October 2016, arsenal cinema

Philippe Garrel Retrospective

LA CICATRICE INTÉRIEURE, 1972

It's hard to find another French filmmaker of such standing as Philippe Garrel who still remains a more or less blank slate in Germany. Although he’s regarded as a key figure in post-Nouvelle Vague cinema, his 30-film oeuvre is largely unknown in this country. With the exception of L'OMBRE DES FEMMES (In the Shadow of Women, France/Switzerland 2015), not a single one of his films has received a standard German theatrical release over the last couple of decades. Arsenal is dedicating a comprehensive retrospective to Philippe Garrel in October, which will enable Berlin audiences to grasp the different phases of his over 50-year career and get to the very heart of his concerns by looking at his entire oeuvre for the very first time. For the opening on October 1, we are presenting Garrel's penultimate film LA JALOUSIE (France 2013) as a German premiere. Introductions by Birgit Kohler, Thomas Arslan, Volker Pantenburg, Marc Siegel, Angela Schanelec, and Anja Streiter complement the program.

Garrel (*1948) started making films in 1964 as a 16-year-old. His experimental early works were created within the orbit of the dandy-like Zanzibar group, an informal artistic collective, and anticipated both the fury and the failure of May '68. In 1969, he met Nico, the former model, muse to Warhol, and Velvet Underground singer, with their complicated personal and professional relationship subsequently lasting for 10 years. Nico acted in seven of his films and continues to haunt them like a phantom to this day. Garrel's works from the 70s are often silent and were shot on leftover film material past its use-by date. After 1979, his work became more narrative, albeit without doing away with the close-ups of women's faces so characteristic of his cinema. He works with light like a painter, usually in black and white, with his use of overexposure often making the images seem to explode in the whiteness of the light. Life and art are entirely inseparable for Garrel, who continually makes recourse to episodes from his own biography in his films, dealing with the same material again and again: the love, or rather dialectic between man and woman, relationship crises, separation and new love(s), lack and loss, loneliness, May '68, and the connections between politics and emotions, the influence of drugs, the motif of suicide, the relationship to his father, and art as a form of survival. The beauty of Garrel's cinema is rooted in its aesthetics, its poetry, both of which convey profound feelings of all kinds.

LA JALOUSIE (Jealousy, France 2013, 1.10., with an introduction by Birgit Kohler & 21.10.) It begins with the emotions that flicker across the face of a woman. Her husband, a destitute theatre actor in his mid-thirties (Louis Garrel) has just left her. Their daughter will now live with her. His new girlfriend Claudia (Anna Mouglalis) is also an actress, albeit one who hasn't worked for years. Soon the question arises as to whether their love can survive the difficult circumstances – poverty, cramped living conditions, fear of loss and the future. In elliptically edited scenes and widescreen shots in luminous black and white, LA JALOUSIEsketches out a complex web of relationships: father and daughter, daughter and new girlfriend, past love and new love, student and mentor. A family film: Philippe Garrel's son Louis plays Philippe Garrel's father Maurice, who left his family during Garrel's childhood.

DROIT DE VISITE(France 1965, 1. & 5.10.) The shy Guillaume lives with his mother. He spends a weekend with his father (Maurice Garrel) and his young lover Françoise. They go on an outing in a Cabrio and go to the cinema in the evening, where the father appears onscreen as an actor. In his second short film, the 17-year-old Garrel reproduces his own family situation. A first close-up of a women's face can already be found here – the camera paints it in bright light, sensual and untouchable.

L'ENFANT SECRET(France 1979/82, 2.10., with an introduction by Thomas Arslan & 13.10.) Filmmaker Jean-Baptiste (Henri de Maublanc) and actress Elie (Anne Wiazemsky), mother of a young son, have a fragile relationship. They repeatedly move closer together before moving further apart, alternating moments of happiness and despair. The film, shot on hypersensitive black and white stock, contains fragments from Garrel's biography: attempts to integrate a child into their shared lives, revolution, depression, psychiatry and electroshock therapy, LSD and heroin. L'ENFANT SECRET, Garrel's post-Nico new beginning, is seen as the very heart of his oeuvre, the place at which different periods of his career meet: narrative for the first time and yet still underground, the matrix of a constellation to which he will return again and again.  

