Thanks to Zeitgeist Films and The Film Desk, two more films by Philippe Garrel have recieved subtitled releases: his 1989 “Emergency Kisses” (“Les Baisers de secours”) and his 1991 “I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar” (“J’entends plus la guitar”). Both are highly, almost intimidatingly personal “diary” films that deal, in fictionalized form, with Garrel’s relationship with the German singer Nico (who apparently introduced him to heroin) and its aftermath — in which the filmmaker appears to have been rescued by a strong-willed, motherly actress, Brigitte Sy, who got him off drugs and gave him a son, Louis (who grew up to star in Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” as well as in Garrel’s own account of the 67-68 student revolt, “Les Amants reguliers”).
I haven’t seen nearly enough of Garrel’s work to form a coherent opinion about it, but I hae offered a few observations in this Sunday’s New York Times. Compared to his swaggeringly assertive contemporaries Maurice Pialat and Jean Eustache, Garrel can seem passive to a fault (he loves to depict himself being dominated by the women in his life, as well as by his real life father, Maurice Garrel, who makes a powerful appearance in “Emergency Kisses”). But there is also a sweetness and helplessness in his work that is quite touching. Perhaps Garrel is the true precursor of Mumblecore.