In the Shadow of Women, the middle chapter in Garrel’s loosely linked ‘Trilogy of Infidelity’, had all the irresistible hallmarks and formal rigour of the two other ravishing tone poems, viz. Jealousy and Lover for a Day – dazzling B/W photography that evoked a richly moody atmosphere; minimally used score that laced it with melancholy and loneliness; deadpan, omniscient voiceover (provided by his son Louis here); and the theme of casual, self-destructive infidelilty testing the heartbreaking fragility of a petit bourgeois couple’s relationship. Yet – on a darn interesting note – there were some significant departures too here, in that it was the most emotionally low-key and cynical of the lot, thus making a stunning furious outburst and the seemingly happy parting shot stand out in the context; and, it was also the most self-reflexive and overly political too (though Lover for a Day, too, had a sharp exchange on the Algerian War). Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau) are a stodgy married couple, with his poker faced petulance complementing her mournful demeanour. They’re a filmmaking couple too – poor man’s Straub-Huillet, if you will – as he’s a documentary director while she assists him with the camera and editing, and they’re presently making a doc – on an aged, self-proclaimed veteran of the anti-fascist French Resistance (Jean Pommier) – which seems to be going nowhere, reminiscent in a droll way of the Woody segment in his magisterial Crimes and Misdemeanors. Their delicately strung relationship, however, starts bursting through the seams when he starts a torrid affair with a lovely film archivist (Lena Paugam), and faces collapse – thanks to his brittle male ego – when he gets to know that Manon too has a secret lover.
Director: Philippe Garrel
Genre: Drama/Marital Drama/Romance/Urban Drama