L’Enfant Secret marked a momentous turning point in Philippe Garrel’s filmography, as he transitioned towards personal, memoirist filmmaking, and went on to make a series of deeply autobiographical works culled out of his relationships, craft and politics. Garrel had a decade-long love affair with German singer, actress and pop icon Nico – she acted in 7 of his films during this period – and memories of this turbulent, transformative relationship formed the central tenet of this intimate and melancholic film. The circular narrative covers the affecting, tumultuous and ultimately doomed affair between Jean-Baptiste (Henri de Maublanc), a pensive filmmaker, and Elie (Anne Wiazemsky – the unforgettable girl from Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar), an intermittent actress and fragile single mom – they meet at a countryside retreat and move in together to his tiny flat in Paris; his foray into politics, involvement with drugs, and tryst with psychological breakdown and shock therapy; her tussle between her son (the title was a reference to Nico’s child with Alain Delon – who, apparently, had refused to recognize him) and her desire to be free; the emotional impact of her mother’s death, and her growing dependency on drugs to cope with her existential crisis. Despite the emotional upheavals, this tone poem was laced with a brittle tranquility through Garrel’s poetic imbuing of it with the form of a diary film – ravishing, moody, shadowy, grainy B/W photography; preponderance of dialogue-free sequences and inaction; and a haunting, cathartic score based on piano and violin. The movie’s brilliant final scene – where, in a bravura single take, the glass wall of a café provides us, alternately, a peek into the interiors and views behind the camera through reflection – was a moment of cinematic virtuosity.
Director: Philippe Garrel
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Diary Film/Experimental Film