9 February 2003 | rsoonsa
Not raised to the level of satire.
The Paris based Belgian director Chantal Ackerman tries something a trifle wide of her customary metier with what one might suppose is an attempt at a pastiche of Hollywood musicals. The structure of the scenario has virtually all of the action taking place within a Parisian shopping mall, "Toison d'Or" (the name of which is the wittiest item in the film) and revolves about the romantic inclinations of young Robert, son of the owners of a ready-to-wear boutique. Robert is in love with the manager of the next-door hairdressing salon, Lili, mistress of a wealthy businessman who purchased the salon for her to keep himself in good romantic standing. Other complications involve Mado, who works for Lili and who is in love with a non-responsive Robert and an American, a former lover of Robert's mother Jeanne (Delphine Seyrig); he has returned to Paris and wishes to replicate their affair with her. Primary musical contributions are from Sylvie (Miriam Boyer) who manages a juice bar, and "The Four Boys", implanted in most scenes to give occasional observations akin to those produced by a Greek chorus. Ackerman's normal strain of pessimism is adulterated here, most often due to the seeming herds of young salon employees that pop in and out to comment upon the fickleness of lovers, and the director's deconstructive style is most evident in her lyrics for the four songs composed for this work, wherein banal eroticism generally replaces the romantic impulse, however little sense the rambling text produces. There are, as might be expected, acidic statements from Ackerman, who also contributes to the script, but her favourite subjects: politics, sexuality and identity are forced to share the screen with mundane requirements of a rather pedestrian plot. Since she must sublimate her disinterest in codified time for this linear narrative, we are spared another of her mannered exercises in cinematic semiotics, and although her production is empty of much in the way of merit, it is sporadically amusing and watching Seyrig work is always an experience to be valued.