Louis, Louis

02.27.09

Left: Christophe Honoré, La Belle Personne, 2008, still from a color film in 35 mm, 90 minutes. Nemours (Louis Garrel). Philippe Garrel, Frontier of Dawn, 2008, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 106 minutes. Ève and Francois (Clémentine Poidatz and Louis Garrel).


JUSTIFIABLY FETING IFC FILMS for the second year in a row, BAMcinématek salutes the bold US distributor (you can thank IFC for bringing The Duchess of Langeais, The Last Mistress, and Che to theaters last year) with a seven-movie series, including weeklong runs of Philippe Garrel’s Frontier of Dawn and Christophe Honoré’s La Belle Personne. The two films are wildly different: Garrel, the dreamiest and most melancholy of the post–New Wave masters, introduces a supernatural dea ex machina, while Honoré’s work, loosely based on the seventeenth-century novel La Princesse de Clèves, plays like a Gallic Gossip Girl. What unites them is their star, the tousle-haired beauty Louis Garrel. Louis is Philippe’s son; in his father’s 2005 film, Regular Lovers (a gorgeous rejoinder to Bertolucci’s facile May ’68 movie from 2003, The Dreamers, also starring Garrel fils), Louis is essentially his father’s surrogate. Garrel the younger has starred in four of Honoré’s five features, a relationship reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Léaud’s collaboration with François Truffaut.

Frontier of Dawn, visually voluptuous in high-contrast black-and-white, follows the doomed love between François (Louis), a photographer, and Carole (Laura Smet), an unstable actress. Carole is institutionalized; François moves on. Carole kills herself and comes back to haunt her erstwhile lover, appearing as a menacing apparition in mirrors and instructing François to join her in the realm of the undead. One’s tolerance for the hocus-pocus depends on whether one finds the crazy-lady trope shamelessly lazy, especially coming from the director of 1991’s I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar, a far more graceful dissection of a tumultuous relationship (based on Garrel’s own with the self-destructive Teutonic icon Nico).

Honoré, a more earthbound romantic, has made his most cynical film with La Belle Personne—and given Louis Garrel one of his least sympathetic roles. As a popular Italian teacher at a Parisian high school, Garrel’s Nemours, sleeping with the religion teacher and at least one student, doggedly pursues his latest charge, Junie (Léa Seydoux). Yet Honoré’s pleasingly tart vision of lust, teenage or otherwise, never fails to be enraptured by the comeliness of its cast—and no one is filmed more lovingly than Garrel.

“Focus on IFC Films” runs at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn March 6–12. For more details, click here.

Melissa Anderson