J'ENTENDS PLUS LA GUITARE(I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar, France 1991, 2. & 11.10.) "We were what we were and now we're no longer that any more". The irretrievable nature of the past is one thing, the infinite nature of love another: "I will love you even after death". The film is an account of both of these sentiments, framing them with great intensity and without either nostalgia or pathos. Marianne (Johanna ter Steege) and Gérard (Benoît Régent) love each other, yet can't make their love work in any permanent way. There are separations, reconciliations, drug problems, financial worries, and the final breakdown. The couple they are friends with (Mireille Perrier, Yann Colette) also breaks up. Garrel films his characters' faces in lengthy close-ups and shows how love gives away to despair and pain. The film is dedicated to Nico, Garrel's long-term life partner, and was made after her death in 1988.

SAUVAGE INNOCENCE (Wild Innocence, France 2001, 3. & 25.10.) A further variation on the story of Nico, Garrel's muse and former lover: director François Mauge (Mehdi Belhaj Kacem) would like to shoot an anti-drugs film in order to deal with the death of his wife, who took an overdose of heroin. His father (Maurice Garrel) views the project as follows: another film about Carole already? As he isn't able to find funding, Mauge eventually relents to smuggling heroin for a shady businessman (Michel Subor). Blood money to enable him to realize the film and to keep hold of his young lover Lucie (Julia Faure), to whom he has promised the leading role. Yet she doesn't feel up to the challenge of playing Carole and starts taking drugs herself. Life and cinema merge in the black and white of Raoul Coutard's images.

LA NAISSANCE DE L'AMOUR (France/Switzerland 1993, 4. & 29.10.) The war in Iraq is over. Actor Paul (Lou Castel) and writer Marcus (Jean-Pierre Léaud) are old '68ers and have been friends for a very long time. Lenin is still quoted, but the time for revolution has come to an end, past fury having been replaced by melancholia. Marcus's lover Hélène leaves him. Paul initially stays with his wife because of their children, but actually loves Ulrika (Johanna ter Steege), and eventually does indeed abscond. When he meets Marie, perhaps a new life can start in spite of everything. The film describes the love life of two aging, dissatisfied, immature artists in sober fashion, accompanied by John Cale’s elegiac piano music and Raoul Coutard’s grainy black and white cinematography.

LES BAISERS DE SECOURS(Emergency Kisses, France 1989, 5. & 27.10., with an introduction by Anja Streiter) Jazz musician Barney Wilen's saxophone sets the tone. Filmmaker Mathieu (Philippe Garrel) would like to make a film about his relationship, but casts a star actress (Anémone) in the role of his wife Jeanne (Brigitte Sy), who is an actress too. Jeanne feels betrayed, which leads to separation and a period of solitude and doubt. The filmmaker seeks advice from his father (Maurice Garrel). Jeanne returns to him and the couple and their young son (Louis Garrel) visit his grandmother in the country. Garrel directs himself with his own wife, his own son and his own father at his side, in fragile, intimate images, playing a version of himself in the process.

LE BERCEAU DE CRISTAL(France 1975, 6. & 18.10.) This film was shot at the Cinémathèque Française (Palais de Chaillot) and remained unreleased for a long time. The cradle (le berceau) is art – Pardo's paintings, Nico's poetry, Langlois's museum. The crystal is the cold – the gunpowder, the silence that precedes suicide. An improvised series of portraits of friends – Frédéric Pardo, Dominique Sanda, Anita Pallenberg, Margareth Clémenti – that revolve around one central figure: the singer Nico, who writes hermetic poems and simulates suicide with a pistol. A hypnotic film of a morbid tone with a soundtrack by Berlin band Ash Ra Tempel.

LA CICATRICE INTÉRIEURE (The Inner Scar, France 1972, 6. & 19.10.) Garrel's first collaboration with his then life partner Nico, Velvet Underground singer and member of Warhol's Factory, shows a woman (Nico) who wanders different deserts (in Egypt, Death Valley and Iceland) and is "rescued" by different men played by Philippe Garrel and Pierre Clémenti. The stunning, almost abstract landscape shots enter into a dialogue with Nico's music from the album "Desertshore" – and with Ingres's paintings. A hallucinatory underground classic in 23 shots.

ELLE A PASSÉ TANT D'HEURES SOUS LES SUNLIGHTS … (France 1985, 7. & 26.10., with an introduction by Angela Schanelec) A film about a film that is currently being shot. Once again a love story – two women, two men. As it's being told, the act of the telling is also presented, which progressively becomes the central focus, until a film about the problems of love becomes a film about the problems of filmmaking. At the heart of the film is a man whose life moves between two women: one of them, Christa (Anne Wiazemsky), has left him, the other, Marie (Mireille Perrier), gifts him a child; one manages to give up drugs, while the other clings to them. Garrel intervenes as a director, films Lou Castel as he learns his lines, chats with Chantal Akerman and Jacques Doillon. The sound of the camera running can often be heard, under- and overexposed images can be seen. The film is dedicated to Jean Eustache. The music for the film is by Nico. All Tomorrow's Parties.

