For Lovers...and dreamers, too

Monday, April 21, 2008

As set out to do, I watched "Love Me If You Dare" (Jeux d'enfants) this past weekend. And quite frankly, I'm smitten. I cannot stop thinking about it. For anyone who indulges in French filmmaking, this is a film whose cinematography you can lavish in all over again because the director, Yann Samuell, does a wonderful job crafting a film that encompasses dark humor, childhood affection that grows into adulthood romance, and fairy tale-like special effects that bring it all to life.
The film's early scenes offer undeniable parallels with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amelie". From the bold saturation of greens, reds, and yellows that could rival a Toulouse Lautrec painting, to the fairy tale-like sequence of one character literally falling away like water, slipping into another dimension over the prospect of losing love. Both films also feature slightly outcast younger versions of the older protagonists (Sophie and Julien; Amelie and Nino Quincampoix) being taunted by fellow schoolmates. Not to mention the death of one of the character's mothers who is then left to be raised by his/her father, which also occurred in "Amelie." But the parallels cease once the characters grow older, as "Jeux d'enfants" creates its own unique air of humor, wit, seduction, and exhilaration.

It's a beautifully crafted love story that also serves as a fairy tale for adults. Marion Cotillard as "Sophie" was a gem to watch, as was Guillame Canet who portrayed "Julien". I loved that the easy chemistry between the younger Sophie and Julien was still very much evident in the older characters, as sometimes in film the chemistry between two different cast members portraying the same character doesn't always translate so easily. The dialogue here is void of pretension or empty rhetoric that pretends to reflect on existentialism. In fact, each character's retort is smooth, witty and to the point even. Case in point: Sophie dares Julien to gain possession of the earrings of a random girl he was shamefully flirting with in front of her. This girl in particular is known for being promiscuous and Julien, having no remote interest in her only the dare itself, uses this to his advantage and ends up sleeping with the girl in the women's restroom. When they are done and the girl is about to leave, Julien is on his knees begging her for her earrings as a token of her memory. She gives up the earrings and Julien stands and asks if she believes in love at first sight. Believing she is being flattered the girl whispers "yes". Julien pauses, smirks, and calls her "naive" before slipping past her. He returns to Sophie and proudly places his accomplishment in her hand.
Even as they mask their true affection against their heart's better judgement, Sophie and Julien are eternal soul mates. They separate and reunite over different reasons for years at a time, but they're hearts are eternally bound by this game of dares they've played since childhood. The dares they perform for each other are merely delays in their coming to this realization.
"Jeux d'enfants" is more of an insulated love story; very few (if any) of the characters are let into Sophie and Julien's mixed love affair. Neither their families nor lovers are given an explanation for the connection the two share. The mystique of romance in France does not play as great a supporting role here as it did with "Amelie". In truth, it's one of the things I love most about " Jeux d'enfants." Their story is much too intimate and complex to use side stories as fillers. But don't get me wrong, I adore "Amelie"! :)
This wasn't meant to be a and the film's ending I won't spoil here. But I will say the ending will leave you wondering if you should see it as tragic or romantic. But either way I hope it stays with you, if you choose to believe in fairy tales.


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