Review: A Man along having a Woman (along with Another Woman) in ‘Lover for a Day’
Philippe Garrel’s “Lover for a Day” looks like a dream. A singular filmmaker, Mr. Garrel makes intensely personal films about love, family along with intimacy which are filled with romantic agonies along with beautiful faces made for close-ups. Often shot in luxuriant black along with white, these are movies to swoon over, though how long you do so in “Lover for a Day” depends on whether you find its ideas about love, faithfulness, men along with women charmingly old-fashioned, exasperatingly naïve or merely deterministic. As will be often the case with some other people’s reveries, you may not necessarily want to share in which one.
The story involves a neatly constructed triangle which will be almost parodically French, or perhaps just cinematically so: a 23-year-old woman, her doting father along with his 23-year-old live-in girlfriend. Shortly after the film opens, Jeanne (Esther Garrel, the director’s daughter), flees to her father’s apartment. Distraught along with nearly frantic, she broke with her boyfriend which very evening along with will be seeking refuge along with comfort in her father’s insouciantly bohemian digs. which’s a bit crowded, what with all the books along with his fresh girlfriend, although Gilles (Eric Caravaca) loves his daughter.
Gilles also loves Ariane (Louise Chevillote), one of his students. A philosophy professor, he teaches at a school with atmospherically peeling walls which are ideal settings for sexual assignations, as you discover within the two scenes which effectively bookend the movie. In between, a great deal happens, mostly on an intimate level in modest rooms. In bedrooms along with across tables, Jeanne, Ariane along with Gilles pour out their hearts along with reflect on love as they — word by word along with with discreet along with grand gestures — stake claims on one or another’s affections. Like chess pieces on a very modest board, Ariane along with Jeanne advance along with retreat, even as Gilles remains more or less in place.
“Lover for a Day” beguiles the eye. Shooting in 35-millimeter black-along with-white film, Mr. Garrel fills the wide screen having a ravishment of tones, by inkiest black to crystalline white along with every imaginable gray in between. There’s a deceptive casualness to his visuals. Every image looks harmonious without being fastidious, which means which 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 along with messes, creates an inviting informality which strengthens his realism. He’s a master of near-perfection, of dazzlingly lit along with shot wisps of hair along with tear-streaked cheeks.
Quite a few tears splash down in “Lover for a Day,” which tracks Jeanne after she moves in with Gilles along with Ariane. which’s a surprisingly smooth transition, or so the film insists. Mr. Garrel, who shares screenwriting credit with three others (including the veteran Jean-Claude Carrière), puts a lot of words into his characters mouths, not many of them persuasive. Soon after Jeanne arrives, she along with Ariane talk about love, breeze past the fact which they’re the same age along with quickly shift by the personal to the platitudinous. “You’ll get over which,” Ariane assures Jeanne about her breakup, “we always do.” When pressed on who she means, exactly, Ariane earnestly replies: “I mean every woman.”
The solemnity of which exchange — with its lilting piano chords along with the Raphaelite tranquillity of Ariane’s face — suggests which Mr. Garrel sincerely believes which about women, which would likely be fine if his characters were more convincingly individual. Yet even though each will be given a moment (a near-suicide, one affair along with then another), Jeanne, Ariane along with Gilles stick to a disappointingly familiar script. While Jeanne embraces her role as the dejected, apparently unconscious daughter with daddy issues, Ariane plays the part of the free-spirited object of a rather different kind of paternal desire. Gilles, meanwhile, settles into the role of the obliging patriarch who’s hot or warm as needed.
There are times when the characters — along with their director — surprise along with genuinely delight. In one heart-piercingly elegiac sequence, Jeanne along with Gilles head off together, leaving Ariane behind. As he does elsewhere within the film, Mr. Garrel introduces which interlude having a lovely piano flourish along having a few words by the intermittent narrator (Laetitia Spigarelli): “which evening, Gilles went out with his daughter.” The voice-over briefly suggests the start of a once-upon-a-time story, yet as Jeanne along with Gilles walk along with talk, the scene becomes something far more enchanting: two people whose unforced intimacy speaks to a bond which feels shaped by a shared history rather than clichés.
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