In the Shadow of Women

In the Shadow of Women poster

In the Shadow of Women movie poster

Known for a body of work influenced by the French New Wave film movement, French director Philippe Garrel continues his exploration of relationships making both universes cross in his latest entry.

Stanislas Merhar (The Art of Love) plays Pierre, a struggling documentary filmmaker whose movie and relationship seem to be works in progress. Like it is the case with lots of artists, he has lost control of his work, shooting and editing endlessly footage and interviews about the French resistance. When it comes to women, he isn’t able to control his impulses either, cheating on Manon (Clothilde Courau – La Vie en Rose) despite loving her.

Once Manon leaves him after having sacrificed her own career to support him, he slowly realizes that he not only lost his wife but also his work. By having Manon working as his cinematographer and editor, Mr. Garrel made her the indispensable narrative thread for both his documentary and his life and, without her, he is nothing.

Despite this quite dramatic premise, what makes In The Shadow of Women such a pleasant work is the movie’s nuanced tone, looking at its main character with both irony and affection. Portraying Pierre as selfish jerk, Mr. Garrel doesn’t try to judge him but rather uses him to show us that lots of artists are by nature self-absorbed and inclined to sacrifice those who love them.  Instead of making Pierre pay for his sins, he is however shown as a flawed but likeable character who will be offered a shot at redemption.

Shot in black and white, In The Shadow of Women has a definite – nostalgic – 60’s French film look while also offering some surprisingly amusing moments.  If themes such as love and art are New Wave staples, Mr. Garrel also throws in some meditation about fake historical events. There is a saying in France that when the country got freed from the Nazis, everybody claimed to have been resistant and this is what this movie makes fun of.

Lighter than some of of Mr. Garrel’s latest works such as Jealousy and A Burning Hot Summer, In The Shadow of Women shows more compassion for its characters while tackling a broader range of topics. In one somewhat unbelievable but comical final twist, fate will bring back everything Pierre had lost, offering both him and Mr. Garrel’s fans a welcome breath of fresh air.

Director: Philippe Garrel – Actors: Clotilde Courau, Stanislas Merhar – Running Time: 1:13 – Year: 2015 – Country: France
Click here to watch the In the Shadow of Women trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
Fred Thom

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