Critics’ Picks

Philippe Garrel, Les Hautes Solitudes, 1974, black-and-white, silent, 1 hour 20 minutes.

Philippe Garrel, Les Hautes Solitudes, 1974, black-and-white, silent, 1 hour 20 minutes.


Philippe Garrel

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) | Gwacheon
313 Gwangmyeong-ro, Makgye-dong, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
November 25, 2015–February 28, 2016

Philippe Garrel was a teenage filmmaking prodigy—he wrote and directed his first feature at the age of sixteen, under the influence of the 1960s films of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Since then, Garrel has made over two dozen more features, with the latest—L’ombre des femmes (In the Shadow of Women, 2015)—premiering last year at Cannes.

In Seoul, Garrel is being honored with a cinematic retrospective that includes many of his early and more obscure films, as well as an exhibition at one of the city’s most prestigious contemporary-art institutions. The latter consists of three works shown on a loop, the highlight of which is a restored 35-mm print of Elle a passé tant d’heures sous les sunlights . . . (She Spent So Many Hours Under the Sun Lamps . . ., 1985), an autobiographical film exploring Garrel’s breakup with a long-term partner—the musician Nico—and the birth of his son, the actor Louis Garrel. In the second room, across two screens, is Les hautes solitudes (1974)—a silent portrait of the troubled actress Jean Seberg, who is perhaps best remembered for her role in Godard’s Breathless (1960). At one point in Garrel’s film, she is seen swallowing a fistful of pills in despair—disturbing, considering Seberg’s actual suicide five years later after being the victim of a long defamation campaign by the FBI for her leftist leanings. Finally, on three screens is shown Le révélateur (The Revealer, 1968), another silent film, shot with three actors shortly after the events of May ’68 in a desolate, rural German town. Together, these films offer an apt vision of Garrel’s particular aesthetics of revolt: one rooted in the free associations of poetry and the rejection of systems.