We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Given the current state of international cinema, where titanic auteurs and formidable national cinemas in numerous countries largely belong to the realm of memory, it’s understandable that some artistically ambitious European directors would consciously refer back to what has been called the Golden Age of the Art Film (roughly the 1950s-'70s). Happily, the result of such retrospective awareness can be both impressive and invigorating.
Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” and Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” are recent examples of films that look to cinemas past (of Italy and Poland, respectively) for inspiration yet are so full of their own power, originality and conviction that they make what was old look new again. Notably, both movies were not only critical favorites but big hits at art houses in the U.S. and elsewhere, suggesting that their appeal bridged cinephiles who recall the models they invoke, younger viewers who don’t, and regular moviegoers looking for something more interesting than Hollywood’s hackneyed fare.
The other side of this coin is represented by Philippe Garrel’s “Jealousy.” Garrel, who has been making films for decades, is a favorite of highbrow critics in his native France, and his latest is touted as his most accessible film ever. So is he poised for, at long last, his big stateside breakthrough, as his coterie of U.S. admirers hopes? It’s hard to imagine he is, since “Jealousy” is the kind of slight, academic, self-satisfied exercise that preaches only to the converted.
Like every serious director to emerge from France since the early ’70s, Garrel has had to deal with the legacy of the French New Wave, of which he was just a bit too young to have been a part. Yet unlike French directors who’ve justifiably achieved international renown since–from the likes of Bertrand Blier and Maurice Pialat back when, to Olivier Assayas and Arnaud Desplechin more recently–he has remained an insular favorite, and “Jealousy” suggests that’s because he’s been content to operate within the boundaries left by the New Wave rather than push beyond them.