The Limits of Love: Infidelity in Philippe Garrel's Films

Lua, Crystal

“Cinema is Freud plus Lumière,” is Philippe Garrel’s most-quoted refrain. And aptly so, for the French director whose quietly devastating films tease an emotional sublime out of every frame of reality. Watching his films, one engages with the work of both a Romantic and a romantic, but perhaps that oversimplifies his style—for he only deals with romance insofar as he deconstructs it. His recent films attempt to illuminate something ugly yet intensely vital about love, or more accurately, about infidelity, the spaces where love begins to break down. One of the lesser-known auteurs of the French New Wave, Garrel’s prolific filmography spans five decades, during which he simultaneously works within a formidable tradition of French cinema and seeks to define his own aesthetic with strains of philosophical introspection, moody black-and-white, and shades of flawed masculinity. Though the New Wave’s lingering influence continues to inform his particular brand of contemplative cinema, his post-2000 films mark a shift from his earlier work, which was coloured by the drug-hazy, agitational atmosphere in the aftermath of 1968. In this oeuvre within an oeuvre, it’s as if Garrel has taken all the simmering restlessness and discontent of that era and brought it into the domestic sphere, inflecting his relatively short filmic exercises with a bohemian melancholy. (Intriguingly, these films explore the unconventional, free-spirited relationships between artists exclusively—actors, painters, and filmmakers, among others.)


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Pat Anderson Prize in Film Reviewing
Published Here
April 29, 2019