Movie Diary 5/1/2018

Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin, 2017). The past won’t leave us alone in Desplechin’s latest, a curious blend of storylines and moods. Mathieu Amalric returns to the director’s self-referential world, as a film director whose new relationship with an astrophysicist (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is interrupted by the reappearance of his wife (Marion Cotillard), presumed dead for 20 years. This apparently dominating premise must share space with the rocky production of the director’s latest film – a suspense picture featuring a fictional version of his brother (Louis Garrel) – and the tribulations of the “dead” wife’s father (Laszlo Szabo). The movie is alive in the ways that Desplechin’s best films are, although this one seems to me more mystifying than the glories of How I Got Into an Argument… or Kings and Queen. It especially misses Gainsbourg’s sane presence when she slips away from the center of things; the look on her face when Cotillard dances around to “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” is a great piece of reactive acting.