The Arty Semite

Friday Film: Solving World Conflict With Sex

By Ralph Seliger

  • Print
  • Share Share

Courtesy of Music Box Films

In “The Names of Love,” being released in the U.S. June 24, 24-year-old actress Sara Forestier plays Baya, a free-spirited idealist who literally enacts the 1960s slogan, “Make love, not war.” She is passionate to a fault in supporting the French left, lending her attractive body to the cause by converting right-wingers with sex rather than argumentation. For her performance — in at least one sequence she is hilarious in her nakedness — Forestier won a César, the French equivalent of an Oscar.

In keeping with its French title, “Le nom de gens” (“The name of people”), the names of the major characters matter. Baya’s family name is Arabic (Benmahmoud), whereas the male lead (played by Jacques Gamblin) bears the white-bread French moniker Arthur Martin.

Yet these two share an unsettled status as “half-breeds.” She is the product of a rebellious blue-blood French-Christian mother and an Algerian-Muslim refugee father with a heart of gold, while he has a Greek-Sephardic-Jewish mother who survived the Holocaust as a refugee child in hiding with nuns while her parents were deported and gassed, and a very proper (even prudishly straight-laced) Frenchman for a father.

Baya flirts with a secular-cultural version of her Arab heritage, while Arthur identifies as a rationalist and an atheist, but not as a Jew. Arthur is Baya’s unlikely love interest — unlikely more because of their difference in temperament than because of their difference in philosophy or their obvious age gap (at 53, Gamblin is 29 years older than Forestier).There is no clash between them over Israel, no echo whatsoever of the tension widely reported between French Muslims and Jews in recent years. This is a comedy, after all.

But unlike the boisterous Baya, letting it all hang out, Arthur is emotionally guarded, taking after his parents’ fascination with gadgets and technology as a way of avoiding deeper issues, such as his mother’s Holocaust-induced trauma. He becomes an ornithologist who specializes in investigating dead birds to ward off epidemics, which has the effect of distancing himself from human involvements.

Filmmaker Michel Leclerc admits to being inspired by Woody Allen’s comedies. This comes across especially in the clever and innovative ways that Leclerc reveals his characters’ childhoods and parental backgrounds. The film has a zany quality most of the way, but just at the point that it starts getting tiresome in its silliness, it becomes touchingly serious; and so it works.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Names of Love’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Names of Love, Sara Forestier, Ralph Seliger, Jacques Gamblin, Le nom de gens, Film

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.