Nanako Tsukidate – curator of Philippe Garrel’s retrospective at the 15th T-Mobile New Horizons Film Festival, journalist, translator and film critic, who writes for the Japanese film magazine "Nobody" as a specialist in French cinema. Tsukidate is a program director for film festivals, including the Hiroshima International Film Festival since 2015. She is working on a Ph.D. thesis about Philippe Garrel’s cinema under the direction of Nicole Brenez at the Sorbonne.
What we see on screen is never real. Workers leaving the Lumière brothers factory is not them leaving the factory, but a film. We even know it was staged.
You might say that Philippe Garrel is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker in the French cinematic world. Born after WWII (in 1948), he made his first films at age 14. While many directors told coming-of-age stories, Garrel caught this moment in life as he experienced it: life and filmmaking became one. Jean-Luc Godard once said that for Garrel "making films is as natural as breathing," because his films were so intimately connected to his life. The role of the camera is undoubtedly to make another reality of movies and its images in the way of the Lumière brothers. Garrel likes to work with his family, close friends, sometimes he even plays in his own films. As he claims, his work can be split into six periods, starting with youth (1964-1968) that starts with Les enfants désaccordés and ends with Le révélateur. The next section, 1968-1978, includes work with Nico and is considered the underground period; it starts with the film The Inner Scar. The third may be called the narrative period, and spans from The Secret Son to She Spent so Many Hours Under the Sun Lamps. The fourth period (from Emergency Kisses to The Phantom Heart) is characterized by minimal dialogues not present in his previous films. The novel-like fifth period (from The Wind of the Night to A Burning Hot Summer) is less autobiographic. The final period, referred to as narrative-poetic, uses scripts that leave plenty of leeway for improvisation, and begins with Jealousy. Despite the contradicting themes that appear in his work, Garrel remain branded (and obsessed) with the autobiographical filmmaker label, as is well illustrated by the book UneCaméraà la Place du Coeur,narrated by Nico.
What are Garrel's stories about? He does not show his past, even if it is the main inspiration for his works. People from his life are captured on film like fleeting moments of life that will never return. In Regular Lovers, where he returns to May 1968, Garrel does not even try to reconstruct historical events. After the revolution, young people smoke hash listening to The Kinks' This Time Tomorrow. They want to enjoy the moment, which lasts as long as in the song lyrics. Regular Lovers tellsa story using black and white portraits and is marked by the "empty time" that came to be after the riots of 1968. Nothing has changed yet: the film does not include a single real event, which protects viewers against nostalgia. The film is light, filled with charm and rhythmic. There is no scene that hints at May 1968 save the fragment where the camera moves to show a bridge, a reference to Actua I, the documentary shot by Garrel himself in May 1968. The film is still considered lost today and the shot is therefore reconstructed based on Garrel's recollection. In Regular Lovers, 68 is merely an address. There are no historical references, because the story coalesces during the filming. Garrel is not interested in recreating reality; he is interested in the live presence he has before the camera. The camera records the unforgiving flow of time with numerous omissions. This retrospective aims to explain the dialectic way in which Garrel combines his life with several important ideas and people close to him.
Philippe Garrel and Maurice Garrel: portraits of a father
My three inspirations: my father, Godard, painting...
At least since the time of "Marie for Memory" there were disclosures that I systematically corrected what he didn't like. For example, when I wanted to title my first short "Les Forêtsdésenchantées" (Disenchanted Forests) he said, "No." Only when I came up with "Les enfants désaccordés" he said, "okay." But this went much further, up to the ideas for a script, and only at the time of shooting the film was I truly by myself.
Philippe Garrel made his first short film, Plume pour Carole, at age 14 and destroyed it himself in 1970. His father, actor Maurice Garrel, incited Phillippe's interest in film. For Phillippe, making movies was primarily a way to make up for lost time with his dad, who had left the family when Philippe was 5 years old. In this way, the two made Les enfants désaccordés andDroit de visite, films directed influenced by his father-son relationship. Both of Phillippe's parents were extremely leftist and poor artists. Prior to becoming an actor, Maurice Garrel was a puppeteer. He had a Thursday children's television segment with puppets as part of the Martin et Martine program. The mother made dolls, just like in the film Liberty at Night, Garrel's only film that plays out during the war in Algeria, a time he personally did not experience. In the films of Phillipe Garrel, his father Maurice is always a reflection of reality. Phillipe cast Maurice as the father in Emergency Kisses, The Phantom Heart, and Wild Innocence. Maurice's last film is A Burning Hot Summer where he plays grandfather Louis Garrel. Until his death, he was always the first person to see all his son's dailies. Jealousy is therefore the first film in which Philippe Garrel talks about his father who is longer around. It is a remake of Droit de visite, in which Maurice's role is played by his grandson, Louis.
Philippe Garrel and the Revolution of the Zanzibar 1968 Collective
We were in a kind of revolutionary mood, but we really weren't politicians (nothing in common with boys such as the character played by Jean-Pierre Leaud in "Masculine, Feminine"), we just completely removed ourselves from society and had a tendency to highlight our refinement.
I'm against violence, I didn't do anything big: one day I had to take part in some meeting on March 21 somewhere in the underground and joined a group that produced "Actua I." It was a documentary about revolutionary events. We considered building barricades to be obscene. After I filmed the demonstrators' feet, I got a shot of Parisian bridges being taken French security police (CRS), with the city cut in half.
