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JANUARY 31, 2000: 

Same Old Song

Throughout Same Old Song (On connaît la chanson), the latest film by Alain Resnais, characters lip-synch to snatches from French popular songs by Edith Piaf, Jacques Dutronc, Sylvie Vartan, and others. Sometimes these numbers flow smoothly in and out of the dialogue, sustaining a mood or taking it to another level, the way songs work in musicals. Sometimes the actors have to wait breathlessly while the song catches up to their emotion (France Gall's anthemic "Résiste" slows down the two scenes in which it occurs). Either way, the singing provides an unusual doubled everydayness: we get both a personal reaction to a given situation (since the actors remain in character while lip-synching) and a stereotypical reaction -- the comment of culture itself, as embodied in song. The situations in question arise out of a happily aimless plot about a downtrodden real-estate agent (André Dussollier) who falls in love with a history student (Agnès Jaoui) while her sister (Sabine Azéma) shops for a new apartment.

In its comical, understated way, Same Old Song reveals a lot about people's attitudes toward business, professions, relationships, and depression. Some of these attitudes are, no doubt, characteristically French, and if you love the French, or are French, you'll probably have a better time with this movie than otherwise. Viewers in the right mood will be rewarded by a long party sequence near the end in which all the characters and themes mingle entertainingly and in which this loose, open film achieves not closure but a witty semblance of sociological comprehensiveness.

-- Chris Fujiwara

Down to You

As teen comedies go, Kris Isacsson's debut is more mature than the rest of the pack it runs with, dealing with the fear of growing old rather than the excitement of being young. Fun-loving Imogen (a passionate Julia Stiles -- finally a teen heroine whose breasts aren't the center of attention) and the more serious Al (Freddie Prinze Jr.) fall in love at college. Successful teen flicks give kids the chance both to laugh at how things are and to dream about how things could be; usually, though, they end up as palatable stereotypes. Imogen and Al, however, live a life like no other college couple -- by their first year together they've already worried about pregnancy, cohabitation, marriage, and spicing up their sex life. In an attempt to regain their teenness, they decide to go to a party, but instead of letting loose at a kegger, they end up sipping wine in a rich friend's swanky Manhattan apartment. The teensomethings become thirtysomethings and the laughs get pushed aside by soul-searching conversation. Instead of providing fantasy fodder for romantic teenage girls, Down to You is more likely to remind those girls' parents of their relationship just before they got married. And the last thing teenagers want is to be like their parents.

-- Jumana Farouky

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