If you read only one review of Jealousy, make it Boris Nelepo‘s at the Notebook. But before we go there, we need to have it set up. The trades, of course, are very good at that sort of thing, but even before we turn to them, here’s Philippe Garrel, speaking plainly in the press kit: “The idea that underpins this film is that my son Louis plays his grandfather [Maurice] at 30—the same age as Louis today—even though it is set in the present day. It tells of my father’s love affair with a woman—and by admiring her I unwittingly made my exemplary mother jealous. And I was a child being raised by my mother (in the film, I am the little girl).”
“In the opening minutes,” writes Leslie Felperin in Variety, “Louis (Louis Garrel, in his fourth collaboration with his director dad) bales on his relationship with Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), leaving her to raise their 8-year-old daughter, Charlotte ([Olga] Milshtein, adorable), so he can shack up with clearly-nothing-but-trouble Claudia (the always compelling contralto-voiced Anna Mouglalis). Claudia is also, like Louis, an actor, although her career is more theoretical at the moment as she hasn’t worked in several years.”
“After a while,” writes Boyd van Hoeij, picking it up from there in the Hollywood Reporter, “Charlotte is introduced to Daddy’s new woman and the two immediately get on like a house on fire, even if Claudia turns out to be quite the volatile drama queen when she’s alone with Louis. This being Paris and in black-and-white, both Claudia and Louis see other people, though especially Louis seems to be conflicted about it.”
Felperin, by the way, admires the “unexpected emotional warmth” of Jealousy, while Boyd finds it “almost a miracle… that such an insider-y and talky French film, in black-and-white and about infidelity and the green-eyed monster, turns out to be nonetheless quite accessible.”
Now, then, Boris Nelepo:
At a modest 77 minutes, La jalousie is Garrel’s shortest feature, a small-scale project he undertook after the funding fell through for his ambitious, long-in-the-works follow-up to Un été brûlant, which was supposed to be made at Cinecitta starring Monica Bellucci and Michel Piccoli. Split into two chapters, “I Kept the Angels” and “Sparks in a Powder Keg,” La jalousie is also Garrel’s quietest and most serene in at least 20 years. The plot, however, is liberally dredged with omens: we hear the names of Mayakovsky and Seneca, who both took their own lives; The Sorrows of Young Werther is invoked; Louis’ new girlfriend, played by the inimitably husky-voiced Anna Mouglalis, says things like “this apartment will be the death of us” and “waiting is death,” while the protagonist’s sister, played by the actor’s real-life sister Esther, talks about the fire that once scared her so. Even though Garrel’s devotees are aware of his characters’ fragility, their tragic potential for the first time in years remains unrealized and the protagonist, despite the wealth of portentous events, pulls through in yet another autobiographical detail: Maurice Garrel, indeed, once tried to commit suicide exactly the same way.
Stephanie Zacharek in the Voice: “Rendered in lustrous black-and-white by veteran cinematographer Willy Kurant (who shot Masculin Féminin for Godard), the picture feels intimate and concentrated, less fluttery than some of Garrel’s other pictures—it’s right at the intersection of direct and oblique, like a good haiku.”
“The acting throughout is supremely naturalistic,” writes John Bleasdale at CineVue, “and the social milieu of both family life and the theatre are carefully observed and lightly rendered. A key scene sees Charlotte and Claudia meet for the first time. It’s amusingly and warmly played, but we also follow Charlotte home where her mother has prepared soup and the taut little vignette—as the mother and daughter deal with their own shifting affections, allegiances and insecurities—is pitch perfect.”
Those who read German will want to see Frédéric Jaeger‘s review at critic.de. Jealousy premiered in Competition in Venice and screens this evening and once again on Monday at the New York Film Festival.
Updates: “It might be tempting to make the same charge against Jealousy that the Austrian satirist Karl Kraus made against Heinrich Heine’s Gallic-inspired travel writing,” suggests Max Nelson at Reverse Shot, “that it’s the product of ‘a culture for which the mere material of daily life suffices as a complete artistic experience.’ … It’s all very refined and pétillant, the sight of these romantic French theater people with their small, significant gestures, their ambles, breakups, jealousies, mentors and chats about Seneca—but is it art? This question is more acute in Jealousy than in, say, Regular Lovers, whose dissatisfied, aimless young people had the excuse of standing in for a generation, and for an especially volatile moment in French national history…. Jealousy seems to come from a time when movie subjects didn’t have to act, only exist; when you didn’t need a story to make a film, only a handful of faces and an excess of space…. [I]t’s refreshing to be reminded how rich the medium can be when it’s at its barest of means.”
For the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody, Night Wind (1999) is “the summit of Garrel’s career—a scathing melodramatic summation of his work to that point.” It “ends with a suicide, and the films that follow it seem to come from the beyond: his prior films seem immediate, baring pain in the present tense, whereas his films of the past decade appear retrospective, salvaged from loss. Garrel didn’t just go from son to father to grandfather; he went from adventurer to survivor, from running blindly ahead to looking backward with regret. Jealousy is a work of rueful, retrospective wisdom, but its rough-edged beauty is very much of the moment—there, Garrel seizes the day.”
Updates, 10/5: For Carson Lund at In Review Online, “in its brevity, its young artist characters and its convulsive bouts of melodrama, Garrel’s new film actually resembles a carbon copy of something Godard or Truffaut may have made in the 1960s.”
Peter Labuza and Monica Castillo discuss the film in the latest Cinephiliacs podcast.
Updates, 10/13: “The gentleness with which Philippe Garrel approaches the titular topic reads a little light at times,” finds Nick McCarthy in Slant: “occasionally, the consistently breezy tone undermines moments that require the kind of anxious vigor jealousy evokes. There’s a genuine warmth—and, at its weakest, a weightlessness—to Jealousy, even in moments of emotional angst or precarious tension.”
But for Time Out New York‘s Keith Uhlich, “this 77-minute philosophical treatise—gorgeously shot in black-and-white by Willy Kurant—cuts more to the heart than near-impenetrable Garrel efforts like Regular Lovers (2005) and Frontier of Dawn (2008). It’s a bleak beauty.”
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