Ismael’s Ghosts – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Writers: Arnaud Desplechin (scenario & dialogue), Julie Peyr (scenario & dialogue)
Stars: Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Mathieu Amalric plays the part of Ismael Vuillard, a film director of mature years, who is in the process of making a new film. As the film contains characters with names such as Ivan Dedalus (Louis Garrel) and Henri Bloom it is to be assumed that it had something to do with James Joyce’s “Ulysses” but Desplechin chooses not to reveal in any obvious way what the connection might be. This may not be surprising given that Ismael’s first wife, one Carlotta Bloom (Marion Cotillard) who had been thought to be dead for twenty one years or more suddenly re-appears. He knows the precise number of days which is surprising given that he had been apparently happily hitched to Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) for some time. Carlotta chooses to make her second coming in society to Sylvia rather than Ismael.
So there is a film within a film with some sort of Joycean theme interleaved with Ismael’s own life which is imploding around him as what had happened twenty years earlier comes back to haunt him. His own sense of reality, which was probably under strain before these events occurred, becomes entirely overwrought and he enters a world which appears to be very far from rational. It is not easy to discern what Desplechin, who is a part writer of the script, is trying to achieve as he weaves this morass of unwieldy facts and fears into an unconvincing whole.
Cotillard and Gainsbourg are impressive playing their unlikely parts but Amalric is almost a caricature of what an amorous film director is meant to be. However, the fine acting of the two female leads cannot redeem the chaos of the plot. The whole film lasts just under two hours. There was a sense of relief when it finally come to an end, but also a sadness for those lost hours that can never be retrieved.