Monday, November 16, 2009

Garrel's FRONTIER OF DAWN gets an encore at Anthology Film Archives

Some movie-makers never seem to live up to their storied reputations, and one such for TrustMovies is Philippe Garrel, shown below (Regular Lovers, Wild Innocence, Night Wind and I Don't Hear the Guitar Anymore, among other films), who is -- according to Anthology Film Archives -- "one of the towering figures of contem-
porary French cinema." Well, OK: I've never quite gotten Godard, either. (I can understand and appreciate Monsieur G. for his innovations, but his work often drives me up the wall rather than opening my eyes, mind or heart. And watching certain of his films anew decades later -- Pierrot le fou or Une femme est une femme to name two examples -- only brings the point home like fingernails on a blackboard.) But I digress....

The AFA is hosting an encore weekend, beginning this Friday, of M. Garrel's latest work FRONTIER OF DAWN, which I viewed some months back via screener, when the film made its U.S. theatrical-run debut as part of the IFC's Festival Direct/On-Demand program. In his last two films, Philippe has made good use of his own son Louis Garrel (shown below, doing a Vanessa Redgrave BlowUp imitation) of whom even better use has been made by Christophe Honoré in Love Songs, Dans Paris and Ma Mere).

Frontier of Dawn finds Louis drawn to the clutches of that interesting actress Laura Smet, shown below (Gilles' Wife, The Bridesmaid), who does "nutty" like nobody's business. She's doing it again here, playing an actress in a not-so-hot marriage who sets her sights on a photographer (Garrel fils) who's been assigned to shoot her. Their relationship goes up and down, mostly the latter, and then even farther down. But it does so in some sumptuous black-and-white photography (by William Lubtchansky), which helps us viewers along considerably.

Garrel père appears to be interested in relationships -- how they form and fall apart -- but only somewhat. So many red flags are raised along the way in this coupling that it doesn't make a lot of sense on any "normal" level. So we must go to some weird psychological plane, but even there, our interest flags. Perhaps the movie is some sort of fantasy? Family histories are tossed into the mix, but again, in such haphazard fashion as to make little difference. An indictment of modern medicine, perhaps? Why not! Anything's possible, but nothing comes clear, so we return again and again to the pair of actors on view. Each, charismatic and beautiful, gets to strut his and her stuff, which may be enough for many viewers (it helped pass the time for me). The film also features the lovely Clémentine Poidatz (shown with Louis, below) as the very well-endowed (financially speaking) former and later love interest.

I'm glad I saw Frontier of Dawn (and that title signifies... uh, the end of night? Perhaps it's this pittance of pretension that clings to more than just the names of some of M. Garrel's films that puts me off). Still, I'll probably try his next one, too. The reason for that "tower-
ing" reputation, however, continues to elude me. You can click here for the AFA film programs, then scroll down for dates and times.

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