Frontier of Dawn

"Very Good"

Frontier of Dawn Review


In Frontier of Dawn, Philippe Garrel's transfixing follow-up to Regular Lovers, love means being obsessed and obsession is a form of love. At least that's the idea you get from watching how it chronicles a young photographer (Louis Garrel, the director's lean son) who begins with a doomed affair with an actress (the radiant Laura Smet) and ends in an agonizing state of fatalism with a baby on the way. Melancholy, it would seem, is the elder Garrel's native tongue.

Shot in beautiful, shadowy black-and-white and set primarily, as was his previous film, in the hallways and empty rooms of Parisian apartments, Frontier immediately flirts with the romance and nostalgia of the nouvelle vague. This is not completely surprising as Garrel is perhaps the most unsung hero of that particular movement, only seeing a renewed interest upon the release of Lovers in 2006. But unlike a great deal of his other work, Frontier features bouts of picaresque fantasy that are reminiscent of Bresson and Dreyer.

When Carole (Smet) first meets Francois (Garrel), he is simply taking her photograph. He will never shoot a satisfactory picture of her; how can the camera ever see her as he does? Despite having a husband stuck playing cinematographer to a Hollywood director, Carole begins an affair with Francois and revels in lazy, philosophical ramblings of love and politics with him. It won't be until later, after they've fallen for one another and put each other through tortures and embarrassments the likes of which only a lover could supply, that Carole will check herself into a mental institution.

Just as pretentious as its title, Frontier of Dawn never graces the brilliant heights of Regular Lovers, nor does it have the emotional undertow of Garrel's early masterwork I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar. Like his entire oeuvre, however, the film does have a very personal language to it and it seems like, even now, Garrel is still working through his tumultuous romance with Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico.

Not long after being released from the mental hospital, and being rejected by Francois, Carole overdoses and dies, reappearing as a ghost in her beloved's mirror. Francois' new and relatively similar romance with Eve (Clémentine Poidatz) yields an unexpected child, a dose of reality that only doubles the young man's obsession with his lost lover. It's only after a visit with Eve's father (an excellent Olivier Massart) that Francois becomes obsessed with his own mortality.

Much of the film's first three-quarters is dedicated to Smet's delicate face and enticing figure. Garrel often lets the camera simply focus on her rolling on the floor or drunkenly making her way down a corridor. Like Francois, Garrel's camera is in an absolute state of love and the imagery, which Garrel shaped with the great cinematographer William Lubtchansky, as elemental and haunting as his devotion. Like few other directors, Garrel has mastered a own very personal tone that makes even a minor work such as this feel essential and vital. Some may think that such a startlingly faithful ideal of love renders Frontier absurd; others may find the very weight of lost love, transformative and transcendental, laid to rest on their shoulders.

Aka La frontière de l'aube.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Philippe Garrel

Producer:

Starring: as François, Clémentine Poidatz as Ève, as Carol, Jérôme Robart as François' friend

Also starring:

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