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‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ Gets a Bit Too Undone at Times

Stew of a Film That Never Fully Satisfies


In French director Arnaud Desplechin’s film, which opened the 2017 Cannes Festival, Mathieu Amalric plays a scraggly (literally and mentally) middle-aged film director whose momentum on a film-in-progress is dislodged with the arrival of his wife presumed dead, played by the ever-magnetic and mysterious Marion Cotillard. An uneasy triangle between his past and current love (Charlotte Gainsborough, no less, speaking of beguiling enigmas) who conspire to feed his lusts and nightmares, loosening his grip on sanity/reality beyond cinema. Meanwhile, a subplot involving the director’s spy brother’s dangerous misadventures thickens the stew of a film that lures viewers into its tasty trap without fully satisfying. Driven by ghosts and narrative detours through time, family, and place, the film itself gets a bit too undone at times, losing its focus. Then again, form mirrors content, in the kindest analysis, and the whole affair is easy on the eyes and the idle, contemporary French cinema-curious mind.

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