Tuesday 10 September 2019

I Don't Hear the Guitar Anymore [1991]

Philippe Garrel crafted a magnificent example of personal filmmaking – thematically and formally – with the haunting, introspective and intensely self-critical masterpiece I Don’t Hear the Guitar Anymore. This extraordinary chapter in his faux autobiographical series, which he’d begun with L’Enfant Secret and Emergency Kisses, touched upon diverse subtexts – impermanence, the veneer of marital bliss, reconciliations between past and present, how time often converts a bohemian into a bourgeois before one even realizes it. Melancholic and subtly affecting, yet avowedly unsentimental in its portrayal of complex transitions in relationships, it was lacerating in its self-infliction on incredibly personal memories. Dedicated to his former lover Nico, the German pop-icon with whom he had a decade-long affair, the film chronicled their turbulent journey filled with emotional upheavals and poignant intimacy, including trysts with reckless freedom, disregard for conventional mores, heroin addiction, moments of doubt and insecurity, falling apart, and futile attempts at moving on. Johanna ter Steege gave an unforgettable turn as the frizzy-haired, freckled, impulsive, self-destructive and tragically beautiful Marianne, with whom Gérard (Benoît Régent) has a doomed affair. When their relationship collapses, he gets married to Aline (in a courageous turn by Garrel’s then-wife Brigitte Sy) – but Marianne continues to haunt both even in her absence, and more so when she makes a fleeting reappearance into their lives that ends up putting in disarray the fragile equilibrium in their domestic bliss, ironically presaging Garrel and Sy’s real-life marital dissolution as well. Shot in muted, washed out colours, and set to a low-key, mournful score, I was almost expecting Leonard Cohen’s heartbreaking So Long Marianne to be played as the end credits rolled for this alternately blazing and poetic pièce de résistance.

Director: Philippe Garrel
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Marital Drama/Film a Clef
Language: French
Country: France

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