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.
SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT!
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.)
J'entends plus la guitare
I Can No Longer Hear The Guitar
1991, Philippe Garrel, France, 98 min. With Benoît Régent, Johanna ter Steege.
"Raw, rueful, and piercingly alert...a testament to the elusive genius of a postwar French master." - Nathan Lee, Village Voice
Among Garrel's most lucid and complex attempts at reckoning with human intimacy, J'ENTENDS PLUS LA GUITARE found the maturing director eulogizing Nico, his creative and romantic partner of a decade, after her death in 1988. A compressed, fictionalized account of their romance, codependent drug habit, and the events that came to pass after the dissolution of their relationship, J'ENTENDS PLUS LA GUITARE finds a counterpart for Garrel in the character of Gerard (Régent), a philandering layabout living and sharing a heroin addiction with the flighty Marianne (ter Steege). Enter Aline (Brigitte Sy, Garrel's wife at the time, playing a character inspired by herself), the maternal figure Gerard has been dreaming of and with whom he comes to have a child. With unsparing insight, Garrel tracks the progressions of the ever-immature Gerard's affection and libido, and the attendant psychic wounds they inflict on Marianne and Aline. In French with English subtitles. 35mm. (CW)
Marie pour mémoire
Mary For Memory
1967, Philippe Garrel, France, 74 min. With Zouzou, Didier Léon.
"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, Le Figaro
Garrel's feature debut, made when the filmmaker was all of 19 years old, came as both a postscript to the Nouvelle Vague and a precursor to the riots of May '68. Dealing with religious iconography and broken family units, Garrel sketches out a handful of interlocking scenarios in which the young, beautiful, and angry vent their spleen at all systems in sight, act out farcical surrealist plays on archetypical parent-child relationships, and descend ever more into madness as they are faced with an implacably conservative culture. New Wave icon Zouzou (CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON) stars as the titular Marie, imagined as a stand-in for either or both Mary and Mary Magdalene (not the last time Garrel would equate mother and lover figures). In French, Russian, and English with English subtitles.
Preceded by LES ENFANTS DÉSACCORDÉS (THE OUT-OF-TUNE CHILDREN, 1964, Philippe Garrel , France, 15 min.), Garrel's first film, made when he was 16. In French with English subtitles. Both in DCP digital. (CW)
Please note: This trailer does not have English subtitles. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
Les amants réguliers
2005, Philippe Garrel, France, 183 min. With Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme.
"A joyous mash note to the events of May '68, as well as the French New Wave...The gritty black-and-white photography is a constant joy to behold, and the story flies by in a way that belies its 178-minute [sic] running time." - Jess Paddock, Slant
Garrel's masterful stateside breakthrough was a summation of his life and filmmaking to date, drawing on his youthful experiences in radical politics and the avant-garde and his more recent autobiographical efforts detailing loves lost and found. Garrel's son Louis plays François, a serious-minded, politically engaged poet who, alongside a cadre of other young and beautiful artists, rallies against the system by turning over cars and tossing Molotov cocktails during the May '68 riots. When the incipient revolt loses steam, François holes up with the gorgeous sculptress Lilie and several other stalled revolutionaries in a wealthy friend's mansion to smoke hash, listen to records, and waste away the utopia of their youth. More eccentric and personal than your typical sweeping historical epic, REGULAR LOVERS channels Garrel's own experiences on the front lines of May '68 to create one of the great recent films about youth and lost idealism. 35mm.
Preceded by the short ACTUA 1 (1968, Philippe Garrel, France, 6 min.). DCP digital. Both in French with English subtitles. (CW)
The Virgin's Bed
Le lit de la vierge
1969, Philippe Garrel, France, 95 min. With Zouzou, Pierre Clémenti.
