Jealousy January 29, 2018
1 Hr., 12 Mins.
n the lo-fi, Philippe Garrel-directed martial drama Jealousy (2013), a stereotypically French, grungily glamorous scent of romanticized ennui hovers in the air. Everyone looks as though they’ve just crept out of bed. As though they’ve been smoking Marlboros since morning, indulging themselves in their various existential crises since noon, and looking cool and disaffected since birth. Melancholy has never been so chic.
Or insufferable. Slight and languid, Jealousy is a kitchen sink-reminiscent, would-be marriage-based weeper that tries to paint something of a naturalistic
portrait of a union on the rocks, priding itself in its lacking of glamor. The settings are sparse and simple, emphasizing emotional output rather than stylistic bigness. The acting’s tired-eyed and depressive, the mussed-up ‘dos and crinkled clothes of the performers obliquely telling us that we should keep in mind that we’re probably watching something meaningful. The dialogue’s decidedly unflashy.
But the simplicity of Jealousy is forced, an attempt on the part of the French New Wave-central Garrel to both relive his glory days and pay tribute to an era in which stars and sparely-told stories could be more compelling than even the most ambitious of studio pictures. But through his harking back to the days when he and Godard and Truffaut were pivotal in defining an era does all presented seem outdated and stiff; the movie’s too self-consciously realistic to ever come across like much more besides formula pretending to be profound.
We’ve sat through movies like Jealousy before, and the film’s screenwriters, Marc Cholodenko and Caroline Deruas-Garrel, don’t attempt to add anything new to the marriage-in-trouble subgenre. In Jealousy's first few moments, we see the artfully unkept actor Louis (Louis Garrel) leave his wife (Rebecca Convenant) and daughter (Olga Milshtein) for a coy-mouthed actress named Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), with whom Louis has become infatuated.
The rest of the film details his and Claudia’s ever-torrid relationship, which is characterized by as many instances of apparent romantic bliss as increasingly maddening moments that find Claudia declaring that she’s sick and tired of living an unglamorous life and that she’s leaving.
I guess Cholodenko and Deruas-Garrel’s end game is to concoct a clever tragedy comprehensive in its many ironies; premier is the idea that the taking of the one who loves you for granted is bound to unleash karma’s wrath. Yet while we side with Louis’ abandoned wife (this is aided by Convenant’s poignant performance) and are therefore disposed to let out a that’s-what-you-get smirk, the film still doesn’t explore the neuroses of its characters quite enough to ever make us care about what they’re going through.
We never understand why the gravel-voiced Claudia inspired Louis to abandon his family — all she does is sulk, wallow in her own fatigue — and we never take to the way Louis eventually becomes so torn apart by his complicated relationships that he ultimately suffers an emotional episode. We never know him as much more than a self-serious hipster who undervalues women, and even then do the film’s writers remain head-scratchingly indirect when it comes to that sort of conclusion.
Jealousy is a dreary chore to sit through, but at least it’s only a 72-minute exercise. Add 20 or so minutes and we’d have the dullest exercise in monotony since Go Fish. C-