Film Reviews

"The Names of Love" Is a Mawkish, French Crossover Comedy of Manners

Nothing screams "French crossover comedy" like jokes about Auschwitz and childhood sexual abuse, the main rib-ticklers of Michel Leclerc's blood-clot-inducing second feature. Cowritten with Baya Kasmi, Leclerc's partner for the past decade, and apparently inspired by their own culture-clash meet-cute, The Names of Love traces the bumptious courtship between reserved middle-aged veterinarian Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin), whose maternal grandparents were killed in the camps, and 20-ish boundary-breaker Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier), the offspring of a radicalized, blue-blooded Parisian mother and an Algerian-refugee father. Being molested by her piano teacher as a child has made Baya a "political whore," bedding right-wingers to convert them to vaguely defined leftist causes, which conveniently affords us lots of peeks at Forestier's boobs and bush. The backstories of the couple are presented through a series of cloying devices: direct address, flashbacks, younger versions of the protagonists' talking to their adult selves — all in service to the message that anti-Semitism and racism are bad. But the pathetic attempts at outré, taboo-busting humor as sociopolitical commentary can't disguise what this film really is: a mawkish, MOR comedy of manners. (Rated R)

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.