When one enters into a discussion of the young (just 8 features and 1 short so far) but fruitful (one per year) oeuvre of Christophe Honore, one must indeed, at one point or another, bring up the French New Wave (the Nouvelle Vague if you will) so why not just lead with that story. More than any other post-new wave filmmaker, Honore has most closely aligned himself with the aesthetics and philosophies of Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer and their ilk - so much so that several of his films (Dans Paris and Love Songs most notably) with their oblique moralities, haphazardly interceptive musical numbers and irreverent pop sensibilities, seem almost like remakes, in nature if not source, of early Godard. With his latest film, Making Plans For Lena (as with his last film, The Beautiful Person) it now seems as if Honore has moved from Godard space to Rohmer territory. Either way, the inevitable comparison to the Nouvelle Vague still lurks heavily in Honore's closet-of-his-own-making.
Yet it is more than mere hero-worship and/or honorific homage that makes Honore's cinema the way it is. Honore's Gallic cinementality extends beyond his beloved New Wave, to encompass much of French Cinematic history. Much the same way that Tarantino covets and uses the whole of film history in his work (though to a much deeper and guttural degree) Honore too gives his due to the gods of French Cinema. Placing second-generation actors such as Luis Garrel and Chiara Mastroianni in his pictures, Honore uses these faces as not just actors, but as personifications of his (and their) cinematic past. Here, sitting his most recent muse of sorts Garrel aside for the moment (just a few brief scenes comprise the entirety of his role) Honore places Mastrioanni, daughter of the legendary Marcello Mastrioanni and Catherine Deneuve, at the forefront of his latest film. Starring as the royally messed-up title character, in the throws of a full blown nervous breakdown, Mastrioanni gets the opportunity here to play the widest range of emotions on screen. An actor's wet dream if you will.
Sharply striking, albeit strangely so at first glance, Mastroianni gives off a warmly melancholy sexiness that beguiles at every glance from then on in. Having mostly dead-ringer looks of her father (looks that work better on a man than a woman one could easily say) but with enough of her mother in her to bring out her sad-eyed ashen sex appeal, Mastroianni, no matter how off-putting her character sometimes is, comes off as the beautiful but tragic heroine in Lena. A disconsolate diva with eyes that devour you with their hazeled anguish. Put together similarly to last year's Summer Hours by Olivier Assayas or 2008's A Christmas Tale from Arnaud Desplechin, Making Plans for Lena starts out as a quirky family drama (with comedic overtones) but quickly falls into a character study of a young woman lost inside her own anxieties. Beautifully acted, and filmed in such a way as to elicit those aforementioned and inevitable memories of Nouvelle Vagueries, Honore has accomplished yet another feat in the smart, witty filmmaking voice that has made him one of the most refreshing French auteurs working today. [10/07/10]