's tortured history of persecution, imperialism and violence packs an occasional punch, even if the characters are often thinly sketched caricatures.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to …

by Andrew190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

We'd be hard pressed to find a free local weekly with film reviews this poetic. Your writers translate complex ideas …

by Aims Arches on Isabelle Huppert Unforgettably Avenges Herself in Elle (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Just saw Pitch Perfect 3 trailer. Looks like its going to be another year of fun ride. Incredibly excited to …

by Andrew190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

We'd be hard pressed to find a free local weekly with film reviews this poetic. Your writers translate complex ideas …

by Aims Arches on Isabelle Huppert Unforgettably Avenges Herself in Elle (Film Review)

Ever since the surprise success of the Fox TV show Glee audiences have been exposed to the world of choirs, …

by philip190 on Dueling college a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect (Film Review)

robertm748: You mean without warning, apart from the very first paragraph of his review???

by Neil Morris on Amy Adams’s Authenticity Elevates Tom Ford’s Glam Pulp Fiction in Nocturnal Animals (Film Review)

Nathan Gelgud is unsure whether the disenfranchised classes in England are whiter than in the US? Really?

Well, …

by Eileen Smyth on Aliens land in an English slum in Attack the Block (Film Review)

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation