In recent years the musical, a genre of movie that is all but dead,
has been getting some well deserved attention. Whether it be the
spectacle of the multiple Academy Award winning Chicago, or the
unique style of the love-it-or-hate-it Moulin Rouge, people are
starting to breath life back into the genre. One unlikely director
of a musical is French New Wave director Alain Resnais. He took a
stab at it with his 2003 film Not on the Lips. In a lot of
ways this film is a throw-back to the 40's as it is very reminiscent of
the MGM musicals and Hollywood farces of that time. Both fun and
light, this is a surprising film from the director of Hiroshima, Mon
Amour and Night and Fog.
It is the autum of 1925 and poor Gilberte (Sabine Azema) has a problem.
She's married to a wealthy industrialist, Georges (Pierre Arditi), who
simply adores her. It was important to him that he married a virgin,
so Gilberte never told him about her first marriage to an American, Eric
(Lambert Wilson). The snag comes when Georges announces that he's
about to sign a big contract with an foreign associate who is coming to
Paris. The partner is none other than Eric.
To add to the confusion Huguette (Audrey Tautou), a friend of the family,
has fallen in love with the artist Charley (Jalil Lespert). But Charley
isn't interested in Huguette, he's busy chasing after the married Gilberte.
So Gilberte's old maid sister, Arlette (Isabelle Nanty) takes it upon herslef
to play matchmaker. There's confusion and misunderstandings galore
before the end of the film.
Adapted from a 1925 Parisian operetta, Not on the Lips is a delightful
throwback to a simpler type of movie. The unpretentious direction
help to make this a fun and enjoyable film, it's a lot like sitting down
to watch a musical comedy from the 40's. The comical rapid dialog
team up with frequent misunderstandings to create a classic farce.
(It has to be a farce, who could honestly be more attracted to Sabine Azema
than to the gorgeous Audrey Tautou?)
The songs in the film, penned by André Bardé and Maurice
Yvain and sung by the cast themselves, are quick and catchy. Though
they won't win any awards, the music fits in well and helps create the
tone and atmosphere of the play. The subtitles for the lyrics are
even presented as rhyming couplets, so that non-French speakers (like myself)
can get a taste of the rhythm. The songs are very humorous too, with
some of the better jokes appearing in them.
While the story is told in a series of indoor sets, the backgrounds
are meticulously appointed and make for some surprisingly gorgeous visuals.
One wouldn't think that a movie which is little more than an adaptation
of a stage play would look so elegant and charming, but this movies use
of bright colors in the sets and costumes to create some striking images,
which are just an added bonus.
Don't be mistaken by the cover of the DVD case that prominently features
Audrey Tautou. While she does have a significant role in the film,
she is only a supporting character. She still manages to light up
the screen whenever she appears, and though she doesn't steal the film,
she does add to it considerably.
This is a fun and funny film, one that had me laughing out loud several
time. The American Eric, with his horrible French accent and brusk
manners, is both humourous and interesting in the way the French see us.
Sadly this movie did not get a theatrical release in the US. With
a director of Resnais stature and the quality of this film that is a shame,
and a sad statement on the state of film distribution in America.
This film comes with a stereo and 5.1 French soundtrack. There
are optional English subtitles of course, but there isn't an English dub.
I viewed this with the 5.1 mix, and spot checked the alternate track and
found them both to very good. The stereo track was less enveloping
of course, but reproduced the music accurately. The 5.1 track made
limited use of the rear channels, mainly using them for music, but the
effect worked well. There were not any drop outs or other audio defects.
The anamorphic widescreen display (1.85:1) looks very good. The
sets are colorfully dressed and these colors come through with striking
brilliance. In a some scenes details were lost in the shadows and
dark areas, but this was a minor complaint. Digital defects were
very minor, mainly limited to just a few instances of aliasing. Overall
a nice looking transfer.
There wasn't much in the way of extras on this disc, only filmographies
of the director and actors and a selection of trailers, including one for
Not on the Lips.
I really enjoyed this movie. Reminiscent of a musical from the
40's, this comical farce is a lot of fun. The humor works and the
songs are catchy. Though it is not a masterpiece, and a little different
from the other Renais films I've seen, it is still worth searching out.
Fans of musicals and foreign films should be sure to check this out.