Thursday, July 17, 2014

Film Review: Phillipe Garrel's Jealousy (2013)

This piece appears in the July/August 2014 issue of Little White Lies.  

Eternally situated between the intimate and the enraptured, the post-nouvelle stylings of director Phillipe Garrel revel in moments of swooning sentiment and afflicted amour fou. Essentially an ongoing reflection on a life shaped by romantic realisation and the prospectus of its resultant passions, the French filmmaker’s methodology has, for over a half-century now, proven a beneficial outlet for interests both artistic and anatomical. Jealousy, Garrel’s latest cinematic interlude, segues seamlessly into a career continuum defined by such sincere severity (and severe sincerity), yet lands gracefully in a state of welcome repose.

A return to a black-and-white, autumnal utopia after the flush sensuality of 2011’s A Burning Hot Summer, Jealousy likewise pulls back from Garrel’s occasional lapses into melodrama toward a level of tranquil melancholy. Starring his son and recent muse Louis Garrel as a single father (named Louis) trapped between lingering feelings for the mother of his child, Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), and his current partner Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), the film navigates the coordinates of this triangle—and other covert variables—with a fluid poise typical of its director. Information and exposition is continually elided, just as individual scenes forgo demarcation, creating internal ellipses which gather an effortless rhythm from moment to moment. Indeed, Jealousy is built on such fleeting instances; romance is born in a glance and relinquished with an edit, as Garrel’s expert imagining of the temporal boundaries linking each of these relationships fosters a kind of time-lapse visual diary of intertwined fates.

Despite the three adults whose indiscretions fuel the tension that lies just beneath the film’s placid surface, Jealousy’s narrative perspective is unmistakably positioned from that of a child. In the film’s opening sequence we literally see, in a point-of-view shot captured from a keyhole, through the eyes of Louis and Clothilde’s eight-year-old daughter Charlotte (Olga Milshtein), who is eavesdropping on her parents arguing in the next room. It’s the only first-person manifestation of Charlotte’s viewpoint, yet the film remains acutely childlike in its depiction of conflicted psychology and the minute details and decisions which accrue irreconcilable power over the weeks, months, and years of a relationship.

The corresponding gentleness in the film’s formal demeanour and its deceptively modest framework (clocking in at a slim 77 minutes), along with the reflexive nature of its conception—Garrel’s late father, Maurice, left his wife at a similar juncture in his son’s life, while Louis reflects on the absence of his deceased father on multiple occasions throughout the film—may conveniently mark Jealousy as a quintessential late-period work. But then Garrel has always approached his highly personal subject matter from discrete angles: whether against backdrops great (2005’s Regular Lovers) or small (1979’s L’enfant Secret), the director’s career-long attention to life’s interstitial moments and the gradations in emotion which offset such periods of serenity has ably assisted over that time in fortifying his artistic autonomy. [LWL]

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