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CANNES 2017 Directors’ Fortnight

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Lover for a Day: Blurred clarity

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- CANNES 2017: Philippe Garrel delivers a marvellously stripped-back film about the eternally fluctuating territories and underground manoeuvres of love

Lover for a Day: Blurred clarity
Eric Caravaca and Esther Garrel in Lover for a Day

What is fascinating about Philippe Garrel, whose 26th feature film Lover for a Day [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
was screened today in the Directors' Fortnight of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, is his timeless style with his hallmark black-and-white and very literary punctuation in the form of voice-over narration, as well as the increasingly deep and calm simplicity of his study of the convolutions of love. A subtle, light take on the pain of passion that allows the filmmaker to drink once again from the fountain of youth and create very beautiful roles for his female stars. The suspense develops around them while the man at the centre of the narrative – a lover and a father – seems to be subject to the events, thinking that he is in the know but actually knowing very little, doing his best but unable to exert any real influence on the processes unfolding around him.

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This man, Gilles (Eric Caravaca), is a professor of philosophy and this is clearly one of the ironies of the story because it does not make him less of man (“philosophy is not divorced from life”) and the film opens with a sex scene in the university toilets with Ariane (the revelation Louise Chevillotte), one of his students with whom he has been having a secret affair for the last three months – a relationship that he, as we learn later, resisted in the beginning. But he is also a father who sees his daughter Jeanne (Esther Garrel) barge home one evening after a breakup, in tears and with her suitcase.

Placing herself like a cuckoo-clock in the living room and at the heart of the life of two lovers, Jeanne unloads her deep suffering (“he was completely indifferent”, “I don’t want any more relationships if this is how it ends”, “I’ve been had by love”), which is compulsive. Consolatory and confident at first, Ariane slowly begins to feel pangs of jealously about Gilles’s paternal love for his daughter and also shares loaded secrets with a Jeanne who deploys schemes (conscious and unconscious) to remain the centre of attention. After all, though both might appear to be close and share the bond of an age dominated by desire, the two young women are, in reality, the protagonists of an underground war because the enemy remains “the enemy even when you know that you are wrongly occupying their territory…”

Creating his intrigue with great prowess (through a script that he wrote with Jean-Claude Carrière, Caroline Deruas and Arlette Langmann), Philippe Garrel questions a multitude of themes about our affective lives (freedom in love, age differences, the links between the physical and intellectual, etc) without ever passing even an ounce of judgement, doing it simply to reflect the subtle inflections of life and the eternal cycle of desire and love. This novel on life is enveloped in the visual backdrop of an exceptional, absolute master, notably thanks to the splendid cinematography by Renato Berta. A style that makes Lover for a Day a film that swims completely against the tide as a modern film full of sound and fury, but nonetheless falls fully within the scope of a timeless story in the art of cinema.

Lover for a Day was produced by SBS, which will distribute the film in France on 31 May and is also selling its international rights.

(Translated from French)

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