July 12–30, 2018

Philippe Garrel: Definitions of Love

The proverbial underrated genius. He’s the closest thing to a poet functioning today in French cinema.”

Olivier Assayas

Regarded in his native France as one of the most indispensable filmmakers of the post-New Wave generation, Philippe Garrel has, over the past 50 years, created an extraordinary body of impassioned, immensely personal work that has gone virtually unseen in North America.

Born to French screen actor (and future collaborator) Maurice Garrel in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt in 1948, Philippe Garrel took to the seventh art at a preternaturally young age. Intoxicated by the contemporaneous nouvelle vague—especially the films of Jean-Luc Godard, whose brand of introspective cinema the auteur would one day inherit—Garrel wrote and directed his first film in 1964 at just 16, with a quick succession of works to follow. (His 1967 feature Marie pour mémoire was seen and praised by none other than Godard, an endorsement of earthshaking import for the teen wunderkind.)

Two key events would play a pivotal role in Garrel’s life and, in turn, form the nucleus of his life-mirroring art for decades to come: the failed revolution of May 1968; and his on- and off-screen relationship with Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico, his lover and collaborator for 10 years. Those twin poles guided his experimental, fringe filmmaking through the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, a period of drug-fueled art production (sometimes under the aegis of the leftist film collective Zanzibar Group) that birthed strange, mythopoetic works starring Nico, Garrel, and other boho scenesters. Then, beginning with 1979’s L’enfant secret and his separation from the German songstress—with whom he shared a serious heroin addiction, detailed in the film—Garrel reinvented himself as a director of austere, muted melodramas. This phase, still extant today, represents the best-known Garrel, for whom a fervent fan-base formed and international reputation emerged.

Unabashedly autobiographical, often shot in anachronistic black-and-white, and very-much imbued with the ethos of the nouvelle vague—whose artisans the director has made a habit of recruiting, Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre Léaud, and cinematographer Raoul Coutard among them—the latter-day films of Garrel are a constellation of ongoing, interconnected episodes that tackle the boundless dimensions (and contradictions) of love from a nakedly first-person point of view. They are, in the truest sense, family” films, set in everyday domestic spaces and featuring a rotating troupe of intergenerational kinfolk—father Maurice, son Louis, daughter Esther, onetime wife Brigitte Sy, current wife Caroline Deruas—portraying either versions of themselves, as in 1989’s Emergency Kisses, or avatars of others, as in 2005’s Regular Lovers, the start of Louis’s tenure as his father’s onscreen alter-ego.

On the heels of major career surveys in New York and Toronto, The Cinematheque presents a select retrospective of Philippe Garrel’s sublime, scandalously-underseen cinema. Many of these films have never played Vancouver before; two of the director’s pinnacle avant-garde works, The Virgin’s Bed and The Inner Scar, will screen from newly-struck 35mm prints. Along with the essentials, the series will include the recently unearthed Actua 1, Garrel’s in-the-thick reportage of the May 1968 riots, as well as the Vancouver premiere of his superb new film Lover for a Day, his first to feature daughter Esther (Call Me by Your Name) in a principal role.

As close as teeth are to lips to the idea of natural beauty.” Jean-Luc Godard

It’s hard to imagine a filmmaker more deserving of major reconsideration by serious students and enthusiasts of film art. So, let’s all be reasonable and demand the impossible: Garrel now!” Michael Chaiken, Film Comment

Opening Night Thursday, July 12
Reception, Refreshments & Special Introduction
6:00 pm – Reception
7:00 pm – Lover for a Day introduced by Thierry Garrel
8:45 pm – Emergency Kisses


For their assistance in making this retrospective possible, The Cinematheque is grateful to Jacob Perlin, The Film Desk; Amélie Garin-Davet, French Embassy and Cultural Services in New York; Etienne Farreyre, Consulate General of France in Vancouver; and Thierry Garrel.

Opening Night will feature complimentary wine and cheese generously provided by the Consulate General of France in Vancouver.
Consulate General of France

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2018-Jul Lover for a Day Philippe Garrel 2017 France
2018-Jul Emergency Kisses Philippe Garrel 1989 France
2018-Jul The Birth of Love Philippe Garrel 1993 France . . .
2018-Jul The Virgin’s Bed Philippe Garrel 1970 France
2018-Jul The Inner Scar Philippe Garrel 1972 France
2018-Jul Liberté, la nuit Philippe Garrel 1983 France
2018-Jul L’enfant secret Philippe Garrel 1979 France
2018-Jul Regular Lovers Philippe Garrel 2005 France
2018-Jul I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar Philippe Garrel 1991 France

Thierry Garrel, a French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Prix des Auteurs de la SCAM 2015, joined the Research Department of French Television (ORTF) at the age of twenty before becoming the Head of the Documentary and Junior Authors Division at the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA). From 1987 until 2008, he was the Head of the Documentary Film Department of La Sept and ARTE France. Since 2015 he has curated the FRENCH FRENCH series for DOXA Documentary Film Festival. He is the brother of Philippe, and uncle of Louis and Esther.