A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Philippe Garrel: Part 1 at the Metrograph
Largest U.S. Career Retrospective of Garrel Opens October 12 with New 35mm Prints of LA CICATRICE INTÉRIEURE and LE LIT DE LA VIERGE
Garrel's L'ENFANT SECRET Receives First-Ever U.S. Theatrical Run from October 18-24 in New Digital Remaster
Garrel To Appear In-Person
“The child of Cocteau and Godard” (Jacques Rivette), “the proverbial underrated genius” (Olivier Assayas), Philippe Garrel began making films at sixteen, fired by a mythopoetic vision and a political fervor that crested and crashed in May ’68, whose turmoil he filmed (the long-lost, newly discovered Actua 1), and re-created from memory (Regular Lovers, both of which will screen in Part 2 of this retrospective). In the fallout of this popular uprising, the dandy-in-the-underworld produced a darkly dazzling cycle of what Philippe Azoury called “alchemic and symbolist films, a cinema in suede boots.” Then, beginning with 1982’s L’enfant secret, Garrel became something of the patron saint of narrative minimalists, making pared-down, cloistered works fascinated with the significance of minute gestures yet encompassing wider world affairs both social and romantic. Garrel’s reflective films draw heavily on his autobiography—the women in his life, including the chanteuse Nico, his companion for a crucial decade-long interlude; his addictions and inner turmoil; a family of politically-engaged artisans, incorporating as actors father Maurice, son Louis and most-recently daughter Esther, alongside comrades Jean-Pierre Léaud, Anne Wiazemsky, Pierre Clémenti and Zouzou. Part 1 of this retrospective, which will be the most complete yet in the United States, opens Thursday October 12, includes recent digital restorations and new 35mm prints, providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience fifty years of work from cinema’s foremost poet. Philippe Garrel: Part 2 will open in November. Presented with support from the Cultural services of the French Embassy in New York. With special thanks to Claudine Kaufmann, Nicholas Elliott and Pip Chodorov.
L'enfant secret(1979/92 mins/DCP) [Official Selection: NYFF Revivals] U.S. Theatrical Premiere Run October 18-24 in New Digital Remaster The transitional film of Garrel’s career, pivoting from his experimental work into narrative, from films with Nico to works imbued with her ghost. Robert Bresson “models” Anne Wiazemsky (Au hasard Balthazar) and Henri de Maublanc (The Devil, Probably) are a couple who fall in love and then fall to pieces, descending into drug addiction and mutually-enforced self-destruction. The winner of the Prix Jean Vigo in 1982, this lacerating piece of cinematic self-analysis was Garrel’s most traditional film to date, though as quietly revolutionary as any of his previous work, and a testament to an artist’s survival. “The secret child of French cinema, Philippe Garrel has sent us a sign of life. Our answer: we hear you loud and clear” (Serge Daney). This marks the U.S. theatrical premiere run of L’enfant secret, newly remastered. A Film Desk Release. New digital remaster courtesy of Re:Voir.
Marie pour mémoire (1967/74 mins/DCP) and L'enfants désaccordés (1968/60 mins/DCP) *New Digital Remasters* Garrel’s first full-length feature, frequently translated literally as “Marie for Memory,” but perhaps more accurately as “Remember Marie” or “Marie for the record,” is “an explicitly political work about innocence thwarted by parental and state control that trades in the iconography of the Holy Trinity,” per Kent Jones, and an international success, winning first prize at the Festival of Young Cinema in Hyères (and even distributed in the U.S. by Universal Pictures 16mm division). “The first total revolution in cinema since the advent of Jean-Luc Godard. No more literature here. No other writing than that of the camera.”—Claude Mauriac. L'enfants Désaccordés is the story of two runaways–“the out-of-tune children”–and Garrel’s earliest surviving film, shot at age 16.
Anémone (1968/53 mins/DCP) and Droit de visite (1965/15 mins/35mm) In his teens, Garrel appeared on French public television introducing segments of the youth-centered show Seize millions de jeunes (“Six million young people”), and was soon given an hour slot for Anémone, his first mid-length work. Starring Anne Bourguignon, soon to change her name to Anémone professionally (and go on to a decades-long acting career), the film was refused broadcast and labeled too pessimistic, not unexpected given the year. Droit de Visite is the second enormously precocious short by Garrel, in which a young child of divorce spends time with his father, who has “visitation rights.” With Philippe’s own father, the actor Maurice Garrel.
Le révélateur (1968/62 mins/DCP) *New Digital Remaster* [Official Selection: NYFF Revivals] In this beguiling, hypnotic, completely silent work, a couple (Bernadette Lafont and Laurent Terzie ) and their child cross a wasted landscape, keeping just ahead of an unexplained, pursuing threat. Filmed in high contrast black and white (révélateur is photographic developer), the darkness illuminated literally and figuratively by searchlight. “When we filmed Le Révélateur in Germany, every time we tried to set up a shot, the police came along: that in itself didn’t bother me much. I had come to Germany in part for that: to shoot near military camps, to create this feeling of being oppressed.”—Philippe Garrel
Le lit de la vierge (1970/95 mins/35mm) *New 35mm Print* Elemental, mysterious, and nearly overpowering in its widescreen imagery and moving camera, Le Lit de la vierge (The Virgin’s Bed) stars friends/collaborators Pierre Clement and Zouzou as Christ and Mary. Along with Le Révélateur, Le Lit de la vierge is Garrel’s ‘Zanzibar” film, an extraordinary series of films produced by young patron of the arts Sylvina Boissonnas, made in the wake of May ’68 by Jackie Raynal, Patrick Deval, Frédéric Pardo and Daniel Pommereulle (to whom Garrel would dedicate Regular Lovers, screening in Part 2 of this retrospective).
