Running Time: 77 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Philippe Garrel
Language: French w/English subtitles
Distributor: Cinema Guild
Cast: Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglalis, Rebecca Convenant, Olga Milshtein, Esther Garrel, Arthur Igual, Jerome Huguet, Manon Kneuse, Eric Ruillat
In the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady,” Henry Higgins notes, “The French don’t care what they do, actually, so long as they pronounce it properly.” We do, in fact, have the impression that what’s taken with some seriousness here in the States is treated more casually across the Atlantic. Bar pickups, for example. We may think to them it’s no big deal if you have a wife and home and you hit the bars for one-night stands, that even your spouse would not be jealous if she hears about this, but Philippe Garrel has other ideas. In fact in his latest film JEALOUSY, he finds three separate incidents of La Jalousie, one involving a child, but the more important one focusing on the intense emotions felt, in turn, by the wife of the principal character after he blithely takes off with all his belongings, and later, by the principal performer himself. So the French don’t lightly take the brush-off when the dumping involves a long-term commitment, and Mr. Garrel presents a slight but involving black-and-white drama as his contribution to this epiphany.
Garrel, who has dealt in his impressive curriculum vitae with Parisians in love, and with folks who are trying to make it in the creative but difficult professions, presents us with Louis (Louis Garrel, the son of the director), who has a mop of hair to excite many a man’s jealousy, and who lives with a perfectly fine, down-to-earth wife Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant). But that’s not good enough for him. Louis has a long-term liaison with Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), a person who in my opinion should never have been considered competition for his wife. She is neurotic, fearful, an actress who has not had a job in six years and who has gotten fed up with the garret she’s living in with Louis, an actor with only slightly better prospects on the stage. Frustrated, she goes with the bar scene but is ultimately looking for more than one-night stands.
When Louis’s adorable daughter Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) responds to her mother’s question about “How was your day with your father,” Clothilde acts casually, covering up her seething jealousy of her husband, who she assumes has got it made. We in the audience cannot be blamed for hoping that Louis will be hoist on his petard and be given occasion to be even twice as jealous as Clothilde.
JEALOUSY is talky, as French romantic dramas are wont to be, and as laid back as you can image, probably filled with improvisations despite its being scripted by four writers, including the director. Several scenes stand out including one in which Claudia, desperate for work, washes the feet of the aging director who might offer work for her, an elderly man who talks regularly about being ready to “check out” and who reads Seneca for that Roman’s philosophic outlook on life. In another quick scene, we get a sudden close-up of Louis’s daughter, one that seems to come out of nowhere but is Philippe Garrel’s tribute to the silent films he loves.
The production notes tell us that this movie is somewhat autobiographical. The director’s own father ran out on the family causing Garrel to be jealous perhaps for his entire lifetime. With JEALOUSY, he uses his real-life son to represent his own father, a nice touch for a pleasant drama that at 77 minutes does not outlast its welcome as a tranche de vie (slice of life).
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