The Names of Love
Music Box Films
Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre
Review by: Larry Thomas
The end of summer means that Hollywood has given up on wringing out big bucks from the box offices, and will trot out the leftovers that are on the shelves. This year has been no exception to that observation. Which means that you, the viewer, is charged with looking around to find something off the beaten path in the art houses. If you look hard enough, chances are you’ll find a little gem that makes you glad to be a film fan.
Such is the case with the French romantic comedy-drama The Names Of Love, which opened Friday at the Esquire Theatre. Only the second film from writer-director Michel Leclerc, The Names Of Love is a fresh, funny, touching, tale that will likely leave you joyous at how good it is.
Jacques Gambin plays Arthur Martin, which is also the name of a famous French cooker. The association follows him throughout his life, and the film. Arthur is a thirty-something veterinarian whose specialty is Avian Flu. He spends most of his time performing autopsies on dead birds, while trying to avoid being with his odd parents too much. He encounters a twenty-something free spirit named Baya Benmahmoud, who is French from an Algerian father. Her theory of changing the world is to seduce the conservatives into being centrists, so that when everyone is a centrist, we’ll all get along. It’s hard to disagree with her theory, since Baya is personified by the dazzling Sara Forestier. She is everything you might expect from a feisty French woman, and absolutely lights up the screen.
We get to know these two, and their parents, from running commentary by their younger selves. It’s a great way to expose the differences between class and cultures especially between two such disparate personalities. It’s also one of the plot devices that will make you think, “Gee…this reminds me of a Woody Allen movie.” The Names Of Love does have that same feel of characterization, dialogue, and set-ups of several Woody Allen movies. But unlike a Woody Allen movie, this isn’t all laughs and loving. Both Arthur and Baya, and their parents, have some dark secrets…things you may not expect in such a film. Arthur hides from life with dead birds, while Baya hides in her own way through her mission of sexual politics. And their parents are as mismatched as any two couples can be.
Despite the seriousness of some these revelations, the film is still first and foremost a romantic comedy, with the ultimate question being will Arthur and Baya become as mismatched a couple as their parents.
The Names Of Love is a totally delightful film full of rich characterizations, beautiful performances, snappy dialogue, and unexpected plot turns. It provides giggles, outright laughter, heartbreak, and perhaps even a tear or two. Although Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris is still my favorite film of the year, so far, The Names Of Love is a close second. Don’t let this wonderful film from France slip out of town unseen.
The R-rated The Names Of Love is now showing at the Esquire Theatre.