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Philippe Garrel: The Gift of Intimacy

May 4 - 30

"It's hard to imagine a filmmaker more deserving of major reconsideration by serious students and enthusiasts of film art. So, let's all be reasonable and demand the impossible: Garrel now!" - Michael Chaiken, Film Comment

"Garrel's sole interest is in presence, in watching the surface of faces and the space between bodies as people feel and think. His gift to us, even in those early films recasting adolescent anguish as widescreen myth, is intimacy." - Nicholas Elliott, 4Columns

From May 4 through 30, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents "Philippe Garrel: The Gift of Intimacy," a series of seven features and two shorts from French cinema's preeminent poet of romantic self-immolation. Rarely revived and virtually unseen in the United States throughout most of his career, Garrel's earliest films are making their first break on U.S. shores amidst a flurry of digital restorations and newly struck 35mm prints. Our week-long run of Garrel's most recent film, LOVER FOR A DAY, immediately precedes this series on April 27 - May 4.

Born in 1948, Garrel came of age with the French New Wave. The son of actor Maurice Garrel, a devotee of Henri Langlois's Cinémathèque Française, and a disciple of Jean-Luc Godard, Garrel made his first films as a teenager. A fervent advocate of the silent cinema of Murnau and von Stroheim, Garrel the young cinephile developed a style early on that favored sparse dialogue, boldly stark imagery, and poetic ellipses over strict narrative continuity.

Garrel's first feature, 1967's MARIE POUR MÉMOIRE won the top prize at the 1968 Festival of Young Cinema in Hyères. In his acceptance speech, Garrel, ever the burgeoning dandy, declaimed his abandonment of the cinema in favor of "prophecy." A month later, Garrel found himself documenting and participating in the student uprisings of May '68, the youth-led cultural break his earlier films had prophesied and the primal scene he would reflect back upon time and again throughout his career, most notably in his late masterpiece REGULAR LOVERS.

Garrel fell in with the Zanzibar Group, a short-lived collective of young avant-gardists who received generous financial assistance for their films from heiress Sylvina Boissonnas Given the resources to work independently, Garrel embarked on a series of wildly ambitious experimental features, among them THE VIRGIN'S BED and THE INNER SCAR, which favored far-flung location shooting, obliquely autobiographical narratives, and doom-laden atmospherics.

It was during this time that Garrel met Andy Warhol, whose unblinking cinematic portraits would be massively influential for the young filmmaker, and Nico, the troubled musician with whom Garrel came to share a home, addiction, and artistic process. She appeared in six of Garrel's features, among them THE INNER SCAR and THE CRYSTAL CRADLE. Her music and memory would continue to find a place in Garrel's films, even after the dissolution of their relationship at the end of the '70s and her death in 1988.

Starting with 1979's L'ENFANT SECRET, Garrel's cinema began to move away from grandiose abstraction and towards the quotidian, concerning itself with simple, seemingly minor emotional transactions between spouses, lovers, friends, parents, and children. While Garrel's early efforts often favored long shots of landscapes that dwarfed his performers, his later efforts made extensive use of close-ups to better convey individual emotional states.

This late turn for Garrel was also marked by his becoming a father, and with it, a newfound interest in the integrity of the family unit. His first wife, actress Brigitte Sy, appears in several of his later efforts, as do their actor children Louis and Esther Garrel, often as characters whose lives undisguisedly parallel their own. Philippe Garrel may have drifted away from the cosmic flourishes of his earlier films, but his later work continues his interest in transposed autobiography and the vast expressive potential of retreating inwards and mining oneself for art.

Cameron Worden, Programming Assistant

Special thanks to Jake Perlin of The Film Desk.

Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Garrel film on any applicable Saturday this month, and get a ticket for the second Garrel film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.)