Jealousy is a film that teeters between being captivating and cliched, unfortunately leaning more towards the latter by the time the closing credits roll. Philippe Garrel surveys the fault lines of a relationship, eruptions of infidelity, and the differing ways in which each party can respond. It’s a well-paced film in terms of its progression, but Garrel fails in his attempts to establish a sense of empathy for the characters. On one hand, there’s Louis (Louis Garrel), a poorly-conceived caricature of the already overexplored starving artist type, while on the other hand we have Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), an actress whom Louis has promised to make famous. Between the two of them, there’s isn’t much to like at the start, little to care about when it all falls apart, and a sense of boredom that permeates the denouement.
We’re introduced to Louis as he is leaving Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), the mother of his child. He moves in with Claudia only to find that things are immediately unstable between the couple. While he romanticises the bohemian, small-apartment life, Claudia is uncomfortable and frustrated by it, as it’s something that reflects and reinforces her own disappointment with her career. In response, Louis promises that he will make her famous, but as he fails to deliver she grows impatient. At the start, Claudia is jealous and afraid that Louis will leave her just as he did Clothilde, but as the film progresses these emotions seamlessly shift onto Louis. They drift away from one another as both of them flirt with infidelity, as the titular emotion of jealousy pushes them out of love as quickly as they fell into it.
There’s a lot to be said about Jealousy as an autobiographical film. Philippe Garrel has pointedly said that the character of Louis – played by his son – is based on his father, making the film fascinating in the way in which the director navigates between his own reality and the fiction he creates on screen. The film isn’t set in the past but, instead, in modern day Paris. In this, Garrel superimposes the image of his father onto the acting of his son, in a swift process of universalising these experiences. The acting of Louis Garrel is, however, overwhelmingly disappointing. Despite becoming the most regular feature in his father’s recent films, Louis struggles to bring much to the plate with his performances; beyond, of course, a possibly unintentional stark commentary on his own privilege and position in society. There’s some redeeming factors in this perpetual apathy, however, with it creating a more convincing stage for the characters to drift in and out of love so seamlessly; and allowing the older Garrel to flirt with the themes more synonymous with the French Nouvelle Vague of his earlier days, where the character of his father is drawn.
The film is shot with precision; adorned with complex close-ups in many sequences, whilst flirting with an assured depth-of-frame in other scenes. On the whole, it’s an aesthetically brilliant and pleasing film – each snapshot is magnificent, the camera moves and assists the pacing of the film, and the cast are done up in a way that complements the shots. Willy Kurant, best known for his work as the cinematographer for Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin Feminin, takes the helm as Jealousy’s cinematographer, and his skills shine throughout. The camerawork can often fall prey to a lot of the same issues to plague the plot, though – lacking a certain adventurousness, not provoking anything in particular from the audience, and possessing a certain impotence in terms of social criticism – but it stills strengthens Jealousy as a film with its precision in other areas. That said, despite the best efforts of Kurant managing to redeem some aspects of the film, he can’t mend its disappointing script, which is especially displeasing considering Garrel’s history as a filmmaker. While a lot of good ideas have gone into Jealousy, when it all comes together the film feels scattered more than anything else, and struggles with conveying any of its themes in an effective or emotive way.
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