La cicatrice intérieure (The Inner Scar) (1972/60 mins/35mm) *New 35mm Print* “Features Pierre Clementi (nude) and the Andy Warhol superstar Nico (dressed in a loose robe), and a few others, including Philippe Garrel. Clementi speaks French; Nico sometimes complains in English and sometimes declaims in German verse, and sometimes sings for musical background on the soundtrack. There are no subtitles.” —New York Times, 1972. “One mustn’t ask yourself questions while watching... it should be watched for pleasure, as one can take pleasure from walking in the desert.”—Philippe Garrel “Personally, I find this film a masterpiece. A total masterpiece. I can’t explain it.” —Henri Langlois
Les hautes solitudes (1974/80 mins/DCP) *New Digital Remaster* A key to understanding the first decade of Garrel’s filmmaking life, here stripped down to its barest quintessence. Moving portraiture, entirely silent, in stark black and white, of Jean Seberg in her Paris apartment, over a decade removed from her icon-making performance in Breathless, and a few tragic years before her early death. The young Garrel, already an old hand at creating cinema, brings his own spiritual intensity to capturing the faces of his friends and lovers: Nico, Tina Aumont and Laurent Terzie. “The idea was to make a film out of the outtakes of a film that never existed in the first place.”— Garrel
Le berceau de cristal(1976/70 mins/35mm) A score by Ash Ra Tempel provides atmosphere to this sometimes dreamy, sometimes ominously silent trance-like transmission featuring Dominique Sanda, Anita Pallenberg and Frédéric Pardo, whose canvases are meditatively presented in whole or in part for observation. “Snapshot of a discordant generation. The cradle? Art (Pardo’s painting, Nico’s poetry, the Langlois Museum). The cradle? The cold (Anita Pallenberg’s powder, the silence before suicide). Every life is a demolition process.”—Philippe Azoury
Liberté, la nuit (1983/82 mins/35mm) Garrel’s tribute to his parents and the supporters of the FLN (National Liberation Front) in their struggle for Algerian liberation, again with his father Maurice, and László Szabó, Emmanuelle Riva and wife Brigitte Sy. Time is slowed to observe determined hands in craft, and finally to slow-motion, to inflict the full horror of violence. “Mine is the cinema of the Left—if I refused to join the army, if I have contempt for the various means of amassing money, it’s thanks to a few people I knew in my childhood, who lived in conditions of poverty, but who were kings.”— Philippe Garrel
Elle a passé tant d'heures sous les sunlights... (1984/130 mins/35mm) As befits a filmmaker for whom art and life are inextricably intertwined, Garrel frequently returns to exploring the passage between the two. Here the relationship between a young director and his subject (the sunlights of the title refers to the film lights on a set) is refracted through a film-within-a-film as well as through a series of troubling dreams. Alongside Garrel, the cast includes post-New Wave friends Jacques Doillon and Chantal Akerman, and frequent familiar faces Mireille Perrier, Anne Wiazemsky, and Lou Castal.
Les baisers des secours (Emergency Kisses) (1989/90 mins/35mm) A family movie in the purest sense, Garrel here plays a filmmaker who, in putting together his latest work, comes into conflict with his wife after he refuses to cast her as the spouse in a retelling of their own love story, starring himself. With Garrel’s wife, Brigitte Sy and their young child Louis Garrel, and Garrel’s father Maurice. “Be it at dawn, or at dusk, in a surreptitious silence, someone’s hand cranks a handle without anybody around calling for ‘Action!’ The air is cold. Through his wiry mop of hair, the man looks at a woman he loves. Together they shiver. This shiver: the tingling of the cinema. Amitiés, Leos Carax.”
J'entends plus la guitare (1991/98 mins/35mm) Completed in the aftermath of Nico’s sudden death in 1988, J’entends plus la guitare is Garrel’s tribute to the relationship that so profoundly marked him and his art. Johanna ter Steege is the stand-in for Nico; Benoît Régent is the Garrel substitute; and we see them through happiness/dependence, heroin-fueled breakdowns, and the building of independent lives. “We were what we were, and now we are not, and that’s that.” Olivier Assayas: “...about surviving youth, surviving in an age where everything you stood for, believed in, dreamed of, has been crushed.”
Sauvage innocence (2001/123 mins/35mm) Returning compulsively to draw from the deepest wells of his personal pain, Garrel revisits the death of Nico in this film about a director (Medhi Belhaj Kacem) who’s embarking on a work about an ex-lover who has died from an overdose, only to be drawn into a highly suspect drug deal by producer Michel Subor. The last film to be shot by Raoul Coutard, in stunning black-and-white widescreen.
La frontiére de L'aube (Frontier of Dawn) (2008/106 mins/35mm) Louis Garrel’s young photographer ends his affair with tempestuous actress Laura Smet and moves on to the promise of domestic peace with the more even-tempered Clémentine Poidatz. As in all of his work, the film is haunted by the dead, here in its most visible incarnation. “Serious movies that insist on their own seriousness almost always face a difficult reception, whether they are intellectual puzzles or, like Frontier of Dawn, romantic cries from the heart. Garrel transforms a private reverie into a public sacrament, invokes the eternal, risks absurdity, invites derision, seduces, shocks, transcends.” —Manohla Dargis,TheNew York Times.