2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 socialist
uprisings in France, making this year a fitting time to have a closer look at
the works of Philippe Garrel. In 1968, Garrel was in the thick of things as
student demonstrations, general strikes and the occupation of factories and
institutions ground daily life in the country to a halt and led to violent
confrontation with police. While the protests themselves didn’t bring about
widespread change, they did spur a cultural dialogue about capitalism, American
imperialism and outdated power structures.
Shortly afterward, Garrel joined up
with the Zanzibar Group, a radical collective of French filmmakers who sought
to upend traditional cinema, seizing on the political unrest as a launching
point. Financed by heiress Sylvina
Boissonnas, the group, which also included Jackie Raynal, Serge Bard, Daniel
Pommereulle, Olivier Mosset, Frédéric Pardo, Caroline de Bendern and Zouzou, famously
set out on a filmmaking trip across Africa, thus earning them their Maoist
island moniker. In total, the short-lived group produced 13 films on tight
budgets (and with unpaid actors) in two years. By 1970, however, Boissonnas had
moved on to the French feminist movement and the filmmakers disbanded. By then,
Garrel had taken up with Nico who would be his personal and creative muse for
The Films of Philippe Garrel,
screening all month at Lightbox Film Center, captures Garrel’s career from just before the formation of
Zanzibar, all the way up to the present day in which Garrel has returned to
more personal and narrative filmmaking. Yet Zanzibar and its characteristics—little
to no scripted action, an emphasis on improvisation and a drug-infused
minimalist aesthetic can be seen in the first screenings of the series: The Inner Scar and The Virgin’s Bed. 2005’s Regular
Lovers revisits the May 1968 era through the story of a young poet who is
energized by the rebellion and later disillusioned by its inability to truly
change the world. That screening will be accompanied by the short Actua I, Garrel’s footage from May 1968.
Here’s a link to Nico’s song The Falconer, which appears, along with Nico herself, in The Inner Scar.
To view the upcoming screenings of Philippe Garrel, click here.