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Originally published Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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'Beloved': Romantic musical stumbles as it skips around history

A movie review of "Beloved," a French musical that tends to trivialize traumatic events in history — mostly by demonstrating how they have inconvenienced the love lives of its central characters. Catherine Deneuve stars.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars

'Beloved,' with Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni. Written and directed by Christophe Honoré. 139 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Czech, English and French, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.

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Almost as ponderous as Oprah Winfrey's "Beloved," this French oddity with the same title tends to trivialize everything it re-creates: the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, French-American relations during the AIDS crisis, the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The writer-director, Christophe Honore (2007's "Love Songs"), skips around the decades, taking a minimalist approach to history — mostly by demonstrating how recent traumatic events have inconvenienced the love lives of its central characters.

The willful mother-daughter heroines seem not quite fictional. Catherine Deneuve is the off-screen mother of her co-star, Chiara Mastroianni, and the musical sequences recall Deneuve's French musicals from the 1960s.

A most unexpected father figure appears in the form of Milos Forman, the Oscar-winning Czech director whose career is being celebrated at SIFF Cinema this month. Paul Schneider, the American star of HBO's "The Newsroom," turns up as a musician who insists he's gay even though he seems fixated on women.

The lyrics to the songs are mostly insipid ("Oh Prague, what have you done to me?"), though the soundtrack gets off to a promising start by borrowing a European version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking." The footwear is sometimes more expressive than the characters.

John Hartl:

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