Retrospective Philippe Garrel "Art is a Spiritual Guide for Life" By Imma Merino

in 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival

by Imma Merino Serrats

Philippe Garrel’s cinema hasn’t been well-known outside of France. The absence of his films from Spanish screens, including film festivals and even cinematheques, is a shame. This is the main reason to thank the San Sebastian film festival, not a regular in organizing these kinds of adventures, for having chosen the director of Regular Lovers (Les amants réguliers) for this year’s retrospective of a filmmaker of today. It was a unique opportunity for better understanding his not well-known films and even for discovering him in Spain.

Programming initiatives of this kind have to be celebrated, together with Philippe Garrel’s kindness to discuss his cinema during the festival. The discussions proved that prejudices about Garrel not being interested in talking about his films are not true. Some of the most remarkable quotes from him proof that he is absolutely aware of the marginality of his cinema without regrets: “I make films which are shot in a different way. That is the main reason why they are almost not the commercial kind. I am not the only one. It is the same for some of my generation’s colleagues as it is for Chantal Akerman for example. I am not worried about being at the outskirts of the industry, anyhow, because what interests me most is the possibility of making films and not the social world of cinema. I can assure you that I am making films in freedom, something which I am not sure I would be able to do with bigger budgets and a wider exhibition perspective for them.” Having said that, he admitted that he was into a sort of Gérard de Nerval’s complex for quite some time in the past: “I’ve suffered, like this poet did, from the feeling of being not considered at all, and even taken as a joke by my colleagues. I thought that nobody was taking me seriously with the exception of just a few like Henri Langlois.”

Philippe Garrel confirmed several times during the festival to be a true disciple of Jean-Luc Godard as he already did at previous occasions and he affirmed some others like Chantal Akerman also were true disciples considering Godard as first, most remarkable and perdurable influence: “At some moments in my career others were important, too, like Bresson, but the main reason for filmmaking has been Godard, always, and he still is.” This statement was followed by a certain declaration of principles: “If I think about some filmmakers’ main approach, as Bergman’s and Antonioni’s, I am of the kind to experience cinema as a religion. For me, art is a spiritual guide for life.” And he even had the time to discuss the negation of the values of May ’68 made by Nicolas Sarkozy: “You must not pay the slightest attention to what Sarkozy says because he is an imbecile. But not transforming May ’68 into something sacred is a must. The more sacred, the less alive something becomes. And time will come when streets and squares will have its name, as it will be the case for May ’68 in some years.”