Michel Leclerc’s new film “The Names of Love” concerns an angst-ridden Jewish man who experiences crises related to his relationships and family. Arthur is plagued by introspective neuroses and distorted memories of childhood caused by the fears and obsessions of his parents who were afraid to talk about the Holocaust. Arthur’s pessimism and rigidity keeps him from making friends but he establishes an intimacy with the audiences through humorous confessionals in the stream-of-consciousness narrative. He tells the audience of his love for Baya, a young, free-spirited Algerian woman. Baya converts right-wing men to her left-wing political causes by sleeping with them. Arthur's challenging ambivalent romance with his opposite disintegrates after his mother commits suicide. But the two fall in love once again, bound by common tragic family histories (the Algerian war and Holocaust under Vichy ).
Leclerc’s idiosyncrasies resemble those of Woody Allen. Like the comedian-psychoanalyst, Leclerc frequently looks to past events and family history to explain his present actions. He emulates the best of Allen’s elaborate self-examination, using the same techniques such as direct address to the camera and adult time-travel to his childhood.
“The Names of Love “ is a funny film, filled with irreverent instances of absurdist humor and slapstick. Yet, despite its zany moments, the story is mature, focused and thoughtful . Through humor, Leclerc talks about complicated issues of Arab-Jewish relationships, anti-Semitism and immigration. Thumbs up.