La Naissance de L’Amour

A better title for Philippe Garrel's self-indulgent film would be "Sullen, Unappealing Characters Pontificating on Their Lives and Problems." Confessional, intimate look at middle-aged artistic types adrift remains true to the French auteurist tradition, and Garrel's faith in his actors is palpable. However, only hard-core cinephiles will connect with this orbit of helmer's navel.

With:
Paul ... Lou Castel Marcus ... Jean-Pierre Leaud Ulrika ... Johanna Ter Steege Helene ... Dominique Reymond Fanchon ... Marie-Paul Laval

A better title for Philippe Garrel’s self-indulgent film would be “Sullen, Unappealing Characters Pontificating on Their Lives and Problems.” Confessional, intimate look at middle-aged artistic types adrift remains true to the French auteurist tradition, and Garrel’s faith in his actors is palpable. However, only hard-core cinephiles will connect with this orbit of helmer’s navel.

Narrative unspools in a dreary, workaday Paris (rigorously lensed in b&w by new wave icon Raoul Coutard) against a backdrop of the brewing Gulf War. Basic idea is that love can go out the window from one day to the next, the same way it can fly in without warning.

Paul (Lou Castel), an actor, beds indifferent Ulrika (Johanna Ter Steege), argues with his wife (Marie-Paul Laval), who is about to give birth to their second child, and is a mediocre role model for his adolescent son. Why a dour lunk with nothing going for him should be so attractive to women (including one who’s half his age) is a mystery.

The only live wire in the cast is Jean-Pierre Leaud as Paul’s friend Marcus, a writer who has abandoned his craft in favor of “thinking.” Leaud delivers crazed philosophical monologues and wonders aloud why his g.f. has left him.

Soundtrack is awash with aural distractions in exteriors — a conscious choice by Garrel, who abhors looping and post-syncing. John Cale’s music is fleeting.

La Naissance de L'Amour

(FRENCH-SWISS -- B&W)

Production: A Pan Europeene release of a Why Not, La Sept Cinema (Paris)/Vega Films (Zurich) production, with participation of Canal Plus/Ministry of Culture & Francophonie/SACEM/Departement Federal de l'Interieur (Berne)/SSR/RTSI-Televisione Svizzera. (International sales: Why Not, Paris.) Co-executive producers, Christian Paumier, Pierre-Alain Schatzmann, Pascal Caucheteux, Ruth Waldberger. Directed by Philippe Garrel. Screenplay, Garrel, Marc Cholodenko, Muriel Cerf.

Crew: Camera (b&w), Raoul Coutard; editors, Sophie Coussein, Yann Dedet; music, John Cale; costume design, Laura Travelli; sound, Jean-Pierre Ruh. Reviewed at Club de l'Etoile screening room, Paris, Aug. 27, 1993. (In Rotterdam and Venice (non-competing) fests.) Running time:91 MIN.

With: Paul ... Lou Castel Marcus ... Jean-Pierre Leaud Ulrika ... Johanna Ter Steege Helene ... Dominique Reymond Fanchon ... Marie-Paul Laval

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