“Just saw the Despleschin,” I wrote a friend early this afternoon. “Indulgent, too long, at times overheated, generally undisciplined, taxes the patience, no tension to speak of and all over the place. In a word, minor.”
It’s called Ismael’s Ghosts (aka Les Fantomes d’Ismael), and I can’t imagine it’ll make the slightest dent in the U.S., even among admirers of the kind of talky, drifting, oh-so-French films that over-40 urbans used to pay to see at urban arthouses on slow Sunday evenings. Back before streaming lessened their interest in seeing them in theatres.
The story (which is a kind of free-associating fantasia) concerns an impulsive, immature film director (Mathieu Amalric…frequently shouting, slurping alcohol, smoking cigarettes and doing his bug-eyed, intense man-child routine) whose imagination heats up and starts to merge with reality when an ex (Marion Cotillard) returns after a long absence, and thereby stirs up a hornet’s nest of emotions. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Almaric’s wife, often with a quizzical expression. Louis Garrel plays some kind of handicapped…you know what? Forget it. I don’t care to explain who he plays. All I could think during his scenes was “wow, I hope he’ll be better as Jean-Luc Godard.”
The stand-out scene, or at least the one that many critics have mentioned, comes when Cotillard dances to Bob Dylan‘s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” I was reminded, of course, of Ralph Fiennes dancing in a similar fashion to the Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue” in Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash. Fiennes totally nailed it; Cotillard is okay.
Despleschin in the press notes: “It’s a portrait of Ivan, a diplomat who journes through the world without understanding it. It’s the portrait of Ismael, a director who journey’s through his life without understanding it either. It’s the return of a woman from amongst the dead. It’s also a spy movie. Five films compressed into one, like Pollock’s female nudes. Ismael is frenzied, and the script grew frenzied along with him.”