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Filmlovers! – Cannes 2024 (Film Review)

3 min read

Still Courtesy - Les Films du Losange

Inflicting and self-referencing the mechanics, innovation, and prevalence of the cinematic form, the latest feature from renowned auteur is an interpersonal excavation of history. Represented with an episodic structure, the film analyses the foundation of the medium by illuminating its vignettes with visual abstractions. These aforementioned chapters are indebted to the work of homebound critic André Bazin and renowned American philosopher Stanley Cavell. For the latter author, his academically acclaimed The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film is radically implemented into a spoken-word conversation about the state of cinema. The project's examinations are blunt; avoiding subtlety in favour of a more celebratory affair. After all, the original French title of the film ends with a bodacious exclamation point. The title Spectateurs! (or better known in English as Filmlovers!) is a perfect amalgamation of Desplechin's motives; trumpeting & advocating for the betterment of society through communal cinematic rituals. 

Thus, the self-referential labyrinth begins. Throughout Filmlovers!, the viewer is forced to interact with brief personifications of Desplechin's adolescent-self. The referential nature of these fragments gleefully indulge in pedantic nostalgia. There's an irritability to the specificity; condescending the viewer through a rabbit hole of insignificant romantic anecdotes and the quotidian malaise of a cinephilic teen. The condescension minimises the effectiveness of Desplechin's anthropological examinations; dramatising his own frivolous routines as nostalgic spectacle. However, as with any vapid spectacle, there's an uplifting amount of entertainment at surface-level. The extravagant recreations are admittedly fun. Desplechin keenly resurrects the films, the culture, and the social trends of his youth with a considerate eye for immaculate production design.  

Still Courtesy – Les Films du Losange

The film's thesis is indebted to the communality of the movie-going experience — concluding his endeavour with a gentle cameo from the one and only . The image of a beloved movie star is decontextualised; shifting the visage of the famed actor into a working-class patron of the cinematic arts. Footage from Desplechin's extensive library of influences are also juxtaposed with a zippy methodology; repurposing pre-existing theoretical text with images obtained from memories and canonical favourites. There's a gentle playfulness frolicking within the vast canvas. These scenes enrapture the homeliness of film-viewing congregations. However, in the greater context of the piece, these segments are also derivative of the film's thesis. Desplechin deviates from the reunion of human perspectives for his own narcissistic gain. 

Within the tonality of the piece, the autobiographical references prioritise optimism over realism. Filmlovers! skips over important revelations about our current era of contemporary cinema. Negligence towards dialogue revolving around streaming, artificial intelligence, the sociological aftermath of the pandemic, and other touchy topics are sidelined for historical self-promotion. The humdrum idealism only strays the film away from its critical crux. Whilst there are a few notable conversations mixed into the abundance of recreated segments, interviews, and re-appropriated footage; the film still remains incomplete as an intellectual provocation. Desplechin's compilation of motion-picture history is admirable in theory, but strangely hollow in practice — especially when it attempts to deliver a fresh new perspective on the state of cinema.

Still Courtesy – Les Films du Losange
Filmlovers! premiered at this year's , as part of the Special Screenings section.