In April 1968 the film Marie for Memory got an award at the Hyènes Festival despite being booed by the entire audience. For Garrel's generation, the film was a shock like the one the previous generation must have experienced when watching Godard's Breathless. There were Patrick Deval, Jackie Raynal, Daniel Pommereulle, members of the Zanzibar collective. In early May 1968, they filmed the disturbances with Garrel using the 35 mm camera from Actua I. By the end of that month, Garrel was already far from Paris, in Schwarzwald, making Le révélateur withBernadette Lafont and Laurent Terzieff. After May '68, thanks to the support of Sylvia Boisonnas, protector of the Zanzibar collective, it was possible to shoot the first takes of The Virgin's Bed in 1969 in an atmosphere of complete freedom. This freedom also allowed other artists, who came from various places, to work. Despite that, when the 70s passed, all the group members abandoned cinema, and Philippe Garrel remained the only one who made films up to now. Thirty years after the events of May '68, Night Wind showed the failure of the former protesters. The film stars Daniel Pommereulle, who actually lived through and experienced the 60s and 70s. In 2005, three years after his death, his revolution inspired Garrel to make an homage to him in Regular Lovers.
Philippe Garrel and Nico, Jean Seberg: faces of women
In 1969 in Rome, when I finished shooting "The Virgin's Bed," we rented a villa for the crew. One day, near the end of winter, two young women entered the villa. Nico and Viva had come from New York, from Andy Warhol's Factory, where they were part of the Superstars. The Superstars were a Warhol invention; he wanted to make fun of the Hollywood star system and promote regular people. Nico was exceptionally beautiful. She was part of the Factory's first edition and sang with The Velvet Underground, and played in "Chelsea Girls", which I didn't know yet then.
Right after finishing shooting for The Virgin's Bed in 1969, Philippe Garrel met Nico near Rome. They would go on to make seven films together. The Inner Scar, Athanor, Crystal Cradleare totally devoted to Nico. It is a triptych in the painterly convention, inspired by Warhol. After Bleu des Origines their paths would diverge. Right after that, thanks to the help of Annette Wademant, Garrel wrote his first script, for L'Enfant Secretand returned to telling autobiographical stories in a less abstract manner. In 1988, when Garrel was getting ready to shoot Emergency Kisses, Nico was found dead on a road in Ibiza. I Can No Longer Hear The Guitar(1991), which he made after Nico's unexpected death, continues with the director's characteristic autobiographical theme, but is not about Nico's life at all. It does not disclose her secrets from this or any other film she inspired. There is only intimacy. The director, the protagonist of Wild Innocence, Garrel's film from 2001, is obsessed with his dead wife, which is Garrel's self-criticism tinged with irony toward himself and his manner of showing reality.
I was an artist. I wasn't even 30 yet. I spent most of time living in a messy room. My films were not successful. I wrote scripts for films I made with no budget. I met Jean, a film actress, who had stopped acting. She committed suicide. In a dream I saw a woman who had Jean's face (The room was empty, the door open. You could see the church wall through the door. The face was pale-grey. She said to me: I have to leave now. I'll be behind the church. You can always find me there.). Just like in Teofil Gaultier's "Spirite", where the person committing suicide appears to the young man in the mirror and leads him to death, so here, Jean called me to that world... But let's see how this story really looked...
In 1974, Philippe Garrel met Jean Seberg, whom he admired for her role in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless and in Robert Rossen's Lilith. As a result of the encounter, he started shooting Les hautes solitudes devoted to the Seberg's face. Despite the presence of Tiny Aumont, Nico and Laurent Terzieff, their faces become invisible to the camera and the film is totally devoted to Seberg. After Les hautes solitudes, Seberg also worked as an assistant on Bleu des Origines. Near the end of summer 1979, right after completing shooting for L'Enfant Secret, Garrel learned of her suicide. Five years after her death, fragments of Seberg's life appear in Rue Fontaine. Nearly 30 later, in 2008, Seberg's shadow appears once again, played by Laura Smet in Frontier of the Dawn, in a film that is homage to Jean Cocteau.
Philippe Garrel and his generation: memoirs of Jean Eustache
When Jean died, I finally understood that it was not possible for an artist's work to gain acclaim during his life and that society instead offers him many possibilities to sacrifice that life. (Because I continue to stubbornly claim - despite the fact that what he said was apolitical - that it was the system that killed Jean Eustache). This painful realization influenced my solidarity toward original filmmakers from my generation: the more we were marginalized the more it was worth it to give each other attention.
Garrel met Jean Eustache after a screening of the latter's film, Père Noël a les yeux bleus. In 1966, Garrel interviewed him for the television show Godard and his pupils (which he returned to in Les Ministères de l'art, a documentary about his generation). Godard advised him to do so. At that time, Garrel and Eustache often passed each other in the editing room and had the same kinds of financing problems. After Eustache's suicide in 1981, Garrel devoted two films to him: She Spent So Many Hours Under the Sunlamps (1985) and Les Ministères de l'art (1988), which discuss the difficulties of making films about your own generation. Eustache could make for an obvious symbol of Garrel's generation of filmmakers. In She Spent So Many Hours Under the Sunlamps, the script of which is based on Les Ministères de l'art (though it is hardly like it at all) we see how Garrel dialogues with two directors close to him: Jacques Doillon and Chantal Akerman. In Les Ministères de l'art we him as the one who is trying to gather the filmmakers of his generation: Doillon, Akerman, Benoît Jaquot, Werner Schroerter, and André Téchiné. The Birth of Love (1993) pay homage to Eustache: Paul (played by Lou Castel), while walking with his wife down the street points to the "room in which Jean committed suicide."
- All quotes from Thomas Lescure's interview with Garrel, Camera instead of a Heart (Admiranda/Institut de l'Image, 1992), have been translated into English from a Polish version of the article.