A surrealist reappraisal of the life and acts of Jesus and Mary for the post-'68 youth culture, THE VIRGIN'S BED rejiggers the elements of the Biblical epic, that most moribund of film genres, and finds the revolutionary spirit of the '60s in the figure of Christ. Clémenti (BELLE DE JOUR) stars as Jesus, played here as a naïve waif who is enthralled with Zouzou's bed-bound mother/lover figure Marie and cast adrift to preach to hostile, disinterested masses. Made under the auspices of the radical collective Zanzibar Group, THE VIRGIN'S BED demonstrated a marked leap in ambition for the 21-year-old Garrel. Shooting in Morocco against vast, empty landscapes and crumbling ancient architecture, the Godard-influenced Garrel made the most of his expanded canvas and reclaimed the CinemaScope spectacle for the children of Marx and Coca-Cola. In French with English subtitles. 35mm widescreen. (CW)
The Crystal Cradle
Le berceau de cristal
1976, Philippe Garrel, France, 70 min. With Nico, Dominique Sanda, Anita Pallenberg.
- Sat, May 19th 4:45pm
- Tue, May 22nd 8:15pm
"Garrel's most ecstatically impressionistic film. It may also be his best - we'll let you know as soon as the trembling stops." - Matt Thrift, Little White Lies
After his funding for his films began to dry up at the start of the '70s, Garrel found new inspiration in the cinema of Andy Warhol, producing a series of cheap, high-concept, ultra-rigorous film portraits mostly shot in the apartment he shared with Nico. An exploration of the artistic process, THE CRYSTAL CRADLE observes Nico as she smokes innumerable cigarettes and works out a series of poems which would come to comprise the lyrics to her 1980 album The Drama of Exile. Interspersed are appearances by Dominique Sanda, youth-culture icon Anita Pallenberg, and painter Frédéric Pardo, who take drugs, lounge around, and make art as if they were in a dream. Accompanied by a rich, hypnotic score from legendary German prog rock outfit Ash Ra Tempel, THE CRYSTAL CRADLE is one of Garrel's most abstract and haunting films, exuding an unshakeable somnambulistic power. In English (minimal dialogue). 35mm. (CW)
NOTICE: While the other selections in our series "Philippe Garrel: The Gift of Intimacy" have screened in recently struck prints or new DCPs, THE CRYSTAL CRADLE has not been the beneficiary of any preservation efforts. We will be screening an extremely rare original 35mm print which has faded partially to red.
1979, Philippe Garrel, France, 92 min. With Anne Wiazemsky, Henri de Maublanc.
- Sat, May 26th 3:00pm
- Tue, May 29th 8:00pm
"Dark magic...Part of Mr. Garrel's mastery is his ability to make expressive use of what would constitute dire technical flaws in other people's films. The loose ends, the ragged edges, the awkward cuts: Here they're like the angry low-fi communication of a postpunk song, desperate in its constricted ability to evoke the ineffable." - Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
The bridge between the indefinable avant-garde cinema Garrel was producing in the '60s and '70s and the autobiographical works centered around family and romantic relationships he has been making since the '80s, L'ENFANT SECRET marked a key transitional moment in his life and career. Intense, emotionally fragile director Jean-Baptiste (Maublanc) futilely attempts to hold onto his sanity while splitting his time between a stalled film project and a stalled relationship, both involving Elie (Wiazemsky), a troubled actress with a young son. The closest to a traditional narrative film Garrel had made to that point, L'ENFANT SECRET was the great leap forward in his artistic progression, the point where his cinema began focusing with precision on the vacancies that life and love leave. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (CW)
The Inner Scar
La cicatrice intérieure
1972, Philippe Garrel, France, 60 min. With Nico, Pierre Clémenti, Philippe Garrel.
"Garrel achieved something seldom seen before or since...Bad trips have never been so ravishing." - Nicholas Elliott, 4Columns
Garrel's relationship with singer-songwriter Nico hangs heavy over their respective creative outputs in the 1970s. As Nico was writing and recording the songs that would go on to comprise her landmark 1970 album "Desertshore," Garrel began work on the epically scaled experimental fantasia THE INNER SCAR, which would provide that record's cover image and to which Nico's compositions would provide the soundtrack, Shot on location across a series of gorgeous, desolate landscapes ranging from Sinai to Death Valley to Iceland, and filmed in long, austere tracking shots, THE INNER SCAR reconfigures scenes from the lives of both Nico and Garrel as allegorical vignettes set in an indeterminate pre-modern era. Minimal dialogue in English, French, and German; unsubtitled according to the director's wishes. 35mm. (CW)