Ismael's Ghosts

Ismael's Ghosts (French: Les Fantômes d'Ismaël) is a 2017 French drama film directed by Arnaud Desplechin,[4] starring Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel, Alba Rohrwacher, László Szabó, and Hippolyte Girardot.[5] The film follows a filmmaker whose life is sent into a tailspin, just as he is about to start shooting a new film, by the return of his wife, who disappeared 20 years ago and whom he thought dead.[6] Ismael's Ghosts premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival as the opening film.[7][8]

Ismael's Ghosts
Film poster
FrenchLes fantômes d'Ismaël
Directed byArnaud Desplechin
Produced by
  • Pascal Caucheteux
  • Vincent Maraval
Screenplay by
  • Arnaud Desplechin
  • Léa Mysius
  • Julie Peyr
Music byGrégoire Hetzel
CinematographyIrina Lubtchansky
Edited byLaurence Briaud
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures (United States)
Release date
  • 17 May 2017 (2017-05-17) (Cannes)
Running time
114 minutes
(Cannes cut)[1]
135 minutes
(director's cut)[2]
Box office$3 million[3]


A film director named Ismaël is working on his next film starring Ivan. It is based on his estranged brother and tells the story of a diplomat who is possibly a spy.

In the middle of the night, Ismaël receives a phone call from Henri. Ismaël was married to Henri's daughter Carlotta, who has been missing for 20 years and presumed dead. Ismaël has a relationship with an astrophysicist named Sylvia now. Carlotta suddenly appears in front of them.

Ismaël does not show up to the set. He accidentally shoots the film's producer in the arm.



In Ismael's Ghosts, Mathieu Amalric portrays a recurring character named Ismaël Vuillard, who appeared in Arnaud Desplechin's Kings and Queen.[9] The name of Marion Cotillard's character, Carlotta, derives from Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo.[10] The title of the film is an homage to Norman Mailer's novel Harlot's Ghost.[11] Bob Dylan's song It Ain't Me Babe was used in a scene from the film.[12] The film includes quotes from Jacques Lacan's Seminar VIII, Rainer Maria Rilke's Schlaflied, and Philip Roth's American Pastoral.[13]


On 17 May 2017, the film premiered as the opening film at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.[14] At the Cannes, the film screened in a 114-minute version.[1] In the United States, it screened in a 135-minute "director's cut" version.[2] In France, the film was released in the shorter version at the big theaters and in the longer version at the art house theaters.[15] At the Cannes' press conference, Arnaud Desplechin stated that the former one is "more sentimental" and the later one is "more intellectual".[16] The film also screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival,[17] the New York Film Festival,[18] and the Philadelphia Film Festival.[19]


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 52% based on 69 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ismael's Ghosts unites an excellent cast — and their valiant efforts are often enough to counter its somewhat confused and disjointed story."[20] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 65 based on 23 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

Sam C. Mac of Slant Magazine gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it "one of Desplechin's most emphatic expressions of his personal, ever-expanding artistic vision."[22] David Parkinson of Empire gave the film 3 stars out of 5, saying, "even those without the foggiest about what they're watching will have to admit that the performances are compelling, and the prospect that the pieces will defy logic and slot into place remains enticing."[23] Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "The film's various storylines wouldn't hold together as well as they do if there weren't an overarching theme that ties everything together, with Ismael's Ghosts finally becoming a study about how our identities are constantly being shaped by outside forces that may forever be beyond our control, however much we try — and sometimes fail — to remain centered."[1]


  1. Hoeij, Boyd van (17 May 2017). "'Ismael's Ghosts' ('Les fantomes d'Ismael'): Film Review | Cannes 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  2. Chang, Justin (5 April 2018). "'Ismael's Ghosts' is a messy but vibrant drama from French director Arnaud Desplechin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  3. "Les Fantômes d'Ismaël (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  4. Jagernauth, Kevin (3 May 2016). "Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg & Marion Cotillard Team For Arnaud Desplechin's Les Fantômes d'Ismaël". The Playlist. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  5. Scharres, Barbara (17 May 2017). "Cannes 2017: The Fest Opens with "Ismael's Ghosts," "Loveless"". Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  6. Keslassy, Elsa (26 May 2016). "Magnolia Acquires Arnaud Desplechin's 'Ismael's Ghosts'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  7. IANS (13 April 2017). "'Ismael's Ghosts' to open 70th edition of Cannes". Business Standard. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  8. Alvarez, Joe; Orlova, Tamara (17 May 2017). "Celebrities and Glitterati Turn Up to the Opening Night of 70th Cannes Film Festival". Ikon London Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  9. Debruge, Peter (17 May 2017). "Film Review: 'Ismael's Ghosts'". Variety. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  10. Rizov, Vadim (30 March 2018). ""I'm Finishing My Bathtub of Whiskey": Arnaud Desplechin on Ismael's Ghosts". Filmmaker. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  11. Chang, Dustin (29 March 2018). "Interview: Arnaud Desplechin Talks ISMAEL'S GHOSTS, His Beguiling New Film". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  12. Nordine, Michael (13 May 2017). "'Ismaël's Ghost' Clips: Marion Cotillard Bops Along to Bob Dylan's 'It Ain't Me Babe' — Watch". IndieWire. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  13. Titze, Anne-Katrin (2018). "The apple of his eye". Eye for Film. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  14. "Cannes 2017 day one: Will Smith, Marion Cotillard, and Jessica Chastain – in pictures". The Guardian. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  15. Aguilar, Carlos (11 April 2018). "Ghost Writing: Arnaud Desplechin on Ismael's Ghosts' Film-Within-a-Film, His Director's Cut, and His Fear of Rehearsals". MovieMaker. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  16. Setoodeth, Ramin (17 May 2017). "Cannes Opening Night Film: Director Addresses Controversy About Two Cuts". Variety. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  17. Mack, Adrian (5 September 2017). "Vancouver International Film Festival 2017's lineup is already making us crazy with anticipation". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  18. Tafoya, Scout (14 October 2017). "NYFF 2017: "Caniba," "Ismael's Ghosts," "Let the Sunshine In"". Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  19. Rapa, Patrick (19 October 2017). "Let's Watch Some Philly Film Fest Trailers". Philadelphia. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  20. "Ismael's Ghosts (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  21. "Ismael's Ghosts Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  22. Mac, Sam C. (28 September 2017). "Ismael's Ghosts". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  23. Parkinson, David (1 June 2018). "Ismael's Ghosts Review". Empire. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
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