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The film tells the tale of a widowed film director who is in the middle of making a film about an atypical diplomat inspired by his brother. While he has started a new life with Sylvia, he still mourns the death of a former lover, Carlotta, who passed away 20 years earlier; then Carlotta returns from the dead, causing Sylvia to run away Written by
The basis for a good film is always a good screenplay. Because the screenplay of 'Les fantômes d'Ismaël' is a mess, the film is a failure. What is undoubtedly meant as an intelligent multi-layered story highlighting the many aspects in the life of a film maker, is in reality an incomprehensible hodgepodge of subplots going nowhere.
Right from the very beginning, the viewer is confused. The first few scenes are not scenes from the film we're watching, but from a film within the film, which is being shot by lead character Ismaël. The main plot item, however, is the return of his wife, who has been missing for 20 years and was presumed dead. This in itself can be fine material for a well-acted drama, exploring the way the husband, his girlfriend and his long lost wife cope with this new situation. With multiple award winning actresses like Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marion Cotillard on hand, this would seem to be the most logical option.
Instead, the viewer is offered a myriad of increasingly complicated side-stories, flash backs and dream-like sequences, culminating in a laughable scene of the tormented film maker shooting his own executive producer by accident. I have no doubt this film tries to make a point, but I'm afraid only the director knows which one. Unless you're a fan of French pseudo-intellectual art-house dramas, this film is to be avoided.
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