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Philippe Garrel

Born in 1948, Philippe Garrel was hailed as a child prodigy of cinema when he made his debut as a 16-year-old with his honest self-portrait Les enfants désaccordés (Children Out of Tune). Although he made a lot of films in the 1960s, his career really took off in the 1970s, when he gained recognition for L'enfant secret (The Secret Child), which won a Jean Vigo, Les baisers de secours (Emergency Kisses), and La naissance de l'amour (The Birth of Love). His recent accomplishments, which are often autobiographical and present critical portraits of society, include Un été brûlant (A Burning Hot Summer) and La jalousie (Jealousy).

"The patterns that interested me the most about the films of Godard and Truffaut cinema were their films about love. The films about couples with one comedienne in the principal role. I found the manner was like a model and a painter: the rapport between one man and one woman, the man behind the camera and the woman in front. (...)

Like most filmmakers and writers, there are roots in my own life, but they are stories that I invent. There was a period of time in my life when I made directly autobiographical films where I truly told what happened to me. But, now, I don't make directly autobiographical films anymore. I am more for renouncing that and being in front of history. The large part [of my work] tells about something I know. It's close.: (Philippe Garrel, www.interviewmagazine.com)

"Working with minuscule budgets in relative obscurity, appreciated by a small number of dedicated fans but ignored by the mainstream to the point that only one of his films has been released in the Anglophone world (his first feature, Marie pour mémoire in 1967), Philippe Garrel is the archetypal romantic loner poet. He started filming in 1964 and made his first feature four years later. A child of 1968 and the Nouvelle Vague with a particular admiration for Godard, his films can be split into two periods. The first are underground works, hermetic visions of artistic alienation and, as the ’70s wore on, film portraits of the people around him, notably the German chanteuse Nico of “Velvet Underground” fame with whom he lived for ten years. These were Garrel’s wild years of drug addiction, permissiveness and extreme alienation, which culminated in a traumatic experience of electroshock treatment. They would haunt the films that followed. From 1979 he chose to move into a more narrative cinema, to tell the story of his life rather than immerse viewers in abstract hermetic visions that reflected it, often only obliquely. The result is an ongoing series of autobiographical films, one of the most coherent bodies of work in the cinema. Marriages come and go, children arrive and ask awkward questions, parents pass on their wisdom and die and the Garrel hero shuffles into middle age under the shadow of lost loves and the lost dreams of the 1968 rising. Garrel’s cinematic universe is a pared down, melancholy place two steps away from the home movie. It is suffused with a uniquely affecting tenderness, a sense of intimacy almost unknown elsewhere. The couple is always at the centre of this universe, the pursuit of love and its numerous difficulties being his constant theme and, for him, the only theme worth dealing with." (Maximilian Le Cain, sensesofcinema.com)

"Like Jean-Luc Godard's films and videos since the 1980s, Garrel's cinema has more in common with painting and poetry than with photography and prose. The films linger on faces and exteriors so as to contemplate qualities that can't be absorbed by narrative. (...) It's true that his plots can feel like mere vehicles for musings on romance, death, and radical politics, and that his subject matter circles obsessively around autobiographical experience. Yet Garrel's insular body of work doesn't feel particularly narcissistic. A romantic poet in the tradition of William Wordsworth, Garrel isn't interested in his own experience per se so much as in what it permits him to see. In a 1999 interview included on the region 1 DVD of Emergency Kisses (1989)—one of only a few Garrel titles officially available in the U.S.—the director concedes to the autobiographical nature of his work but explains how every filmic image possesses a reality of its own. "It's nearly impossible to make fictional images," he says, while adding that the autonomy of movie reality makes it impossible to recreate personal experience on film." (Ben Sachs, chicagoreader.com)

Selected filmography:

1964 Les enfants désaccordés (short)

1969 Le lit de la vierge / The Virgin's Bed

1970 La cicatrice intérieure / The Inner Scar

1975 Kryształowa kołyska / Le Berceau de cristal / The Cradle of Crystal

1979 Skryte dziecko / L’enfant secret / The Secret Child

1983 Liberté, la nuit

1989 Zapasowe pocałunki / Les baisers de secours / Emergency Kisses

1990 Nie słyszę już gitary / J'entends plus la guitare / I Don't Hear the Guitar Anymore

1993 Narodziny miłości / La naissance de l'amour / The Birth of Love

1999 Powiew nocy / Le vent de la nuit / Night Wind

2001 Dzika niewinność / Sauvage innocence / Wild Innocence

2005 Zwyczajni kochankowie / Les amants réguliers / Regular Lovers

2008 Granica świtu / La frontière de l'aube / Frontier of Dawn

2011 Gorące lato / Un été brûlant / A Burning Hot Summer

2013 Zazdrość / La Jalousie / Jealousy

2015 L'ombre des femmes