Saturday 29 April 2023

Le Cœur Fantôme (The Phantom Heart) [1996]

 Philippe Garrel’s filmography weren’t just delineated with remarkable formal, tonal, textural and compositional consistencies, it was often threaded with thematic commonalities too given how many of his films were laced with rich semi-autobiographical elements. His informally linked “Autobiographical Series” of five profoundly personal, understated and beautifully crafted gems – viz. L’Enfant Secret, Les Baisers de Secours, J’Entends plus la Guitare, Le Coeur Fantôme and Les Amants Réguliers – especially stood out in terms of their absorbing interpretations, reimagining, and manifestations of strands from his life through the prismatic lens of memory and cinema. The muted, introspective, and tender fourth film – the relatively least known work in that collage – portrayed personal, marital, romantic, and existential fragments of yet another brooding alter-ego of the filmmaker. Philippe (Luis Rego) is a middle-aged, soft-spoken, and moderately successful painter who moves out of the life and apartment he shares with his wife Annie (Évelyne Didi) – and their two kids who he deeply loves – after she reveals that she’s having an affair. While continuing to pursue with his painting at the small desolate space that he maintains, and casually indulging with a prostitute at times, he serendipitously meets the naïve and much younger Justine (Aurélia Alcaïs), and embarks on a tentative relationship with her. Philippe’s life, therefore, becomes delicately tied to the two women – the loving but possessive Justine, and Annie who seems to be falling apart and with whom his kids stay – while also spending time with his wry, garrulous and aged dad (played by the filmmaker’s real-life father, Maurice Garrel) who’s long separated from Philippe’s mother and is slipping towards oblivion. The film was shot in soft, washed-out colours that complemented its fragile, melancholic fabric.

Director: Philippe Garrel

Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Marital Drama

Language: French

Country: France

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