Vital and vigorous even when its characters feel scraped of vigor/vitality, Philippe Garrel’s latest finds boho Parisians facing the ends of marriages, affairs, and the feasibility of bohemian existence itself. “I can handle being broke but not being poor,” sighs unemployed actress Claudia (Anna Mouglalis) not all that long after Louis (Louis Garrel, the director’s son) leaves his family to shack up with her in a hovel that seems charming when love is fresh but grim when it’s staling.
There’s terrific power in scenes of the lovers — and occasionally Louis’s daughter Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) from the busted marriage — reveling in their romantic newness. Both generations of Garrel also offer extraordinary work in the breakup that opens the film: Louis’s wife, Clothilde (Rebecca Covenant), pleads with him not to leave, while Charlotte observes through a keyhole. Clothilde, we learn, has already given up on her own artistic dreams, opting now to work in an office to provide for herself and her daughter.
Louis, himself a struggling actor, seems to be fleeing that fate as much as that relationship. Director Garrel also holds to impractical ideals but beautifully so: We hear and feel his characters breathe and are given ample time to study their raw and gorgeous faces and also the masks these lost souls hide behind. In the final reels, when that new romance begins to go the way of the old one, the film’s urgent drive seems to leak away — intentionally.
This daring choice will feel right to those who appreciate verisimilitude in fiction, but it runs contrary to what the last decades of movies have trained us to enjoy.