LOVE SONGS ** Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni; in French, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (sex, brief nudity); see Page W2 for theaters
French movie musicals are an oxymoron, notwithstanding the luxuriantly camp collaborations of "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" director Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand back in the '60s. Christophe Honore's flat-footed "Love Songs" does little to change that Yankee-centric impression.
Louis Garrel gives a performance of breathtaking narcissism as Ismael, a romantically elastic young Parisian negotiating the complications of a triangular relationship with his live-in girlfriend Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) and his work colleague Alice (Clotilde Hesme).
When sudden tragedy removes Julie from the equation, Ismael begins to realign his personal life in full view of Julie's tight-knit family (including a brooding Chiara Mastroianni as Julie's protective sister, Jeanne). At the heart of this bumpy transition is Erwann (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet), a lovestruck student who trails Ismael about like a puppy.
Aided by a pretty cast, Honore creates a distinct urban planet of unconventional domesticity and fluid sexuality that harks back to the Antoine Doinel comedies of Francois Truffaut.
The planet grinds to a halt whenever anyone breaks into one of the film's doughy songs by Alex Beaupain, which succeed in reducing the efficiently delineated characters to the same whiny denominator.
For a film roiling with so much turmoil of the heart, "Love Songs" generates dismayingly little emotional frisson. The streets of Paris make multiple supporting appearances, and they look grand.
"Love Songs" is not rated but features adult themes (including gay and bisexual relationships) and brief nudity. Running time: 95 minutes.