Can love and infidelity coexist? Philippe Garrel has been exploring messy romance in Paris since the 60s to varying degrees of success and pretension. This time, it’s the story of Louis (played by Garrel’s own son, Louis), who leaves his girlfriend (Rebecca Convenant) and their daughter (Olga Milshtein) for a sexy and mysterious out-of-work actress (Anna Mouglalis) only to find she, too, has a loose concept of faithfulness.
Garrel, who seems lost in pontification here, approaches the production with a decidedly neorealist lens, but tells a clean-cut, literary story meant to serve the singular theme of its title. Neorealism today is more or less the mode of choice for independent production by necessity, but it’s a stirring thought nonetheless to find an older filmmaker returning to those limitations in the streets of Paris on black and white film stock. If the achievement of cinematic truth is what will forever set those auteurs apart, though, it is the forceful inclusion of banal artificiality that pushes “Jealousy” into insignificance.
How is it that Noah Baumbach with “Frances Ha” managed a better black and white throwback to the Left Bank of the French New Wave than this black and white throwback made by an actual New Wave filmmaker?
Two title cards appear, one at the opening and one halfway through: “I Looked After Angels” and “Sparks in a Powder Keg.” Garrel insists upon these kinds of bewildering theatricalities that aren’t traced through the image or screenplay. Much of the film takes place in the cramped interiors of Louis’ apartment, but even when he does set foot outside well into the first act it remains in tight framing. There’s just no place setting – if the characters were speaking German you would assume this must be some vaguely French-spirited district of Berlin. Yet despite a theatrical backdrop, cinematographer Willy Kurant (who shot another of Garrel’s failed romances, the universally panned “A Burning Hot Summer”) employs a raw photographic style best described as an emulation of the New Wave aesthetic. The camera operating plays by the “rules” of a New Wave throwback – it’s handheld and imperfect, but also stiff and reactionary.
Raoul Coutard’s camera lead Jean-Paul Belmondo around Parisian apartments in “Breathless;” Kurant’s camera follows the characters and struggles to keep up. There is one shot in “Jealousy,” from the point of view of a young girl peeking through a keyhole of a door, which suggests the better film that goes unseen.
I found myself so disappointed by this film – its lack of honesty, its sappy score – that I turned my attention to the audience near the end of the film to gauge whether this may have been something I just wasn’t in tune with. But the second the credits hit, much of the audience at the festival shot out of their seats – eager to leave after only 77 minutes of screentime with “Jealousy.” This is a dangerous film to show English-speaking audiences. How many of those in the theater that night were trying foreign cinema for the first time? How many will now avoid it in the future, having their worst fears about black and white French films confirmed? I wanted to pull people aside on the way out, saying “No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!” Muttering something about “The Great Beauty.” Garrel fails to commit to a single style and consequently, “Jealousy” goes without one at all – making for a laborious, unpleasant experience.Continue Reading Issue #15
August 22, 2014 (USA)
1 hr. 17 min.
Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglalis, Rebecca Convenant, Olga Milshtein, Esther Garrel, Arthur Igual, Jérôme Huguet, Manon Kneusé, Eric Ruillat, Sofia Teillet