expect the French to be very insouciant about trifles like infidelity and
divorce, but the Garrels know better. The reigning first family of French
cinema has long plumbed their very personal history for artistic inspiration.
After thoroughly examining his tempestuous relationship with 1960s icon Nico,
Philippe Garrel puts his late actor father Maurice Garrel on the cinematic
pop-psychology couch, casting his son Louis as his grandfather. It is definitely
a family affair. In fact, some of the father-and-son’s best work together coalesced
in the senior Garrel’s Jealousy (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
simply as “Louis,” Louis Garrel’s protagonist is leaving his wife and daughter for
his sultry lover Claudia, much as his real life grandfather did. The former cad
will try to turn over a new leaf, striving to be a faithful lover and attentive
father to his young daughter, Charlotte. Indeed, one should not impose slavish
one-for-one symbolism on Jealousy, lest
Charlotte be taken for an analog of the filmmaker himself.
terms of narrative, Jealousy is a
simple story of a relationship that starts out full of passion and hope, but eventually
turns sour. The differences between Louis and Claudia are not immediately
apparent, but they prove too profound to withstand the test of time. Although
they are both stage actors, she has not worked in years, whereas he constantly
takes low-to-no paying gigs. Despite the occasional flirtation, he takes his
commitment to Claudia seriously, whereas she adopts an attitude of
Jealousy is an intimate
film, in the Cassavetes sense, but it is stylish and accessible. It might also
represent Louis Garrel’s finest screen turn to date. Frankly, in past outings,
he has perhaps tried too hard, projecting a cloyingly boyish persona (as in Love Songs and Making Plans for Lena). However, there is nothing twee or affected about
his work in Jealousy—no sheepish
invitation to ruffle his locks. It is a more mature, Zen-like performance that
pulls us into the character’s life, engendering understanding and even
sympathy. Although he did not try to play his grandfather outright, he
presumably had more to draw upon from personal experience than had he portrayed
some distant literary or historical figure.
Mouglalis (the better of the competing Chanels in Coco Channel & Igor Stravinsky) also fleshes out some
surprisingly deep dimensions in the impulsive Claudia. It is a bold, earthy
turn that impresses. Yet nobody can match young Olga Milshtein as the precociously
wise and winning Charlotte. Completing the Garrel family quota, Louis’s sister
Esther Garrel brings some verve and energy as his on-screen namesake sibling.
Willy Kurant’s black-and-white cinematography
arrestingly heightens the on-screen emotional conflict. It is a lovely picture
that evokes the filmmaker’s earlier pictures, like Emergency Kisses, but it feels considerably less self-conscious.
Philippe Garrel’s films may still be an acquired taste, but Jealousy is the right thin edge of the
wedge to start with. Recommended for those who appreciate French post-Wave
auteurs and chamber drama in general, Jealousy
opens this Friday (8/15) in New York at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
Labels: French Cinema, Infidelity movies, Philippe Garrel