LES AMANTS RÉGULIERS(Regular Lovers, France 2005, 8. & 20.10., with an introduction by Volker Pantenburg) A revisionist take on May 1968 in Paris: in stylized, almost meditative fashion, Garrel depicts the street protests in black and white tableaus (camera: William Lubtchansky), frugally mounted and yet epic all the same. He shows a group of young people at the riots and later on enjoying opium, making art, and dancing. The new love between poet François (Louis Garrel) and sculptress Lilie (Clotilde Hesme) becomes a test case for utopia, with the group’s problems with living out their ideas becoming reflected in how the two of them treat one another. The political increasingly gives way to fatigue and stasis, the group and the couples fall apart, the movement has failed. A film about "hopes put to death" and the individual experience of extreme emotional states. Accompanied by The Kinks: "This time tomorrow where will we be…"

ACTUA 1 (France 1968, 8. & 20.10.) A short collective film shot during May '68 that was lost for decades and only recently rediscovered. Protests, streets battles, CRS police on the bridges of Paris – shot out of a window and from a moving car.

LIBERTÉ, LA NUIT(Liberty at Night, France 1983, 9. & 16.10.) Rough times in both society and private lives: during the war in Algeria in the 50s, Jean (Maurice Garrel) and his wife Mouche (Emmanuelle Riva) are both sympathizers for the Algerian independence movement FLN, although they are unaware of their shared views. When Jean leaves Mouche, their child is sleeping. It's visible how pain takes possession of her face. A short time later, Mouche is shot dead by members of the OAS. Jean meets a young Algerian named Gemina, whose politics don't match his own, which doesn't stop the two of them falling in love. Gemina's fear of being abandoned is not without justification – Jean is murdered, a scene in slow motion.

LE CŒUR FANTÔME(The Phantom Heart, France 1996, 10. & 24.10.) Garrel's alter ego Philippe (Louis Rego) is a painter and leads what you might call a "bourgeois life" with his wife and children at his side. But his wife has a lover and leaves him. While Philippe soon finds a young lover of his own, the sudden break with his family disquiets him and leads him to question his role as a father. In addition, he is haunted by memories of other women, such as a beautiful whore (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi). Plagued by feelings of guilt for having left his children, he attempts to get to the bottom of why his parents separated when he was a child, which leads to an astounding confession from his father (Maurice Garrel).

MARIE POUR MÉMOIRE(Mary for Memory, France 1967, 12. & 24.10.) Two couples put together based on symmetry rather than because they compliment one another thanks to a mistake at a partner agency: Blandine and Gabriel are rational through and through, while Marie (Zouzou) and Jésus (Didier Léon) are excessively romantic. Marie wants a child and believes she's pregnant, but is institutionalized because of her phantom pregnancy and put in a straitjacket – and is thus tortured for her longings. The father (Maurice Garrel) once again appears as an example of how power is exercised for repression. Garrel’s feature debut shows the unease of the younger generations, who are irked by society. The film didn't just foretell May 68 but also anticipated that the rebellion would carry a heavy price.

LES ENFANTS DÉSACCORDÉS (France 1964, 12.10.) Two 14-year-old teenagers run away from home. They steal a car and end up at a castle, where they dance to baroque music. There are also interviews with the teacher, a TV director, and the father of the filmmaker, Maurice Garrel. Garrel’s first short film, shot on 35mm at the age of 16, already depicts an escape from bourgeois circumstances and leaves room for the fantastic in the process.

LE RÉVÉLATEUR (The Revealer, France 1968, 13. & 18.10.) Father, mother, child – a sort of holy family on the run, on foot, they walk along country roads by night, run through the forest, and crawl through the high grass of a meadow, along the fence of a military base. The spooky constellation of three dissolves into individual tableaus of abstract, geometric figurations. A film at once dreamlike and nightmarish, completely silent, shot with Bernadette Lafont and Laurent Terzieff in southern Germany directly after the failure of May '68 with the most humble of means to electrifying effect. The black and white is high contrast, with a torch used for lighting. The nucleus of the family in crisis – the film's battlefield is intergenerational conflict and youth revolt. The first of five films by Garrel that he shot as a member of the Zanzibar Group. 

