In 1964 Riems, Madeleine (Sagnier) accidentally begins moonlighting as a prostitute before falling in love with a client, the charming Czech doctor Jaromil (Bukvic). He whisks her off to Prague, until the Russian invasion of 1968 and Jaromil's infidelity drive her back to France with daughter Vera.
Madeleine remarries, but never loses her feelings for Jaromil. Even some 40 years later (now played by Deneuve and Forman), they're meeting in secret, while Vera (now Mastroianni) is struggling with the fact that she has fallen in love with the wrong man (Schneider).
As in the previous film, Alex Beaupain's songs are low-key internalised musings, either monologues or duets that let the characters express their private feelings. They're also performed live as dialog, not as big set-pieces, and are usually quite melancholic, which makes the whole film feel somewhat drab and gloomy. These are all people who make a mess of their romantic lives as they struggle to cope with lingering feelings toward each other.
The plot is so sprawling, with such a wide range of characters followed over so many decades, that watching it feels like reading a novel. People come in and out of each others' lives, usually causing additional problems. Vera's American boyfriend in London says he's gay but can't keep his hands off her, while the Frenchman (Garrel) who loves her watches on haplessly. Which of course echoes the way Madeleine's second husband (Delpech) sees Jaromil.
Is Honore's point that true love is a feeling that runs so deep that it can derail your life? The central lyrical theme seems to be, "I can live without you, but not without loving you", which becomes more than a little bleak when the film stretches on for more than two hours. At least it's beautifully shot and edited, and the cast is extremely watchable even if they play a bunch of mopers. But in the end, there's just too much of it to keep us interested.
Run time: 172 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th October 1998
Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 15
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Christophe Honore
Producer: Pascal Caucheteux
Screenwriter: Christophe Honore
Starring: Chloë Sevigny as Kim
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