Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Love is a Funny Thing (Claude Lelouch, 1969)


Even at their sappiest, Claude Lelouch’s films are usually more eccentrically ambitious and personal than his reputation often acknowledges; the 1969 Love is a Funny Thing is no exception. Henri (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Francoise (Annie Girardot) are both working on the same American-shot movie, as composer and actress respectively; they hook up and take off on an improvised road trip, with the film intriguingly eliding both the details of the initial seduction and most of the key decision points thereafter, concentrating instead on momentary experience and engagement. This allows a quasi-pre-Herzogian cavalcade of American oddities, including a Western shoot-out enactment (Lelouch thoughtfully lets the scene run long enough for each participant to be acknowledged and to take a bow), the ability to walk into a gun store and make a purchase using travelers cheques, and the all-round kookiness of Las Vegas (where the food may be lousy, but at least there’s a trapeze act to distract you from it, or failing that, Pat Boone with special guests Sonny and Cher). The two return to Europe and to their spouses with the idea of meeting up again later, but their connection was all too obviously dependent on a particular set of circumstances, and the film ends in absence and separation (the original title, Un homme qui me plait, better reflects that the story belongs more to her than to him). It’s a shame that a viewer is most likely to encounter the film in a dubbed English version which flattens the sense of language and broader cultural differences (although the person who dubs Girardot does so with some delicacy, reflecting the actress’s reticent presence), but it’s still worthwhile viewing, with the bonus of a very young Farrah Fawcett, cast in the early scenes in a miserable have-I-got-a-girl-for-you role, at the mercy of Belmondo at his most offputtingly leering and predatory.

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