Inspired by his parents’ broken marriage, director Philippe Garrel’s semi-autobiographical Jealousy is a short yet unexpectedly nuanced meditation on the complexity — and impermanence — of relationships and emotions. In the beautifully textured black-and-white drama, the French filmmaker is represented by a little girl named Charlotte (Olga Milshtein), whose father, Louis — played by the director’s real-life son, Louis Garrel — has just abandoned his family, moving in with a lover, Claudia (Anna Mouglalis).
Though the film’s title refers mainly to the bruised feelings experienced by Louis’s spurned partner, Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), who is hurt by the alienation of her philandering mate’s affections, it also alludes to Clothilde’s resentment over her daughter’s growing friendship with Daddy’s new girlfriend. At the same time, there are other messy emotions. Louis, a struggling stage actor, has just been cast in a play. His new squeeze Claudia, who also is a performer, hasn’t worked in years. (Professional jealousy, it seems, can sting as sharply as the romantic kind.)
Through a series of short vignettes, many of which involve deceptively banal interactions between characters — including Louis’s sister and an architect with whom Claudia begins a dalliance — the filmmaker evokes an intricate web of shifting affective ties: yearnings, flirtations, dissatisfactions, betrayals and confessions. In one tiny, almost throwaway scene, a woman introduces herself to Louis as his father’s former girlfriend, and then walks off camera. It’s a cameo of a only few seconds, but it seems designed to illustrate the evanescence of love.
That seems like it would make for a sour film. Oddly, Jealousy is less cynical than it sounds. While certainly no love story, this dry-eyed tale feels achingly, maybe even exhilaratingly, alive.
Cast: Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglais, Rebecca Convenant, Olga Milshtein.
Director: Philippe Garrel.
Screenwriters: Marc Chodolenko, Caroline Deruas-Garrel, Philippe Garrel, Arlette Langmann.
Running time: 77 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Vulgar language. In Miami-Dade only: Miami Beach Cinematheque, Cosford Cinema.