FNC 2013: ‘La jalousie’ is a rare love story with heart and heartbreak

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La Jalousie

Written by Marc Cholodenko and Caroline Deuras-Garrel

Directed by Philippe Garrel

France, 2013

Note. This review contains spoilers.

Jealousy is a strange thing. It can make people crazy. It can make people do things they never thought possible. Philippe Garrel’s new film La jalousie engages with the idea that we all have our own limits when it comes to love. The film follows Louis, played by the director’s own son, Louis Garrel, a stage actor in his early thirties who has recently left his wife and young daughter to live with another woman. Set in present-day Paris, the story examines the trials and tribulations of what the heart wants and how it breaks, over and over again.

The idea behind La jalousie came from Garrel’s childhood recollections of his father’s romantic relationships. Shot in striking black and white, the film truly does feel like an intimate matter, more than just a simple, straightforward narrative. This aesthetic choice further helps to emphasize the contrasting and complex nature of love and eventual heartbreak. Louis has broken the hearts of his ex-wife Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant) and daughter Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) to be with Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), a struggling actress he met through his work. She becomes obsessed with him and begins to fear that he will run away with someone else. In an act of near rebellion and defense, she cheats on him repeatedly and then finally leaves him, making sure that he does not hurt her first. Now alone, Louis decides to shoot himself in the heart yet only manages to puncture a lung and lives. The film is cyclical in this method, arguing that love does not last forever and all must be hurt and left broken.

La jalousie is not only a drama in the cinematic sense, but a drama played out on the stage. The characters wear the same outfits/costumes throughout the film, only slightly changing them by adding a hat or a sweater to emphasize the passing of time or the change of location. Also, the physical sets are a direct reference to the stage. The way the interiors of the small Parisian apartments are decorated gives the illusion to the audience that they are watching a staged production. It is interesting to see this deliberate aesthetic come alive through the camera’s lens, giving the story a depth rarely seen in film.

One of the most intriguing aspects of La jalousie is how much it resembles that of a French New Wave film. It rejects the classic way of filmic storytelling and delves into the turbulences of real emotion. Although shot reminiscent of a theatre production, it does use real locations, further demonstrating how Garrel is employing the contrasting nature of film just as much as he is the nature of desire. With this experimentation of film form, it feels both rehearsed and improvised. There is a shot of Louis not knowing what to do with his hands, and it is a significant one, as it demonstrates that this narrative is much more than boy loves girl. It gives a sense of reality to the regular conventions of cinema. It is a shot that not many filmmakers would think to emphasize in this kind of story. Here is a good example of a contrived medium telling a real tale.

— Trish Ferris

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