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Louis Garrel (#110 of 3)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts

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Cannes Film Review: Ismael’s Ghosts

Le Pacte

Cannes Film Review: Ismael’s Ghosts

The opening-night film of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Ismael’s Ghosts gives us a more unhinged Arnaud Desplechin than we’ve had in a while. As in later Alain Resnais or Raúl Ruiz films, it simultaneously collapses and expands a director’s body of work, like an uncontainable popup book. It borrows character names and identifiers liberally from Desplechin’s filmography, but plays fast and loose with the inter-film narrative continuity. It’s worlds away from 2013’s formally and dramatically disciplined Jimmy P., and it builds on 2015’s My Golden Days, which positioned itself as a prequel to 1996’s great My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Almayer’s Folly and That Summer

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Almayer’s Folly</em> and <em>That Summer</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Almayer’s Folly</em> and <em>That Summer</em>

Almayer’s Folly: In what is easily the most eye-grabbing introductory sequence so far in the festival, an extended tracking shot follows a man into a nightclub where a lounge lizard mimes a Dean Martin chanson before a row of swaying, sequin-studded dancers; a knifing ensues, and the one girl left onstage afterward approaches the camera for a close-up and launches into a grave aria in Latin. Fortunately, Chantal Akerman’s very loose modernization of Joseph Conrad’s first novel lives up to the humid mystery of its opening with a stylistic rigor that finds the Belgian filmmaker—directing her first non-documentary feature in seven years—in top insinuating form. As she charts the dilemmas and gestures of an European trader Almayer (Stanislas Mehar) and his “mixed-blood” daughter, Nina (Aurora Marion), Akerman’s decision to take Conrad’s 19th-century, Malaysia-set story to modern-day Cambodia without acknowledging the changes comes to strike less as an eccentric gesture than as a purposeful extension of the narrative’s inquiries into cultural identity and colonial uprooting. Still, the film works most evocatively not as a visualization of a literary source, but as a companion piece to Akerman’s 2000 masterpiece La Captive, another tale of obsessive drives hitting like tropical maladies. A work of engulfing jungles and rivers, vehement and incantatory speeches, and piercing female gazes in front of and behind the camera.

The More Things Change… : Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers

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The More Things Change… : Philippe Garrel’s <em>Regular Lovers</em>
The More Things Change… : Philippe Garrel’s <em>Regular Lovers</em>

Most remembrances of youth tend to be about the high points—the moments of keening pleasure and surging emotion that make up what are supposed to be “the best years of our lives.” Part of this is understandable, but it does a disservice to the aimless ennui we experience in the same period. Much of our youth (perhaps I’m projecting here) is a long, unbroken string of downtime, the calm before the storm of lives waiting to begin or lives that are avoiding the big question of what you’re going to do once doing nothing loses its lustre. This is the approach of Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers (Les amants reguliers), an astonishingly anti-dramatic take on the children of the failed May ’68 revolution and the going-about-one’s-business that followed hot on that disappointment’s heels. It remembers not the loud ambitions of youth, but the lump in the throat when you discover that those ambitions don’t live up to what was in the brochure.