LE LIT DE LA VIERGE (The Virgin's Bed, France 1969, 14.10., with an introduction by Marc Siegel & 23.10.) Garrel's most psychedelic film is a Jesus parable, shot in the Moroccan desert. Photo model Zouzou plays both Mary, the holy mother, as well as Mary Magdalene, the whore. Pierre Clémenti portrays Jesus as a hippie, a Jesus who has no disciples, is despondent about the cruelty of the world, and whose message of resistance is not listened to anyway, even though he carries a megaphone. Detonations can continually be heard on the soundtrack and former Velvet Underground singer Nico sings "The Falconer". The allegory is obvious: the hopes of May '68 are dead and the utopias of a society have been laid to rest. One of the most important Zanzibar films with spectacular black and white images, which was financed by their patron Silvina Boissonas.

LA FRONTIÈRE DE L'AUBE (Frontier of Dawn, France/Italy 2008, 15. & 30.10.) A young photographer (Louis Garrel) and a famous actress (Laura Smet) fall passionately in love and begin an affair, although she is married, yet the transition to a life together somehow doesn't succeed. She doesn’t get what she needs from him to survive; he remains an outsider in her world. Two loves that only find one another in death. A melodramatic "amour fou" in the rooms, staircases, and balconies of the run-down Parisian apartments of the upper class bohemia. An archetypical romantic drama in stylized black and white – and a ghost story. I'll be your mirror – a film full of reflections and projections.

LES MINISTÈRES DE L'ART (France 1988, 17.10.) A snapshot of French post-Nouvelle Vague cinema at the end of the 80s and an act to forge a community. Based on interviews, Philippe Garrel creates a portrait of the cinema of his generation. The film is dedicated to the memory of Jean Eustache, who died in 1981, and contains an interview with Eustache by Garrel from 1967. His chosen "family" of Chantal Akerman, Juliet Berto, Léos Carax, Jacques Doillon, Benoît Jacquot, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Werner Schroeter, Brigitte Sy and André Téchiné also get a chance to have their say.

LES HAUTES SOLITUDES(France 1974, 17. & 19.10.) Women in a flat in Paris: Nico, Jean Seberg, Tina Aumont, the singer and Garrel’s muse and her two actress friends, shot in grainy black and white, sometimes out of focus, without sound. Their faces in close-up, eyes, mouths, you see them speak without understanding what they're saying. Jean Seberg is in bed and cries or smokes cigarettes. Sometimes she looks directly at the camera. Or she smiles from under the hood of her cape. She acts out a suicide, takes pills, one after the other, until Garrel stops her. A film of great intensity and melancholy. A record, a prophecy? Jean Seberg was found dead in 1979, with sleeping pills and a suicide note.

L'OMBRE DES FEMMES (In the Shadow of Women, France/Switzerland 2015, 21. & 29.10.) Filmmaker Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) lives with his wife Manon (Clotilde Courau) in precarious circumstances. She earns money for the two of them and supports him by editing his documentary film project about an old résistance fighter. At a film archive, Pierre meets a young intern (Lena Paugam) and starts an affair with her. When he finds out that his wife also had a lover, his world is turned upside down. The film is shot by Renato Berta in elegant, black and white images and tells of the imbalance between men and women, which is verified by the sober, ironic voiceover spoken by Louis Garrel. Pierre meets the inner radiance of the women with a stony facial expression, yet the final image shows a huge smile. 

LE VENT DE LA NUIT(Night Wind, France 1999, 22. & 28.10.) Architect Serge (Daniel Duval) is on his travels between Naples, Paris, and Berlin in a bright red Porsche, in a liminal space between past and present, life and death. Paul (Xavier Beauvois), a student of fine art and lover of the married Hélène (Catherine Deneuve), accompanies him and hears with fascination that Serge lived in Positano for a few years, was a militant during May '68, and afterwards received electroshock therapy in a psychiatric institution, while his wife committed suicide. After visiting her grave in Berlin, Serge and Hélène meet, the later of whom tried to slit her wrists shortly beforehand. It's as if they've always known one another. A road movie over which suicide floats, to the music of John Cale.

UN ÉTÉ BRÛLANT (A Burning Hot Summer, France/Italy/Switzerland 2011, 22. & 28.10.) At the start, the end: a suicide attempt. Afterwards follows the preceding story, told in voiceover by the best friend of the deceased. Painter Frédéric (Louis Garrel) lives together with Italian actress Angèle (Monica Bellucci) in Rome. His friend Paul and Paul's partner Elisabeth spent a summer together living with the couple, who are having a crisis. When Angèle leaves Frédéric for a film director, he is destroyed as a result. Gravely wounded in hospital, he tells Paul about his grandfather, a communist, and Maurice Garrel, who died shortly before, appears for one last time in his son's oeuvre as a figure from the other side. (bik)

An event with the friendly support of the Institut français.