Guitare star Johanna Ter Steege
J’ENTENDS PLUS LA GUITARE (Philippe Garrel). 95 minutes. Subtitled. Screens Friday (May 9) and Saturday (May 10) at 7 pm at Jackman Hall.
The first movement of J’Entends Plus La Guitare takes a little getting used to; Philippe Garrel’s 1991 semiautobiographical reminiscence of his on-and-off affair with Velvet Underground singer Nico has the static framing and measured pace of a storyteller on the nod. And that’s as it should be, since the characters’ drug habit is both an enabler and symptom of their codependent relationship.
And once you get into its rhythms, the film is as seductive as the blonde Marianne (Johanna Ter Steege), the enigmatic, mercurial woman who bewitches Benoit Regent’s Gérard, the Garrel surrogate who glumly endures the phases of her interest. When she’s fully present in their relationship, he’s slightly less mopey than usual, and willing to discuss philosophy with his friends; when her affections fade out, he retreats into himself – and a succession of other women.
It’s all very glum and very French, and Garrel does flirt with self-parody in letting his characters sulk so profoundly for so long, especially once they start snorting heroin. But by that point – hopefully – we’ve already fallen into their rhythms, and are invested in their situation. Basically, if you don’t run screaming from the theatre at the “bathroom intimacy” scene - which was probably shocking in its bluntness in 1991 but now feels awfully precious – you’ll find much here to appreciate.