I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar

"Excellent"

I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar Review


The films of Philippe Garrel seem to be the realization of Euripides' great summation that "He is not a lover who does not love forever." Perhaps "he" is outdated; for Garrel's sect, a solid he/she or they would be more appropriate. Not only does every one of the French director's films deal directly with the limits and constrictions of that unfathomable emotion, they seem to also be interested in how language conveys and manipulates one's feelings.

The first quarter of Garrel's superb I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar deals solely with those three infamous words, and the four figures at the center of the director's emotional typhoon never feel satisfied with their counterpart's terminology; at least not the women. Marianne (Johanna Ter Steege, who made her debut in the classic creeper The Vanishing) doesn't think her lover's promise of loving her "like crazy" is good enough, for what if he were to regain his sanity? Said lover, Gerard (Benoît Régent as Garrel's proxy), later corrects himself, stating that he will love her till he dies. She has no other choice but to leave him, at the very same time their friends Martin (Yann Collette) and Lola (Mireille Perrier) split.

Time is a trifling matter in Garrel's universe, as it should be for a pair of painfully fickle lovers such as Gerard and Marianne. She disappears and returns as a heroin addict; he gets hooked on the junk and she runs off to Germany; she returns again just as he has gotten clean and started a family with Aline (a strong Brigitte Sy). In almost every situation, the scene that you are watching could have actually preceded the one before it. Only Aline's appearance seems to the ground the film to any sort of chronology, but her importance is subjective to Marianne and the appearance of a pretty young thing that Gerard starts up with on the side.

Despite the rambling nature and the weight of language that Garrel has infused, no single part of Guitar feels anything less than viscerally personal. Very well it should be: It is a transparent portrayal of Garrel's tumultuous affair with Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico, who was featured in much of his '70s work and lived with the director for many years. Thankfully, the pressures of fame are not breached here and its attitude towards addiction is as a temperamental phase rather than a melodramatic fever.

Garrel has always been one of the more underappreciated students of the nouvelle vague, beginning his career around the time Godard made Contempt. Surprisingly, it wasn't until 2006 saw the release of his late-period masterpiece Regular Lovers that there was a renewed interest in his work. Not at all surprising is the fact that most of his prolific filmography continues to waver in obscurity without a proper DVD release. That it took 18 years for a proper copy of Guitar and his lighter yet ravishing Emergency Kisses to be released is abhorrent yet completely expected.

Early on in the film, Gerard discusses with Martin the young man who came to pick up Marianne's things, after their first break. The phrase "Yeah, man" gets flipped, probed, skewered and ultimately embraced by the two, being the term the young man chooses to answer the glut of Gerard's questions with. Garrel has a bleak honesty in his depiction of these sticky conversations, and the actors have a preternatural ability at weighing talk and silence in these very intimate moments. The brilliant French cinematographer Caroline Champetier (Terror's Advocate, Le Petit Lieutenant) and editors Sophie Coussein and Yann Dedet frame and sculpt the imagery with Garrel to make every conversation linger in the space even after their speakers leave. Haunted by a dissolving woman, Guitar's dark and devastating romance surely transcends its timeline but may also trounce that picayune idea known as existence.

Aka J'entends plus la guitar.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Philippe Garrel

Producer: Gérard Vaugeois, Bernard Palacios

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