Lover For a Day: The most French film you’ll see this year

Review: Lecturer beds student. Characters talk a lot about love and sex. In black and white

Louise Chevillotte and Esther Garrel in Lover For a Day

Film Title: Lover for a Day

Director: Philippe Garrel

Starring: Eric Caravaca, Esther Garrel, Louise Chevillotte

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 76 min

Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 05:00


As the latest film from veteran Philippe Garrel has made its way about the planet, Anglophone critics have competed to find the most amusing ways of satirising its breathtaking Frenchness. Did such films go away for a while? Is the hyper-Gallic yakathon now an oddity?

Garrel and Jean-Claude Carrière, his distinguished screenwriter, have been with us since the Nouvelle Vague. So they can surely be allowed a little leeway here.

Still, you can see what the wiseacres were on about. Esther Garrel, the director’s daughter, plays Jeanne, a young woman who, devastated after being dumped by her boyfriend, seeks out Gilles (Eric Caravaca), her father, for comfort and shelter.

A lecturer (what else?) in something chin-stroky, Gilles has recently taken up with Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), a student, but, there is still room for Jeanne on the couch. They walk around a lot while talking about love and sex.

A gentle female voice delivers a narration that occasionally underscores the dialogue and occasionally offers ironic counterpoint. The film is in monochrome. If you chop it up and smoke it you’ll surely smell Gaulois.

So, Lover For a Day goes to few unexplored places. But it works sweetly within its familiar genre. There is interesting conversation about the responsibilities of citizens in a time of war. A beautiful sequence sees the two girls dancing together in gentle bliss. The tensions between Ariane and Gilles point up the fragility of all such romantic contracts.

Dealing, as it does, with an middle-aged man’s affair with a much younger woman, Lover for a Day sets up a feedback loop that also takes in the Nouvelle Vague meanderings of Eric Rohmer and Woody Allen’s black-and-white tribute in Manhattan.

Garrel’s film is not so funny or so beautiful as that last film. But it is a little sounder in its ethics. Which is not to say it won’t drive you mad.

None more French.