Frontier Psychiatrist

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See Also: Franklin’s Best American Films of the Year (So Far)

2011 Film Festival Premiere/2012 Stateside Theatrical Release

A Burning Hot Summer, directed by Philippe Garrel

Philippe Garrels’ third consecutive collaboration with his movie star son (and onscreen surrogate), Louis Garrel, following their award-winning Regular Lovers (2005) and the vastly underrated Frontier of Dawn (2008). All three of these films feature articulate (and very French) discussions about art and radical politics and share a preoccupation with the possibility of love, the trauma of failed relationships, and the specter of suicide. This time around, Louis Garrel plays an uninspired painter, living in Rome with his beautiful actress wife (Monica Bellucci). When another couple (Jerome Robart & Celine Sallette) come to live with them for the summer, Garrel discovers his wife’s infidelity and realizes that their marriage cannot be saved. Although it begins on a hysterical note (the protagonist drives his convertible BMW head-on into a tree), the drama quickly settles into something more characteristically muted and listless. That’s because Philippe Garrel is not interested in feverish melodrama, but, rather, the internalized crises that arise out of the mundane, the stagnation of relationships, and periods of artistic non-productivity. Another chapter in a deeply personal filmography, built around conflicts of male pathological need, this latest will be best remembered for three shots of extended length — Bellucci dancing with a guy friend at a wrap party; Sallette sleepwalking at night by a pool; and a totally naked Bellucci, posed like Manet’s Olympia on a bed, beckoning her doomed husband.

The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Terence Davies

In Davies’ first fiction feature, since his adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth (2000), a wife (Rachel Weisz) leaves her much older husband (Simon Russell Beale), a wealthy judge, for a dashing RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston), and then attempts suicide in a miserable boarding house. Davies intelligently refashions Terence Rattigan’s play (lesser material than his celebrated The Browning Version) into a memory piece, striking a balance between the operatic and the restrained. Weisz and Hiddleston certainly make fetching lovers, but it’s Beale, as the passionless husband, pathologically attached to his mother, who steals the film and gives one of the year’s best performances. Together with his production designer James Merifield, costume designer Ruth Myers, and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, Davies conjures an atmosphere rich in postwar period detail with an astonishing range of visual texture. This is cinematography as oil painting and a reminder of what can only be done with 35mm film stock and what will be lost forever, once the transition to digital is completed. Two of the year’s most rapturous moments: the spiraling, overhead shot of Weisz and Hiddleston’s naked bodies, entwined in erotic ecstasy; the long tracking shot of Londoners, taking refuge in the Underground, during the Blitz, as one man sings a traditional folk ballad.

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Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.