L’Enfant secret Screen 9 articles

L’Enfant secret

1979

L’Enfant secret Poster
  • French cinema’s premier romantic fatalist crafts moments of emotional texture as rich as his gorgeously lit black-and-white frames, as characters ebb between torrid affection and radiant torpor before an infinitely patient gaze. Made at the height of his love affair with Nico, this is Garrel’s first major attempt to bridge a Warholian medium specificity with a contemporary narrative, one so intimate it nearly transcends causality.

  • They don’t make them like this anymore. Each moment, cut as finely as flint, fondled like a pebble passed from hand to hand, with a beginning and end, a before and after... This isn’t the kind of suffering that’s proud of itself, but silent, contained, having few words and images at its disposal. What counts is that it’s there. In the place that he’s had to pass through.

  • It is a singular event in Garrel's oeuvre, a quietly devastating film of almost unbearable alternations between tenderness and the harshest truths, in which the artist' realization of his ability to communicate with the world results in a windblown clarity, like clouds pushing through the sky after a storm.

  • I had always been keen to see L’Enfant secret… but I had no idea how overwhelming or extraordinary the experience would turn out to be. L’Enfant secret is in every sense the central film of Garrel’s career. It is also, in my view, incontestably his best. Intensity is a quality I value in cinema, almost supremely. L’Enfant secret is a relentlessly and incomparably intense film, with a remarkably sustained, oceanic level of emotion.

  • It may be the most haunted film ever made. One is struck by the sense of Garrel inventing cinema, by images that come from a time before Lumière; the characters are haunted by past lives and present possible worlds; the film is haunted by the autobiographical ‘reality’ of Garrel and Nico’s relationship. This autobiographical aspect lends the film as intense a quality as one can imagine. It’s as if John Ford had just lived through Ethan Edwards’ experience and sought to record it on celluloid.

  • The couple’s hard road together and apart is matched by Garrel’s harsh visual repertory, which blends shrieking contrasts and deep shadows with oppressively gray views of the uncaring yet alluring city. Long silent sequences are resplendent with Faton Cahen’s chamber-music score, and a concluding sequence in a café is an extraordinary display of no-budget virtuosity.

  • A tender, meandering tale, it touches on most of what makes Garrel Garrel. Couples meet, fall in love, experience ups and downs, and eventually separate—the reasons for their falling in love as inexplicable as those for falling out of it.

  • Some shots are reiterated in the ultra-grainy form in which they might have been viewed as rushes, or through a Moviola. Part of Mr. Garrel’s mastery is his ability to make expressive use of what would constitute dire technical flaws in other people’s films. The loose ends, the ragged edges, the awkward cuts: Here they’re like the angry low-fi communication of a postpunk song, desperate in its constricted ability to evoke the ineffable.

  • Both Anne Wiazemsky and Henri de Maublanc give otherworldly performances as the tumultuous couple who undergo several trials, including separation and drug addiction (the film was made right after Garrel’s separation with Nico), which of course are never resolved, only lived through. L’Enfant secret is one of the most ephemeral films I’ve ever had the pleasure of inhabiting, and by Garrel’s own words, that is not by design.

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