The Phantom Heart: Jealousy 

Directed by Philippe Garrel

It’s amusing to learn from an interview with Philippe Garrel that the title of his latest film was a producer’s suggestion, as if meant to be emblazoned in green, slanted script on a poster. No matter, says Garrel: “I didn’t exactly understand who had contempt for whom in Contempt, but that didn’t bother me much more than this does.” The top-billed feeling in Jealousy is indeed present in this coolly drawn portrait series of familial bonds and love dissolved, channeled from Garrel’s life as throughout his scarifyingly intimate oeuvre. But what we get is not righteous rage or amour fou cathartically acted out on screen—on either side of the relationship in question, Garrel gives us the side that cuts: the panic, or the break.

Louis (Louis Garrel, Philippe’s son) begins the black-and-white film by walking out on Clothilde, the mother of his daughter, in what amounts to an opening primal scene. The precocious moppet, Charlotte, becomes a naïve-shrewd commentator even as a bystander (of one of her father’s lovers, she suggests: maybe she could be the babysitter?). Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), with a deep voice to rival Nico, is Louis’s next love. She’s an actor like him, sacrificing material comforts for the art—bona fides prized among his fellow stage performers yet becoming a trying burden for her in the absence of steady roles. Claudia and Louis share a top-floor walk-up that she calls a “hovel,” though the filmmaker’s fond familiarity comes through in the fact that those cramped quarters have a noble spareness as filmed by DP Willy Kurant.

Kurant’s open-air photography of Louis strolling with his daughter and Claudia has its own idyllic appeal, but these scenes of a new, hip family unit offer only temporary solace. While we might be primed for an instance of inscrutably adored male artiste having it all—skirting harder questions, posing a not-so-innocent one about what happens when infidelity occurs—it’s Claudia who brings down the hammer with an emotional pragmatism that startles Louis in his underplayed entitlement. It’s a case where Louis Garrel’s moody act (his hair ever ready for a David Levine illustration) is satisfyingly flattened out by the swift cuts of Mouglalis’s line delivery.

So too does Garrel père etch his 76-minute film’s bare assortment of scenes with efficiency and with what Eric Hynes aptly calls “intergenerational empathy” (part of a “legacy of longing”). (Contrast with Garrel’s Variety detractor, who tires of Garrel’s “shtick” of “people gabbling about nothing in choppy little scenes,” concluding that trenchant line of argument with “really, what’s the point?”) Garrel begins and ends scenes with Louis and especially Claudia earlier and later than one might expect, lost in a monologue we can only watch on their faces as it unfolds within. As Garrel brings his film to its abrupt close, it’s like he’s just scratching down one final picture before pushing it aside impatiently.

Opens August 15 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center


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