When friends insist they don't want to watch a French film because it's certainly gonna be just a bunch of black-and-white shots of intellectuals smoking in cafes and gassing on about the impossibility of fidelity, they could be talking about Philippe Garrel's latest, Lover for a Day. Or, hell, they could be talking about most of Garrel's films, which since the late 1960s have obsessively mined this territory, leaving the hills of love cold and barren over time -- is there anything left there for Garrel to find? Well, not really.
Lover for a Day seems at times almost a parody of Garrel's work. In Lover, we get no less than two women trying to off themselves, both Jeanne (Esther Garrel), a recently jilted daughter who moves back in with her professor father Gilles (Eric Caravaca), and Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), Gilles' student-cum-lover. Esther Garrel, the director's daughter, turned heads with her role as Marzia in Call Me By Your Name and brings a similar jittery, juvenile energy to this film, only with more barbed edges. Her Jeanne paces, yelps in sadness, then quietly enjoys a glass of wine while talking of geopolitics. Yes, she's a bit of a hysterical woman stereotype, but the young Garrel revels in the role. She's treated sympathetically, though that doesn't solve the problem that her father/director has of stifling character development with insularity. Jeanne doesn't seem to have a job or interests. Her life is dominated by a need to love and be loved, which must grow tiresome for her. It certainly did for me watching her.