I’m going to come right out and say something many film reviewers and critics are afraid to say in their reviews: I didn’t get it. Or, worse maybe, I think I did get it and just didn’t like it. Those are my basic feelings on Michael Almereyda’s gorgeously shot yet ultimately impenetrable “New Orleans Mon Amour.”
Taking a cue from, or paying homage to Alain Resnais’s devastating, classic film “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” Almereyda cleverly sets his film in the seemingly bombed out world of New Orleans post-Katrina. There we meet young lovers Hyde (Moss) and Emerson (Jacobs) who are volunteering to help clean up some of the destruction. Also lending a helping hand is Dr. Jekyll (Eccleston) who gives free medical aid when he can. Yes, Dr. Jekyll and Hyde are characters in the film. ‘Nuff said. As it turns out, the doctor and Hyde had a turbulent and quite possibly violent relationship in the past which ended with Hyde going a little bit loopy. However as fate would have it, they bump into each other one day and a series of confusing and somewhat condescendingly arty scenes play out that dare you to stay involved.
I have a deeply felt passion for New Orleans and the plight of all affected by hurricane Katrina so the shots Almereyda uses of the destroyed towns and landscapes had a profound effect on me. I also totally got the idea of tying into the “Hiroshima Mon Amour” template of love combined with the wounds of battle, memory and trauma and then setting it in New Orleans. But my issues with the film came from the fact that every time any character opened his or her mouth, I just tuned out. Couple that with the fact that Eccleston’s Jekyll is not only uninteresting, he’s also smarmy, creepy and pointless and I just had a real hard time staying interested in the film.
There were some positives to “New Orleans Mon Amour” including some truly amazing cinematography. Almereyda clearly has a terrific eye and he manages to mix some beautifully composed tracking shots perfectly with equally breathtaking shots of destroyed communities still awaiting cleanup. I also enjoyed Barlow Jacobs performance as the somewhat jilted lover Emerson and Elisabeth Moss has a pleasant screen presence and she shows a wide range as an actress, although her character totally lost me after about ten minutes. I truly wish I’d liked this film more as I think Almereyda is onto something, but in the end “New Orleans Mon Amour” just proved to be too difficult to stay invested in for me.