• [The Daily] NYFF 2017: Philippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day

    By David Hudson


    “Jeanne (Esther Garrel) crouches in an alleyway at night, her face a fountain of tears,” begins Carson Lund at Slant. “She’s just been dumped by Matéo (Paul Toucang) and kicked out of their shared Paris apartment. Seeking refuge, she walks to her father Gilles’s (Éric Caravaca) flat, where the man’s been sleeping with his former student, Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), an amiable socialite only a few months older than his daughter. And with these few concise scenes, the terms have been set for Philippe Garrel’s lean and limber Lover for a Day, yet another of the filmmaker’s densely anecdotal studies of romantic fidelity.”

    “Garrel’s filmography has acted to some extent as a case of extended family therapy, considering at various points father Maurice, his own life, the screen presence of his son Louis and, now, daughter Esther,” writes Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov. “This does not imply a neat chronological progression: Garrel the elder examined the impact of his father’s adultery and affair on him as a child by having Louis (sort of) stand in for himself in the recent Jealousy. Nor is a woman taking the lead a first—still, Esther is a new addition, and Lover for a Day accordingly tweaks the formula of Garrel’s post-Regular Lovers work a bit with the previously unknown element of two medium-speed dolly-ins and an uncharacteristically extensive Jules and Jim-invoking voiceover—appropriate for a film about a queasy menage of sorts. . . . I love Garrel’s psychological precision and considerable aesthetic achievements while conceding there’s something regressively resonant about repeatedly returning to the same regret-instilling forms of behavior over and over.”

    “Cinematographer Renato Berta’s blacks and whites, as in In the Shadow of Women, exist to minimize everything aside from the performances,” writes Zach Lewis at In Review Online, adding that “it’s Chevilotte, a relative newcomer, who gets the most close-ups, as she does the heavy Lacanian lifting of multiple désirs: mother, friend, girlfriend, freedom.”

    Lover for a Day confirms what we already knew, that Philippe Garrel is a master filmmaker,” writes Jon Auman at Screen Slate. “But it also begs the question of why it isn't a better film. . . . After half-an-hour of subtlety, the film inexplicably begins to shout out what it has already told us in a much quieter voice: that this is a film about youth and how it ends, and about the pain of falling in love for the first time and then possibly for the last. We’ve already intuited as much from the actors’ smallest gestures; it’s not entirely clear why Garrel feels the need to punctuate them with exclamation points.”

    Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.

    Update, 10/14: “Garrel and his screenwriter, the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière, manage to cram a lot of philosophical ideas and concepts into the short running time,” writes Odie Henderson at RogerEbert.com, “but I found myself caring less about them and just allowing the film’s harsh black and white cinematography to wash over me as I rooted for Ariane to get her life back together.”

    Update, 1/8: “As is often the case in Garrel’s lighter fare,” writes Stephen Saito, “you wouldn’t know there was much discontent onscreen from the feeling you get from them aesthetically, with the playful Lover for a Day lovingly lensed in lush black and white, as sanguine piano keys often underline conversations that are far more cutting than the music would make them out to be. But this allows the rumination of its lead trio to float around in the air as if it were a daydream, the import of their actions often sneaking up on them when they think they’re outsmarting one another.”

    Update, 1/9: At the A.V. Club, Mike D’Angelo gives it a B: “Sexual infidelity seems to haunt [Garrel], resurfacing in his oeuvre again and again; any romantic relationship he devises is all but doomed, sure to flounder when one or both parties inevitably stray. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that Garrel frequently tackles the subject with tiresome straightforwardness, as if nobody else had ever had done so in the history of cinema, theater, or literature. So it’s a pleasure to report that Lover for a Day, his latest effort, doesn’t get around to the cheating and resulting acrimony until the movie is very nearly over.”

    Update, 1/11: “Shooting in 35-millimeter black-and-white film, Mr. Garrel fills the wide screen with a ravishment of tones, from inkiest black to crystalline white and every imaginable gray in between,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “There’s a deceptive casualness to his visuals. Every image looks harmonious without being fastidious, which means that you see the picture rather than the intention. Yet even when you see the thought behind his images, the gentle disorder of his characters’ lives, with their patched walls and messes, creates an inviting informality that strengthens his realism. He’s a master of near-perfection, of dazzlingly lit and shot wisps of hair and tear-streaked cheeks.”

    Lover for a Day seems at times almost a parody of Garrel’s work, a throwback to a time when a filmmaker’s artistry or hubris often excused, for many viewers, melodramatic characterizations of women, who in this kind of thing all too often threaten suicide or erratically burst into tears,” writes April Wolfe in the Village Voice. “So often in his films it is the introduction of a young, peripheral woman with boundless energy who gets closest to shaking the other characters from their doldrums. Here it’s the younger, female Garrel, as the lead, who comes nearest to knocking the director himself out of his stale routine.”

    Updates, 1/13: “Philippe Garrel’s venerable mode of personal filmmaking exalts intimate life as fragmented melodrama, but his latest film plays more like an unintentional self-parody,” writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. “The movie is methodically sexual but emotionally remote, and the romantic entanglements are neither self-revealing nor self-deprecating—they’re as detached as an equation.”

    “As in In the Shadow of Women, the use of cellphones is the main clue that Lover for a Day transpires recently, and not fifty years ago,” writes Mark Jenkins for NPR. “Perhaps Ariane, Jeanne, and Gilles’s feelings are not exactly those of humans throughout history. But the trio’s tale might be easily be transplanted, as so many of Garrel’s movies could, to 1968.”

    Lover for a Day just wasn’t enough of a grabber” for Susan Wloszczyna at RogerEbert.com.

    Update, 1/19: “Perhaps nothing very challenging or unexpected happens in this film,” grants the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, “and yet there is something grownup and ruminative to its direction and dialogue, and, for all that Garrel has no problem with lingering on women’s naked bodies (Gilles is never shown in the same way), he pays them the compliment of making them real, interesting human beings. They are actually more real and more interesting than the man in their lives.”

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